Artist: Andrey Remnev

Why do I want to look at Remnev’s work

His paintings have a mood of mystery, closed emotion, setcrets 
People interacting with surroundings – lots of context e.g. history, location, placement of the body, which provides narrative. 
Use of fabric in compositions – how does this contribute to the above comments on Remnev’s work? 

Remnev works in egg tempera on a variety of surfaces.
Takes inspiration from Old Masters such as Jan van Eyck and Piero della Francesca.
I can see this inspiration in Remnev’s work. His paintings have the same stillness to them as works such as ‘The Flagellation of Christ’. 
A writing by art historian Eugene Steiner says: 

Remnev’s figures with their stillness or slow mannequin-statuary plasticity exist in a distinct static space, where time has stopped, and the atmosphere is so clear and transparent that it reaches the state of airlessness.

This describes the mood of Remnev’s paintings perfectly – his figures are smoothed like marbled statues, and devoid of painterly flourishes or angular positions that could give any movement to the figures. 
In fact, Remnev’s work is the opposite stylistically to the artist Denis Sarazhin who I have looked at previously. 
Where Sarazhin gives his figures so much energy and movement they appear bursting to move. Remnev’s figures have a smoothness and, as said by Steiner, “are deprived of sensuous curvatures” to the point that they seem unreal and fixed in time. 

This unreal quality to the paintings is amplified with the proportions of the body. Remnev says in an interview that he doesn’t work from life when painting, instead working from his mind or from photographs. You can tell this from his work because the figures in them sometimes have unrealistic proportions. Like in this piece, where the women’s bodies are too long in relation to the size of her head:

2015, 110×170, oil on canvas

It never seems to matter that the proportions are incorrect, and it seems that the proportions are made unrealistic for the benefit of the composition, since they work well, and are not glaringly obvious when first encountering a painting. 

2015, 90×90, oil on canvas

In this piece Lethe the placement of the lady’s head on the mans shoulder is I think the most important part for the narrative of the piece. The uncomfortable movement of her neck outwards, and her hands placed in her lap relate so well to the man and create a real sense of unravelling narrative. This piece illustrates how much I still have to explore with placement of the body, and how much is possible! 
I am only painting one person in each painting so far, so how could I have a body interact with their surroundings so that a feeling/narrative unravels, in the same way that the lady’s body is interacting with the mans. 

High Water
2016, 100×50, oil on canvas

This painting High Water is very striking, and has the same theme of painting someone resting as my work. I want to focus on it because although the subject is similar, the piece has very different intentions to my own work, and it’s useful to acknowledge that. So there is a double perspective happening, which is subtle but effective.The girl’s head is seen from above, looking down. But they dress and the cushions are seen from side-on. It is an incredibly endearing portrait.
Here the girls face is a focus, and the body secondary. We can see there is a deep care between the artist and the girl, seen by the careful way he paints her features and the placement of her body.
In my work I don’t want there to be such personal ties when I paint figures, and I don’t want the face to be important. So although the subject is the same, I use the body instead of the face. Looking at this painting shows that this distinction is ever more important. 
It was worth including this piece so that I can make observations about what I want to achieve and also what I don’t! 

Unexpected conclusions

I have taken things away different things from looking at this artist than I expected. I expected to focus on the fabric and the colour palette, but instead I realise the most relevant part of his work to mine is the stillness of the people, and the way they are places in space. 
Perhaps the fabric and colour palette is something I will come back to. But for now I think the part of my work I’m grappling with is the placement of the figure in – the body positioning and the body in relation to their space. 

Moving forward with my work 

For my next series of paintings of people in their beds, I want to think more about what parts of the body I show, and where I place their body. 
So things like:
– is the body curled up on their side or stretched out
– what are their hands doing? placed carefully or flung above their head? 

The more I experiment the more I am making conscious decisions in my painting, instead of painting on automatic. This opens up so many unanswered questions, but also leaves more room to explore. 

Images of paintings from Remnov’s website: 
Eugene Steiner (art historian) on his work:

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