Color and shapes with inner content – Ellina Katsnelson

Dr. Nurit Cederbaum

“Shape and color are the external expression of inner content” said Kandinsky when he described what he defined as the universal and autonomous language of painting.  This is the initial feeling that is received when you look at the corpus of Katsnelson’s artworks. Terms and concepts taken from the dictionary of visual language become alive before your eyes, movement, repetitive patterns, transparent color, opaque color, brush strokes, imprinting, texture, a large picture base and monochrome colorfulness, form, line, and stain.

In the spirit of Kandinsky’s approach, it can be said, that the painting represents a story told in the language of shape and color, a story whose content forms the essence of its appearance.  And the eye is attracted and remains inquisitive.  It roves through brush or sponge strokes, it takes in the etchings, the imprinted template, the saturated or transparent or rich color; a symphony of shapes.

Here, in the collection of Katsnelson’s works, we discern several layers.  Plastic arts, in comparison to literature, do not represent time, rather they represent space.  Katsnelson introduces new spaces into her work, a depth and three-dimensionality of a completely other sort.  Delicate and transparent color works form imprinted shapes something like lace work, appearing as a sort of veiled curtain.  And when you move this aside, a whole other world is revealed.  An additional level of work is exposed, in which the language of color and shape is no longer just form and abstract but rather figurative.

We can discern a ‘repetitive pattern’ – the forms that she engraves and imprints blur when they contain inner images.  Covert images, abstract figuration, images like spirits, like a cloud, fade away and then reappear. They merge one with the other and create a wonderful enigmatic mixture of revelation and secrecy, illusions created by the eye looking for a clear shape. If we strip the seemingly abstract painting from its characteristic figurative frame, we shall reveal a collection of images, richly expressed inner images. Thus in a single space, there are apparently two-dimensional additional layers that create a novel sense of depth.

The imprinted templates, the creation of ‘impressions’ of lacework, with finger and sponge painting, all in monochrome oil paint form a sort of tranquility in the covering upper level, and expose a storm in the inner level.  Katsnelson chooses to use the classical materials of ‘oil on canvas’ or ‘painting on wood’ mostly in large formats and she works with them in a personal way, producing her own personal signature. She engages with different genres of the arts, and chooses to use accepted and clearly understood materials in a way that is not necessarily so obvious.

She does not use oil color in her paintings in the classical manner. This is just one of the contradictions that are arranged within these paintings in wonderful harmony. Patterns of repetitive shapes as a sort of decorative painting, aquarelle transparency, an impression of abstraction, outlines that create figuration, all these together create a mystical and surrealistic atmosphere, minimalist but rich; a world of opposites that surprisingly form a whole.

The choice of one dominant color, blue, contributes to the mysterious ambience of the painting. According to Kandinsky, blue is the color of the skies, a color that calls out to infinity and arouses yearning for purity. The theosophists also note that blue arouses religious heavenly feelings, and symbolically it represents calmness, leading to melancholy and reverie.

Katsnelson does not employ imitation nor does she attempt to create any sort of photographic truth.  She paints out of her observation of her inner reality, and creates a novel reality on the canvas. These inner images are part of the background; the form is the content and the content is the form, the subject and the background are one. They are displayed on a single space, in a single area, covertly, appearing and then disappearing one with the other, one within the other.

The mystical atmosphere of the painting, the spiritual ethereal figures that appear and disappear, the transparent color, the rhythmical moving repetitive patterns seem to have been created in a ritual manner and in a meditative mood, and this is consequently their effect on the spectator.

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