"Of Things Soothsaid and Spoken", paintings by Yevgeniya Baras, is the current show at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects. Baras makes paintings that disrupt expectations of format and stretch the bounds of what a painting is, by veering into sculptural relief, building up the painting surface with various 'weird' materials (aluminum foil and chunks of wood for example) on all parts of the support -- front, sides and back. My first impression was that the artist did so in the quest for contemporarity, a strategy that is its own artistic category -- how not to be perceived as old-fashioned while working from the traditions of modernism, in this case the symbol-driven, nature-derived imagery that Baras employs, harkening back to artists such as Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley and Paul Klee.
Untitled, 2015, 16x20", oil on canvas
It occurs to me on further looking though, that rather than being strategic, her working methods derive from a physical and bodily response to the emotional and spiritual themes that thread through her work. To the degree that her work bespeaks spiritual experience, and it does, it is easy to imagine Baras as living out, through art making, the tension between personal mystical experience and the container and forms that have been collectively passed down to us through art history and mythology. There is a comfortable familiarity to the imagery in these paintings; moons, flowers, a waterfall, hillsides, trees, hands, eyes and a book, to name a few. However, by stretching and challenging the conventional expectations of format and material, Baras has manifested a visual analogy for the curiosity of her emotional and painterly adventure. The paint skin chunks scattered across the paintings' surfaces further testify to the painterly ordeal, and that this is an artist unafraid to risk. It is as if the artist were challenging the comfort of her, and by extension, the viewer's, nervous system, and that these objects are being treated as extensions of the artist's body.
Untitled, 2014, 16x20", oil on canvas
As such, and in that spirit, the best of these have the capacity to transmit the magical healing property of painting -- the feeling that in making them the artist was transformed and that in looking the viewer can be transformed.
Untitled, 2015, 20x16", oil on canvas
All images reproduced with permission of Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects.
Yevgeniya Baras, Of Things Soothsaid and Spoken is on view through March 29th, 2015, at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, 208 Forsyth St, New York, NY 10002