A cold early December evening. Blinde Farben Exhibition, Tretjakow Gallery, Lindenau.
I arrived and made a beeline for the refreshments in the back of the gallery, as one does. It was here where I met the delightful David, the gallery manager, who promptly handed me a glass of very nice red wine and introduced me to Alina Fontan, one of the trio of exhibiting artists.
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I started my circuit here, in the back room, where Alina’s paintings are and, glass in hand, had the wonderful opportunity to ask her about certain aspects of her work and her time in Nepal, where this particular body of work was conceived.
The theme of Blinde Farben is such a brilliant encapsulation of the work of these three artists, and I had a long discussion with David, Alina and Sasha about the different ways in which it presents itself in their work.
In Alina’s case, the light in the Himalayas is literally blinding, and because one has to wear sunglasses outside, everything is filtered through the lenses, and is a particular version of reality that is as unique as the artist’s representation of what she saw. Alina’s use of colour is less a literal rendering of what she saw and more an attempt to capture the mood and the ambience that she experienced amongst the people of these great mountains.
Alina’s deep blues, warm ochres and vivid pinks convey a sense of warmth and at the same time mimics the play of light on the mountains that are not only the literal foundation of life there, but also colours every aspect of daily existence.
Alina wonderfully captures the different quality of light that exists inside the homes and other buildings, which forms such a marked contrast with her paintings depicting the mountains, Sherpas and women in the marketplace.
In moving on to the second space in Blinde Farben, dedicated to Alexej Tretjakow’s work, I felt the need for a recalibration of sorts. The juxtaposition with Alina’s work requires a pause and a breath to clear the mind in preparation. Where Alina’s work has a definite sense of realism, Alexej’s is predominantly abstract, with huge, bold strokes that demand some space; one has to step back from it to take it all in.
His unorthodox use of colour, too, reflects a style that sits in almost direct opposition to Alina’s. Alexej battled near-blindness for a significant part of his life and underwent numerous eye operations to restore his sight, but this is not his work’s only connection to the theme. His canvases are big, and the combination of colours and textures creates a visceral impact that captures the mind as much as the eye.
Some of Alexej’s work is impressionistic, but much of what was curated for this exhibition is abstract and reveals its secrets to the audience almost reluctantly.
Another deep breath and a fresh glass of wine took me to the work of the final artist in the Blinde Farben line-up, Sasha Petrovic. Sasha’s canvases are enormous, heavy, multi-media explosions of colour and texture. I found myself going up very close to appreciate the myriad different materials he incorporates, which range from organic matter, to paint and concrete and wall plaster he scraped off other works, to his daughter’s plastic beads.
He also uses fabric, and part of his process involves removing layers, sometimes until only the canvas remains in places, stained with paint or with remnants of concrete embedded in the fabric. He says that he rarely feels a painting is completely done, and even then, is liable to change his mind and start tinkering with it again after some time has passed.
Sasha loves how the layering of paint and materials reminds him of old buildings, like the Catholic monasteries he fell in love with as a teenager.
These structures have over the years been painted and repainted numerous times, and marred and scarred by war, water, mould and time to create something unique that holds the memories of everything that has happened there.
David and I talked about the gallery itself, and he lamented the difficulty of changing people’s minds about where art happens and should be exhibited. It seems the locals still consider Lindenau as a bit scruffy, with homeless people sitting around the marketplace during the day, drinking beer and soaking up the warmth of the sun.
Having been to Cape Town, South Africa, where I come from, he completely agreed with my comparison of Lindenau to Observatory, which has a very similar feel and is also a hub of music, fine art, stage performances and great restaurants, all jumbled together and really coming alive at night. It is in these places where we find the true spirit of creativity, where the magic happens and people from all walks of life gather to warm their souls and stare into the flames for a while.
With both the Theater der Jungen Welt and the Neues Schauspiel just a few blocks away, it makes complete sense to me, as a newcomer to Leipzig, that art galleries should occupy this same space. I feel that Lindenau will come into its own even more in the future, with art, music and theater all finding an audience here who can appreciate the rich cultural vibrance the area exudes.
Blinde Farben runs until the 21st of December.
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Tretjakow Galerie, Demmering Straße 46, 04177, Leipzig
Exhibit hours: 18:30-22:00