Hanneke de Jong, journalist for the Kunst and Museumkrant, Amsterdam

Movement, colour and light in the paintings of Victoria Kovalenchikova

Victoria Kovalenchikova, a Belarusian artist, recently opened her own VK Gallery in Amsterdam. Here, art lovers can view some of her paintings as well as various pieces she is still working on in her atelier: mostly large canvases, with a layered almost transparent use of colour, in which emotion, movement, light and colouring capture and hold the attention of the viewer.

Victoria is one of many foreign artists who have chosen to live and work in the Netherlands. Like other Russian modern artists, her work betrays a very solid and thorough professional background: a classic, almost craftsmanlike training from 1990 to 1996 at the National Art College, and from 1996 to 2002 at the famous Belarusian State Academy of Arts in Minsk. As a result, she not only demonstrates a complete mastery of the painting profession as such, but has also developed a style and vision all her own which, particularly in view of her age (30 years), is somewhat surprising.

Abstraction in figurative work

The contemporary trend in painting is characterised by a new form of figurative work, which also integrates abstract elements. Her work is in line with this trend and, in this sense, she is very much a child of her time. "My paintings are also associated with emotions, sounds and images, as for example in my work "Music of Lubeck" where music scores can be seen fluttering like leaves through the air." It is particularly these "fragments of emotion" which lend her works their own individual identity within the framework of urban views and landscapes. The paint is applied with a very light brush stroke, creating a transparent, almost dreamlike effect on the canvas. She uses various perspectives in her work, thereby greatly increasing the range of possibilities. In one of her paintings - "Doves of Peace" - in which the perspective used is that of a person looking down from above, she shows us a flock of white birds flying in complete freedom above a city. These doves symbolise the peace which should exist all over the world.

The story

Each painting has its own story to tell, sometimes based on historical (often autobiographical) elements. The range of colours, the layered structure, the composition, the small accents - such as running children, a couple embracing, birds, music scores, the way the light falls - all contribute to the mysterious yet philosophical ambience in which Victoria bathes each painting and to the abstract concept behind each figurative element. Just one example of this is provided by the running children used to accentuate the faster passage of time. These accents, by the way, can be interpreted by every viewer as he or she sees fit. Take, for example, a painting which undoubtedly represents a cityscape in Amsterdam, where the background is perhaps formed by the Shipping Museum on the IJ Channel, as seen from a bridge or a jetty on the other side of the water. In this painting, the wind can practically be felt on one's skin, as it feels on a windy day near the water. She paints only with oils on linen, making initial sketches and then filling them in on the canvas with her very personal interpretation of reality. And it is actually this interpretation which makes her work more than just interesting. As already mentioned, it seems to spring from fragments of emotion, giving her paintings an intriguing and mysterious atmosphere. Her fascination with cityscapes, which are actually better described as urban landscapes, is evident throughout her work. But even her still-life works - such as "Bouquet of Memories" - are interesting not only due to the richness of their colour nuances, but in particular due to the lighting effect created by the white surface in the background, similar to the effect once realised by Caravaggio. Perhaps she is unconsciously trying to connect with the universal memory of mankind, which sometimes creates the impression that the images are being seen through the prism of history. She accomplishes this primarily through her use of colouring and lighting.

International artist

The layered and transparent quality of her work, which sometimes creates an almost three-dimensional effect, always manages to capture and hold the attention of the viewer. There's always something new to discover, whereas the balance and consistency of each work also ensure that it never becomes too intrusive. In my experience, this is a rather unique combination. It is therefore not at all surprising that Victoria Kovalenchikova has already acquired an international reputation as an artist. In addition to her birthplace Minsk, she has had many exhibitions in many other countries, including the US, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Russia and of course the Netherlands. She now appears to have definitively chosen Amsterdam as her base, thereby injecting a major creative impulse into the art world of this great city.

Hanneke de Jong,
journalist for the Kunst and Museumkrant, Amsterdam