Artist: Denis Sarazhin

Contemporary artist, born in Ukraine, 1982.

Initial thoughts about Sarazhin’s work.

  • chiaroscuro – more recent work
  • interlaced bodies
  • portraits
  • placed figures
  • reminds me of people sleeping – the awkward angles their bodies are in
Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 13.48.52.png
Oil on Canvas
24 × 24 in; 61 × 61 cm
Image result for denis sarazhin Pantomime 10
Pantomime 10 
In the garden
In The Garden

It is hard to describe the way I interact with these paintings, because the mood Sarazhin has captured is not tangible; by this I mean that the completed painting holds more meaning than the sum of the physical paint and canvas. The painting has an essence? I want to create an essence in my work.

But talking more specifically, I have picked these three paintings to include here to highlight that the people in Sarazhin’s paintings always seem unaware that anyone is ‘watching’ – be that painter or viewer. The subjects seem absorbed in their own world, mentally a world away and also physically preoccupied – contorting their bodies in shapes that remind me of people sleeping, or moving with un-intention.

In Sarazhin’s more recent work like Awaken and Pantomime 10 there is also sharp contrast between the highlights and shadows. Whilst researching who Sarazhin is influenced by I could see there were artists current and historical who used chiaroscuro in their work. This technique combined with fresh and vibrant colours creates a fleshy, impactful show.

The faces in Sarazhin’s work tends to direct the viewer towards the body and away from the face. He does this by having the face/body face away from the viewer, or having hands/arms covering the face. This means the figures never make eye contact with the viewer, they are always looking elsewhere.

Reading the face is an instinctual way of reading someone, so when Sarazhin doesn’t allow this, the viewer has to look to the body to discover the meaning and emotion of the piece.

An article by D.S. Graham and Harriet Lloyd-Smith explores this idea further:

we feel the sensuality of the body, but also disgust at the over-attention thus paid to the flesh…It’s a profound reflection on our own physicality. More importantly, however, it’s a reflection on contemporary human relations. How do you approach a Sarazhin painting? How do you struggle without their Faces? How do you struggle without Language?

In an interview with Sarazhin, when asked about the importance of hands in his work he states:

Hands are a very important part of the human body. They are taking part in the expression of emotions and feelings. This is one of the ways of non-verbal communication… So when I’m depicting hands I set a task, not only to display correctly and truthfully, but also try to express by them a certain emotional and nonverbal value.

So without language, Sarazhin uses the body to communicate. Evident in his more recent body of work named ‘Pantomime’:

Pantomime – the kind of performing arts, in which the primary means of creating an artistic image is the human body and action without words as a means of expression.

How does this impact my practice? 

After looking at Sarazhin, I have a clearer idea of how I can communicate a feeling of intimacy, open / closed emotions, physicality – using the body:-

  • positioning the body
  • how I paint the body – brushstrokes, colour
  • the balance between focus on the face and focus on the body – covering the face focusses attention on the body.

Looking at Sarazhin has helped me to explore how the mood of a piece can be captured with practical technique.

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