Katya Kvasova is a painter exploring the conventions of portraiture as a means to express an emotional state. Her pictures show the tacit and ubiquitous (yet somehow illusive) intuition of a self/soul/identity. Across the façades of her subjects, through the mechanism of our empathy for their expressions and manual activity, we see fleeting indications of another’s internal world.
Working with graphite, watercolours and oils, Kvasova creates spaces of dense colour to hold isolated figures, who are often intensely fixated on their own hands. They seem to be engaged in a private, self-absorbing act, but it is difficult to say whether or not the figures are aware of the viewer’s gaze. If they are aware, they disregard us. They are certainly not performing.
The enveloping colours create an ambiguous space that resists becoming a simple ‘background’. They have an unyielding density, promising a depth without fully delivering in the way a closed door promises another room. Their weight becomes a fog of introspection that completely surrounds the figures, hugging them from all sides, providing varying levels of both support and pressure. Although it can be read as a space for privacy and self-reflection, it also has an unavoidable opposite effect, which is to heighten the viewers sense of an internal, personal world and subsequently turn the subject inside out.
Many of Kvasova’s works have the initially curious addition of bright, opaque vertical and horizontal lines, bringing our attention quickly to the surface of the painting. These lines float high above the introspective fog, hanging like bar chimes in the border lands between the imaginary space of the painting and the real space of the viewer. They are bars between worlds, interrupting our normally willing suspension of disbelief to remind us of the materiality of the painting. A musical reference seems appropriate given their proportions in relation to each other, indicating some kind of order. Perhaps they are a coded harmony or discord hinting at the level of comfort or concord the figure might have within the limbo of their encompassing space. These vibrant lines sing an invitation to our desire for making metaphors and symbols.
The viewer questions to what extent these works are portraits or self-portraits, and yet the idea of capturing a likeness seems unimportant. The figures have the anonymity to become everyone. In this way, the paintings speak of sharing as much as they speak of isolation. This is the dual nature of the often tragic human condition: Knowing we are all in possession of a similar internal world and yet ultimately alone. Every human mind is an island Universe.
by Russell Terry