Millbrook independent, Article

Yury Kharchenko, “Wunderkind Painter,” debuts at Ober Gallery
Published on January 26th, 2013 | by Tonia Shoumatoff

It’s refreshing to find a young painter whose work is not a slave to post-modernism, work that does not have a hip message or a mechanical gimmick that is reworked on Photoshop. Yury Kharchenko, a 26-year old Russian painter, arrived from Berlin last weekend for his first U.S. one-man show at the Ober Gallery in Kent. He is an exciting young talent who comes from a rich European tradition of well-schooled modern painting.

His style could be called abstract expressionism with symbolist influences. But there is also an organic aspect to his painting that, although abstract, opens up subjective possibilities. He describes his technique as having thicker structures that are deconstructed with a form of liquid painting. The dilution of the original painting with solvents that drip creates visual “accidents” allowing a new overlay to emerge, with the backdrop of the original painting still intact although blurry. The overall effect challenges the viewer to figure out which is which, and whether one is inside looking out or outside looking in.

Rob Ober, who has a keen eye for discovering new Russian artists, was intrigued by Kharchenko’s work after reading a New York Times Style Magazine piece that featured his work alongside Damien Hirst and others in the collection of Mike Meire. The Russian painter’s allure drew serious collectors; Ober sold six paintings on opening night, January 19.

Kharchenko’s career took off at age nineteen when he was featured in the Art Cologne exhibition where he sold work for 11,000 euros. He subsequently exhibited in Berlin, London, Israel and Miami at museums and galleries.

A conversation with Kharchenko reveals a sensitivity and innate connection to symbolist poetry and philosophy. His great grandfather was a friend of the Russian symbolist poet, Alexander Blok. Kharchenko speaks of being influenced by the deconstructivist thinking of Jacques Derrida which also influenced architect Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind who designed the Felix Nussbaum Museum in Osnabrück where Yury is having his next solo show at the end of 2014.

His parents, both doctors of science, emigrated to Düsseldorf, Germany, from Russia in the late ‘90’s when the Russian economy crashed. Kharchenko studied with the non-conformist Russian artist, Vilen Barsky who opened up the world of literature and poetry for the young artist who then started to explore his inner imagery. He developed a portfolio and was accepted after the 10th grade of high school into the prestigious Academy of
Art in Düsseldorf. Kharchenko, although socially somewhat isolated by his young age in relation
to the other students, worked hard and started exhibiting and making a name for himself.

He speaks of ‘Russian colors’, of reading Pasternak and Dostoyevsky and of discovering his Jewish roots in the work of Chagall. He started painting figurative images next to windows: “Windows were important to me. Sometimes I feel like I’m inside looking out a window. Every window is a passe-partout, like a frame in time.”

One of the motifs in many of the paintings that are being exhibited at the Ober gallery
are peak-like shapes that make the body of the painting look like houses. “This shape gives me a space to explore and contain my understandings,” he explains. Some of the paintings have criss-cross shapes, reminiscent of thickets of branches. When asked about this, Kharchenko says: “Once I was reading Nietsche and he spoke about how life is like a forest and there is no structure. The branches are chaotic, they grow how they want to grow, upside down and into each other. This quote influenced me.”

There is also a transcendental quality to some of the paintings which have flashes of white that open up areas to create an uplifting effect. The only word that appears in one of the pieces is “Amen.”


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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