Emerald ponds

October 29, 2019

On the 29th of October Savva Saveliev's Exhibition "Emerald Ponds" opened at Orekhov Gallery.

The notion that the painter is undeniably a colourist was already substantiated by Malevich in his treatises, manifestos and articles analyzing the relationship between color and shape as early as the beginning of the 20th century. Rothko continued the liberation of color and went on to divorce visual representation from semantics by producing the phenomenon of emotionally charged paintings in the style subsequently termed Color Field painting. One color, as in Frank Stella’s Black Paintings, or the six primary and secondary colors in his Benjamin Moore series (aptly named after the paint manufacturer) as well as other studies featuring psychologically charged use of color by modern artists including Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman, Joan Miró, and Jules Olitski, present each painting as a singular, cohesive, monolithic image within a series of related works. The fact that Anish Kapoor acquired exclusive rights to the blackest of black pigments known as Vantablack in 2016 serves to prove that artists’ interest in color is still going strong, 60 years post International Klein Blue. 

According to Kandinsky’s theory laid out in Concerning The Spiritual In Art, the artist selects a shade, or, in other words, subjectively identifies it, and sets it apart from other colors, which changes the subjective nature of the color by providing it with a layer of objectivity. Therefore, color plays the role of an artistic object, a creature that forms relationships with other creatures in the painting and starts a lively conversation with them. Shape can emphasise the significance of color – and tone it down at other times.

For the past few years Savva Saveliev has been working with emerald color, studying its nature, and synchronizing it with text. The artist quotes Pliny the Elder who claimed that “we take great delight to behold green herbs and leaves of trees, but this is nothing to the pleasure we have in looking upon the Emerald, for compare it with other things, be they never so green, it surpasses them all in pleasant verdure.”

The artist’s introduction to the color took place in his studio amidst priming his canvases and painting them emerald green. One of these canvases had been sitting there for a long time and suddenly ‘clicked’ when the artist returned from a shop and dropped a white plastic bag next to it. Thus the object met the background; white met emerald. White went on to become the color of the objects – sculptures – immersed in the perfect setup of color.

All attempts to move towards blue, yellow or orange background invariably trigger the artist to have panic attacks and spasms, but these colors feature in the depicted objects/subjects, and shift the perfect shape of the white plastic bag.

Fish, seashells, unicorns, horses, people hiding their faces behind plastic bags, lambs – they all gently float in Savva’s emerald ponds. Billowy emerald stains, splashes of red across the center of the canvas, turquoise washes, and the word ‘слышно’ (Russian for ‘audible’) hovering above the composition momentarily tune us into the paintings, into their very sensuous nature. Consequently, the sculptures of a man and a woman holding a club and a ball as well as the ecclesiastical question “Кому достанутся все труды мои?” (“Who shall inherit the Fruit of all my Labor?”) provide us with a palette of associations, and launch the process of rhyming words with shape and color in our brains. Looking at the motionless white sculptures, the people with their tools and instruments of production, we are left to wonder what they used to make. They emerge either from a rectangular emerald pond or from an emerald tomb – and two brightly balloons spring from the same place in a burst of brilliant color. The balloons are inanimate objects, but here, in contrast to the sculptures, they come to life – their visible stirring sets the rhythm of the painting. Perhaps, they are but two weightless souls or the very labors drifting away in search of new masters. And the wooden diagrams of someone’s personal histories made up of perpendicular time’s arrows mark the expected events in blue, and the emotional unexpected ones in red.

Savva compares his paintings to peaceful banners where the aggressive reds have been replaced by the ‘biblical’ greens, and the words “Who shall inherit the Fruit of all my Labor?” and “your everything is our nothing” get entirely different connotations.

The exhibition will take place untill December 9th.