Juxtapoz: Vera Iliatova's "The Drawing Lesson"

Featured frontally here are young women, each caught in a significant, quasi-cinematic pose; flowers in vases, cropping up to intrude on human activity; art books, shoes and fabrics scattered on the floor; statues and ceramic figurines competing for our attention with the models; easels and sketchbooks, as well as a standing oval mirror that may reflect one of the canvases against the walls. Plus the moveable furniture, chairs and tables, where a young woman may sit, or the ladder, platform, and staircase where another may stand, the better to see or be seen. Finally, there is the window-wall in the rear plane, translucent or, when open, giving onto a river and barges. 


As in certain overbrimming films of Arnaud Desplechin, whom she favors, such a copious jumble of elements enlivens her work; competing colors and technique (fine-grained or deliberately unfinished) produce a rhythmic undulation of attention in the viewer who must hold one element too many in eye and mind. We are given cues: bright, crisp forms in the foreground lead the eye toward the murkier ambience further in, where inchoate daubs are still coming into existence or focus. Flowers may be reflected literally in a nearby mirror while their colors reappear on a blouse or canvas at the other end of the studio. Iliatova sets paintings within her paintings, each a discrete attraction, but often blurred like the images on the mirrors, or the gauzy statues. Together with the often ‘unfinished’ human models, all these discrete forms are staged to look toward or turn away from one another as in some modern dance. 

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March 14, 2024