By Rose Hobart
As the New York art scene gears up for another season, international artist Kristina Sretkova prepares to grace the walls of Broadway Gallery, NYC in Soho with a new set of dazzling paintings. The show entitled, World of Light, showcases Sretkova’s most ambitious works to date. Each painting is wonderfully infused with an amazing intensity of swirling colors that are a visual feast for the eyes. Sretkova is one of the hottest contemporary painters you’ll ever meet. Her palette will seduce you into a sensuous field of abstract flowering imagery that is fresh and full of life. Having established her career in Berlin, Moscow, Cyprus, and Sofia, she now comes to the center of the art world, NYC. This is Sretkova’s first solo show in NYC, and as such it is a major event that is sure to draw a crowd, so get in line early.
Without giving it all away, let’s suffice to say that this show will exhibit how Sretkova’s masterful technique: impasto laden swirling s-shapes that miraculously appear from their backgrounds. These marks coalesce into centralized motifs that are vaguely reminiscent of flowers and simultaneously cosmic galaxies. The result are large abstractions that convey a message of hope, love, and inspiration within the viewer. It is a seldom-heard voice in contemporary art, but one worth listening to.
2011 has been a breakthrough year for important abstract painters. Mike Weiss gallery in Chelsea exhibited Kim Dorland’s seminal show, For Lori. The works were aggressive; swaths of viscous paint were caked on like frosting. The motifs were beautiful and ugly all at once. The effect was an overwhelming sense that painting is making a significant comeback. Couple this with the upcoming De Kooning exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. This show purports to be one of the most exciting shows this season. Opening in late September this exhibition is devoted to the full scope de Kooning‘s career, widely considered to be among the most important and prolific artists of the 20th century. This exhibition, which will only be seen at MoMA, presents an unparalleled opportunity to view his development as an artist over nearly seven decades, beginning with his early academic works to his large, mature abstractions of the 1950s and 1960s.
Now, this October, we get to witness his contemporary female counterpart, Kristina Sretkova in full bloom. Of all of the shows taking place this year Sretkova’s work sets the bar for abstraction in the 21st century. For her, color is vibrant, color is light, color is a mystical experience. Sretkova herself states “everything on this earth is connected through the light. I am the light of love and life and I intend to give this to the audience. I want the audience to see the balanced rhythm of my works and that I bring this with ecstasy, energy on the canvas and the energy is both: stillness and movement. Through this show at Broadway Gallery NYC I would like to contribute and participate in the network of life.” And after getting a critic’s preview of these new works it struck me that Sretkova is a true romantic in the Thoreauian sense of the word. One of her latest works entitled Ooh, (2011) captures a hot, steamy flame-like image in the most elegant way possible. The work is slightly off square measuring 100 x 80 cm. From the left hand corner of the canvas a dark orangey-brown trails at a diagonal toward the center of the piece. Flecks of dark crimsons, pale orange whites, and deep umbers peak and plume in various directions creating a rich visual rhythm that is incredibly captivating. So captivating that one gets the sense that if they were to reach out and touch this work that they might get burnt. The scorching summer sun could be in the background, hidden by ‘clouds’ we feel safely nestled within the refulgent work.
The quintessential Romantic figure was the Wanderer, literally and figuratively journeying in search of new lands, new places for the imagination, and new ‘houses’ for the soul. Sretkova has found her most exotic land in the amorphous world of dreams, the mysterious realms of the psyche as well as the dazzling beauties of nature. Her work takes us on the travelers route and does not let up. The dramatic stage she creates in a work like Ohh (2011), becomes a platform for a very humanistic drama to unfold. That of appearance and concealment. It helps us identify our place in the universe as well. This work ultimately has a transforming agent in it, as we come to understand ourselves viewing this piece, and realize that nature is a dynamic presence.
From an artistic point of view the Romantic impulse dominated the last decade of the 18th century and moved well into the first decades of the 20th century. Originating first in Europe with the “Sturm und Drang” Movement of the 1770’s to its vibrant first flowering in England in the 1790’s to its importation to American soil from the 1820’s onward, Romanticism has exerted a powerful hold on Western thought and culture. And it makes perfect sense that an artist as cosmopolitan, well traveled, and talented as Sretkova has picked up on its resurgence. As Western culture has entered into a post-industrial and increasingly virtual channels of communication, Romanticism posits a return to basics. Those basics being preoccupied with articulating the personal experience that becomes, in turn, a representative one. Works like A Wish Comes True (2011) with its deep bluish-black background articulates this experience subjectively. As this work tightens concentrically pulling the viewer towards its center, we are ourselves centered. This flowerlike motif in the middle is something akin to a self-portrait. Captured in profile this work undulates and into a sweet, mysterious, and somewhat melancholy “head” that seems to appear quietly from a lush background. As this work rears its metaphorical head, we also hear it speak in the sensual, sultry voice of peace.
Other works like Unpredictable (2011) lead us into the thicket of nature, it‘s weeds, flowers, and stems at our heels. When Henry David Thoreau was writing Walden he stated that “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” This work seems to capture just this affinity and is quite simply her strongest work to date. The brushwork is refined, as the frenzied mark-making creates a dense labyrinthine web. This work has a freshness about it, as the painterliness feels alive and unedited. When standing in front of a work the viewer will have a subconscious, haptic reaction to what is taking place on a perceptual screen or canvas. The artist is communicating these relationships using distilled time. As opposed to a movie or television show, a painting is compressed time that does not move at 24 frames per second. Rather, it is a static image, but the key to great painting is to create an experience that feels as though it is moving. Movement is form. And this work has a lot of movement. Against a lime green background, an interplay of red and green dance across the surface. The deep crimson reds and pale yellows in the upper right hand side of the canvas lie on top of the deep forest greens in the lower right hand side. They meet in the middle, fade into creamy off whites and yellows, until they finally dissipate into the bright, green expanse. This work has an incredibly evocative sweetness about it. It reminds of the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about two ships passing in the night. Often said of people who meet for a brief but intense moment and then part, never to see each other again. These two opposite colors or people on the spectrum converge briefly across this expanse, which could also be read as a green grass field, they tangle in passionate love and then sail off into the night.
With marked simplicity, Sretkova has created a new lyrical abstraction, which references emotional states of mind, states of being. In this new series, World of Light, she captures an array of consciousness, an almost diary-like calendar of feelings in a highly palpable and felt way. NYC prepare itself, this will be a breakthrough show, and Kristina Sretkova will make a big mark.