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.”