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tearing the rag off the bush again
At the simplest level, the work consists of a series of portraits of the members of the extended art community of Houston.   These are indeed portraits of recognizable individuals: their singular proportions, facial expressions, their posture.

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by Nestor Topchy
“The portraits follow the breathing or volumetric nature of the sitter’s silhouette, so they are naturally taller than wide, to provide the right dimensional space proportionally enveloping the individual. Usually no larger than 9 inches wide and 11 high…”

But we cannot fail to notice with some disquietude that all these portraits have ‘the look’, through and through, of medieval icons!  The gold leaf, the flatness, the abstractions typical of iconographical paintings, the vermicular style, etc. are all there. Moreover they not only look like icons, they have also been executed following rigorously the Novgorod Russian tradition of icon painting in egg tempera that Nestor studied  at the Prosopon School  in New York City.

Thus we come face to face with the most evident of the apparent disparities and contradictions of the work: these paintings are at once medieval Byzantine icons and modern portraits!  The conflict is profound
“After the cut out boards are sized, gessoed and polished, a drawing, or graphia, is positioned on the board which feels right for that specific image. It is then transferred with carbon paper, etched with a stylus, and red clay bole is applied to the areas to be gold leafed. The gold leaf is applied first and then finished. The twelve layers of egg/vinegar tempera is applied in puddles to the horizontal board and allowed to sink in and dry.  Each layer is an opportunity to be still in meditation and contemplation.  When finished, the image is anointed with olipha/oil to seal it.”
Excerpts from essay by Fernando Casas
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