Ilya Volykhine Art Exhibition

( ILYA Volykhine was born in 1967 in the Soviet Union and was only 20 when Gorbachev allowed him to leave for the United States. His childhood and formative years were spent within the confines of the communist regime, with little exposure to the discourses of the west. Self-taught by studying the old school of Socialist Realist painters at The Hermitage, Volykhine worked through various stylistic changes finally embracing a distinctly figurative approach to his work.

He is a painter’s painter, his paint application and colouration is deft and fluid. Using a tiny sketch as an impetus, Volykhine generally works his images directly onto the canvas with the oil paint. Central to all compositions are human figures, alone or in groups interacting with their surroundings. His protagonists seem completely absorbed by the tasks at hand.

Although Volykhine’s subject matters seem clear at first glance, they do not fully expose themselves through close inspection. They seem to be suspended in a world parallel to normal sensory experience, somewhere between memory and dream. The palette of Ilya’s work, as well as details such as clothing, hairdos and paraphernalia, suggests that his paintings are set in the past, somewhere in the 60s.

As the use of colour has played an increasingly central role in these more recent works, so has the formal concern for surface, space, and technique, resulting in densely populated and fragmentary images that further articulate Volykhine’s refusal to offer conventional narrative logic.

The exhibition title comes from Volykhine’s loose grasp on the English language and with this title he laughs at himself and his inability to understand colloquialisms. Often at once perversely funny and poetically contemplative, Volykhine’s power lies in his ability to occupy multiple positions at once, and ultimately to implicate text and image in a slippery production of meaning.

Media Release 24 April 2019.