Splash of Color

The article was published in Iceland Review on line
A splash of colors will greet visitors on the second floor of the Seltjarnarnes Library when the work of artist Aleksandra Babik goes on display May 15. Deep orange, ultramarine blue, luxurious red and shimmering silver form a wonderful palette, and one cannot help but feel uplifted by the artist’s visible love for color. 

Reykjavík is generally filled with ultramodern, edgy art, which routinely shows up in every big or small gallery. Conceptual sculptures, collages, video installations, and photographs are in abundance here. On the other hand, a traditional oil painting is hard to come by, which is why Aleksandra Babik’s exhibition is such a delight. 

Review and photos by Victoria Cross.

Aleksandra Babik was born in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. She grew up in an artistic family and began to draw early in her childhood. Her grandfather—an artist—was her first art teacher, introducing her to the world of colors and form.

Babik decided to major in economics, but didn’t abandon her passion for art. She studied in a private art school in Macedonia and supplemented this with private lessons from a major artist there. In January, 1999 she won the first prize in a group exhibition of “Young and Talented Artists.”

Babik and her husband came to live in Iceland in 1999, and became Icelandic citizens in 2006. She was accepted to the Icelandic Art Academy (Art College at that time), but due to family reasons decided to finish her Master’s degree in economics first.

For the past nine years, holding a full-time job, rearing children and studying, Babik continued to paint, experimenting with different styles and techniques. Now she is ready to show her work to general public. 

Despite this exhibition being Babik’s first in Iceland, some of her works have already been sold to private collectors in the USA, Sweden, Macedonia, and Iceland.

For her professional debut the artist selected samples of different genres, all of them are in her favorite medium—oil on canvas.

The first painting that caught my eye was a small still life “Mediterranean Dinner.” Its composition isn’t complicated—a pumpkin, a fish, and three figs positioned around a squash on a table top; the plane of the picture is flattened, but such arrangement helps the viewer to focus on the color relationship between those simple objects. 

The red of the tabletop, dashed-off highlights on the pumpkin, flecks of bright green, jewel tones of the fish scales, and deep purple of the figs are balanced perfectly together. Up close, the swirls of paint appear random, yet are revealed to be precisely placed once you step back. The lavish texture deepens the colors and the overall effect strongly recalls the works of old masters.

 

 

“Mediterranean dinner,” 2008

The artist’s love for color is most evident in her abstract “Fish series.” To her, the world of the sea is “the source of all the colors” and she uses stylized, heavily outlined, mostly similar fish forms to accentuate her color exploration.

Babik’s rich treatment of the paint—layered, distressed, scumbled, scratched—adds an ancient feel to the canvases. One might easily imagine them somewhere on the crumbled wall of a Mediterranean villa. Placing one of the fish images inside the frame and highlighting it in a white glow, the artist achieves the effect of a “painting within a painting,” thus focusing a viewer’s attention on the inner part of the fish form.

“Fish series,” 2007

The “Dancing Swan” doesn’t immediately reveal its connection with the fish series. But it shares the same deep-blue background, and its general outline echoes the outline of the fish forms. The placement of a little fish—designed more as a stamp, rather than an image—in the lower right corner ties it all together.

“Dancing Swan,” 2008

It is always interesting for me to hear how an artist works. Through experimentation Babik learned that priming her canvasses in black helps her to see and lay on colors. It gives her a better feel for their development, and also allows using the border of a black canvas as a natural frame for the paintings. She uses her own work as inspiration at times. “Sea World,” here reworked in oil, was originally created in pastel when she was 17. This painting is the vivid example of her amazing attention to detail and precise brush control.

 Insert “Sea world,” 2007

Nobody can live in Iceland without being affected by its beautiful nature and Babik pays tribute to it with a series of landscapes. She combines different textures, smooth strokes for depicting the sky and the grainy texture of lava in the grassy area at the bottom. The artist isn’t satisfied just capturing the image; she strives to create a sense of drama. In this case, an overcast sky, fumes from a volcano, contrast with tranquility of green grass to create a dramatic effect—a sense of impending storm.

 “Landmannalaugar,” 2007

Babik’s talent as a colorist is clearly seen in “Snaefell.” She manages to take incandescent reds, oranges and yellows, and contrast/balance them so effectively and naturally against blackish purple and cerulean blue that this seemingly unearthly palette creates a breathtakingly magical landscape.

 “Snaefell,” 2007

Pure love for color and the ability to celebrate it is a rare gift. Kandinsky wrote that “color directly influences the soul.” He compared colors to the keyboard and the artist to the hand that plays, “touching one key or another purposively, to cause vibration of the soul.” It seems like we have a masterful pianist present.

The exhibition is on display from May 15 to May 31.

http://www.seltjarnarnes.is/bokasafn
Bókasafn Seltjarnarness
Eidistorgi 11, 2. floor
Tel: (+354) 5959170
Open Monday – Friday 10 am – 7 pm
Saturday 11 am – 2 pm
Free admission

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