Dr. Birgit Möckel



As if they wanted to grow ever further into the sky, sharp-angled geometric forms and expertly modulated expanses of colour push right to the edges of large-format canvases and fathom every angle of the monumental surfaces with both limited and intricately-woven structures. Multi-layered spaces of colour lead into the depths of the picture and question the complex togetherness of organic and constructive structures, of the present and materiality, history and spirituality – from the most varied of viewpoints and distances, with passages which are intrisic to the painting and related to each other by motif.

The subject matter is so extensive, yet the motif, chosen by Yury Kharchenko to be the starting point of his individual artistic confrontation with the Torah and the roots of the Jewish faith, is so simple. The central focus of the cycle “The 12 tribes of Israel”, produced in 2009 and 2010,  which also references not least his own religion, is  the house as a model of spiritual as well as formal mental and creative processes and as a projection screen on which constructed and free-flowing structures, which are as fantastic as they are close to nature, come together as a new synthesis. Instead of intimate insights into the compartmentalized interiors with their poetic interplay between light and dark or figure and space, as we know them from earlier works of Yury Kharchenko, these formats, now monumental in size, give a new weight to the whole and at the same time to the individual parts of the composition. With the current works, spanning the height of entire walls, the focus is on the close-up and distant views as more or less  opposing dialogues, which only form a whole in the mental fusion of nearness and distance, forming the core of the depiction .The house becomes a topos, an idealistic as well as realistic casing, in which order and freedom are led to a synthesis which gives the painting’s power to suck the viewer in the largest possible resonating space and at the same time a wide and yet established frame.

The light or dark upwardly-tapering coloured surfaces of the earlier large-format works of 2009  are the most closely related to the newest series introduced here. They evoke the figurative, build up to become mountains or thick masses to steer the focus of the viewer towards the highest point, leading to absurd and dream-like grotesque beings, while elsewhere lanes of colour  or diffuse veils make their way like corridors into the picture, which divide the surface purposefully and define ways beyond the surreally-intertwined structures.

All the dynamic and static forces connected with the artist’s strategies have found a comprehensive balance with the motif of the house and its individual as well as social connotations, linking the surface and restrictive outline to the inner and outer worlds in a complex manner. Beyond cultural borders the house is defined by its constructive form and outer shell and is considered an archaic symbol of protection and cover, privacy and retreat. Equally familiar, as something real or visionary, this central motif is not least connected with individual or social utopias.

Each of the works in this cycle has its own way of showing just how profound and diverse the house can be as a metaphor for architectural shelter, surface and space, containment and the demarcation that is connected with it.  Each of the 12 protagonists, to whom the works owe their titles and in whose history and tradition they are rooted, are as different as their individual outlines, which are freely placed into the picture and in turn follow their own colour and form contexts and differ from each other by their characteristic internal structures. The constructed stands besides the found. The occasionally-visible pastose brush strokes range from ornamental arabesques to clear monochrome planes of colour, from bright empty places and luminous zones up to manifold dark nuances between surface and space in addition to the unfathomable pathways of colour which – as playful and experimental as they may appear – owe their form less to chance than to the exact knowledge of the inherent autonomous physical laws of the paint.

The use of paint as the bearer of structure, space and light is so all-encompassing, creating an underlying mood of something between hope and melancholy in the individual work, and the houses Yury Kharchenko dedicates to each of the 12 sons of Jacob are also so varied in appearance. On ocassion it presents itself as a luminous core in the center of the picture, embedded in a dark pathway, kept in earthy tones, upon a pedestal-like foundation. Other times, it mutates into a narrow tower-like entity that makes its way from the bottom of the canvas upwards in order to rise in other expressions as an all-encompassing form and conquer large spaces, which are divided into clearly-defined zones or into a finely-structured network of horizontal and vertical, coloured applications and line courses forming a central unit on top of the cloudy, diffuse backround thus transforming into a window that allows and restricts  one’s view in its own way.

Whether it be only faintly, whether in a more or less clear-cut or structured way , whether on a light or dark background, in every work in the series the individual shape of the house takes on the central role, with which the area of tension between colour spaces and visual phenomena allows itself to be explored. Haze, streaks, pasty and expressive elements in addition to the finest traces of colour and gradients evoke associations of myths and stories, their narratives and poetic ramifications seemingly rich in natural phenomena, organic decomposition and processes of growth. While reflecting on the paintings after viewing – as something material and as something of visual value – one has the impression that all the senses are stimulated, leading the eye into the depths, to reassure one from a distance of the motif, which lies above and in everything, and in which one loses oneself step by step as one gets closer to it.

Layer by layer, line by line, colour by colour Yury Kharchenko paves the way into his works. In the inner and outer, between the formed and the built, between what is constructed and what is found naturally, passages open up between appropriation and imagination, the material and the spiritual, which are as real as they are illusionary.


About yurykharchenko

Kay Heymer, Director of Modern Art Department, Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf Yury Kharchenko’s Houses With his twelve wall-sized paintings in the cycle "The 12 tribes of Israel" the artist Yury Kharchenko opens up unchartered terrain to the art of painting and at the same time consciously refers to an heroic tradition of non-representational painting, which originated in the U.S.A. in the 1940s. The painters of that tradition - in particular Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb - wanted to find their specific identity in a sharp separation from European painting, especially Surrealism, as well as in the invention of a visual language which aimed not to portray, but rather to set free form and colour in order to charge their works with spiritual power. They did so with huge aspirations and equally huge formats. This tradition was heroic because it did not allow itself to be discouraged by the disillusionment caused by the social and historical experiences of the 20th Century with its disasters was not discouraged and believed unswervingly in the integrity of a transcendental form of painting which stood for mental and social freedom. Yury Kharchenko’s works can make one forget that such a thing as pop art and post modernism ever existed. His pictures are completely free of cynicism, and there is nothing second-hand about them. His painting is not that of an epigone. They focus on the formal and emotional possibilities of painting. They are both non-representational - pure visual phenomena like sounds – and representational - simple shapes such as the houses, which form the backbone of the cycle, or as the silhouettes of figures hidden in the thickets and scrub of the dark lattice structure of these pictorial spaces. Yury Kharchenko’s paintings are delightful in their texture and their sense of color, stimulating the senses and arousing strong feelings in the viewer. Kharchenko refers to his Jewish roots - particularly the tension between religion and philosophy- in order to give structure to his paintings. His ambivalent attitude towards the subject-matter might explain this, however that is not the key to the success of these works. They already have enough depth and power of conviction as pure forms in their own right. His paintings hold their own even without the viewer having knowledge of the branched and fascinating details of Jewish spiritual history. A decisive quality of these paintings is their individuality, which makes it seem logical that Kharchenko has given them the names of brothers. Their archaic quality shows itself in the reliance on the energy personified in each painting. Kharchenko’s painting relies on a general human spiritual force that has
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