Olga Khodyreva

Stepping stones, acrylic on canvas, 24×18 inches Olga Khodyreva

Olga Khodyreva has painted all her life, encouraged by private lessons when she was a child. In her young years, though she studied to become an engineer and obtained her degree, she spent spare moments in the many galleries and museums of Moscow. These housed large collections of Modernist works. It was there that she picked up a taste for abstract art. Her favourites were Wassily Kandinsky, Matisse, Alexej Jawlensky, Picasso, and Joan Miro.

Now as a member of the contemporary Fort Gallery in Fort Langley, Khodyreva is offering us her two latest series of paintings. The first is based on Joan Miro’s “Carnival of Harlequins”. In the Surrealist tradition, she works from simple geometric sketches portraying two facial features, eyes and nose, as the common thread in these seven paintings.

Dream of the Penguin, Acrylic on canvas, 24×18 inches Olga Khodyreva

“The hardest thing,” she says, “is to avoid rationalization.  The purpose is to free the mind to come up with dream–like, subconscious imagery.”

In the series based on Miro’s  “Carnival of the Harlequins”,  she maintains a consistent colour choice for each painting. The red frames are an exciting addition, allowing the images to sing and helping them to hang well together in the exhibition. Her inventiveness with the nose-and-eyes iconography is  delightful, bringing widely different elements to vary the surrealist dreamscape. Added to this, the technical skill that she brings to her paintings is now working together. The flat areas are really flat; the textured ones do not intrude or interfere with them though they sit side by side but provide an illusory dimensional quality in their contained shapes.

If this were figure skating, this series would merit a ten out of ten. She has brought together technical polish with poetic artistry so that they transcend the mere image.

In the second series, “In Close Proximity”, she begins her paintings with layer of textures,  then places abstract lines and rectangular shapes to create movement. She is investigating tension created by the closeness of objects. She favours the colours red and black.

When Khodyreva came to Canada twenty years ago, she changed profession, becoming a Registered Nurse. “I’ve had little formal training in Fine Arts. So now I am working towards the Certificate program offered by Emily Carr University.”  Who knows? A degree in Fine Arts may not be far off.  “I am happiest when I am painting, or when I am studying. I love to go to school, ” she says as we finish an interview prior to her show.

Compromise, Acrylic on canvas, 24×18 inches Olga Khodyreva

I hadn’t seen any of this new work before I walked into the opening reception. It took me aback in a very positive sense. This show was a stunner.

Each of us at the Fort Gallery has an opportunity to put up a three-week exhibit once a year, not counting the group shows that give us extra showing opportunities. In between shows, be carefully produce another body of work. Some artists stay the same, year after year with their styles. Others create somewhat related bodies of work to that which came the year before, with a change of over all colour use or a shift in pattern or subject matter.

Olga Khodyreva had produced paintings in her last show that were focused on experimental textures, with Greek or Roman-style classical sculptural figures and motifs intertwined with other more modern symbols for subject matter. So this shift to almost entirely non-representational in the new  series “In Close Proximity”,  characterized by rectangular shapes in red and black, is quite a change from the figurative. The colours are bold. The shapes are clear. The textures emerging from behind the squares and rectangles give a feeling of depth and of mystery, with each textured block acting as a vignette or cameo in an otherwise hard-edged painting. It’s a bold statement and a consistent one too.  There’s not only a sense of movement forward and back, but a contradictory sense of two dimensional flatness and illusory perspective (depth) at the same time.

In Close Proximity #1, Acrylic on canvas, Olga Khodyreva, 18 x 24 inches

In Close Proximity #3, Acrylic on canvas, Olga Khodyreva, 18 x 24 inches

That City, Acrylic on canvas, Olga Khodyreva, 30×30 inches approx.

The sixth in this series is a transition. Already Olga is searching out a new dimension. The squares are less predominant. There is more texture and freely expressive brush work. which remains in balance with the flatter areas.

Blue Tango, Oil on canvas, Olga Khodyreva, 40×30 inches approx.

Blue Tango is seriously moving on from the Proximity series. There are still organized shapes, but there is more linear work defining the shapes – a form of outlining. The spatial relationships are strong with the red carrying the eye through the painting and not really letting one’s attention fall away.

This year’s exhibition is over, but information on Olga Khodyreva can be obtained through the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley,   http://www.fortgallery.ca/

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