Afanassiev crosses borders in 'Landscapes'

Joan Sullivan
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Iakov Afanassiev has two paintings in "Landscapes," the new show opening at The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art Saturday. These signal a new direction for him, as Afanassiev is more associated with portraits and still lifes, presented with a polished deportment and formal sheen. The subject, whether a person or an assembly of flutes and bottles, is often presented against a velvet black background, and the visual interest is skillfully built from articulated folds in white fabric, or the fused glints in a bottle.

Afanassiev, a self-taught painter and a trained physicist, is very concerned with the display of whites and sculpting tones of light and dark.

Iakov Afanassiev's "Church in St.Philip's" submitted photo

Iakov Afanassiev has two paintings in "Landscapes," the new show opening at The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art Saturday. These signal a new direction for him, as Afanassiev is more associated with portraits and still lifes, presented with a polished deportment and formal sheen. The subject, whether a person or an assembly of flutes and bottles, is often presented against a velvet black background, and the visual interest is skillfully built from articulated folds in white fabric, or the fused glints in a bottle.

Afanassiev, a self-taught painter and a trained physicist, is very concerned with the display of whites and sculpting tones of light and dark.

That elegant sensibility infuses these landscapes. Though the paintings are bigger, they still convey an aura of old-fashioned precision. Lines are exact and energetic and the representational colours of pine and cobalt are carefully highlighted and underscored with small bands of cream or dots and dashes of red.

He began tackling the new genre of landscapes about a year ago.

"I go for hikes," Afanassiev said, explaining the generation of such vistas as "Church in Paradise" (oil on canvas, 30 x 40). He takes snaps of what he sees - "It's easy these days to take a good photograph" - and also makes mental notes of the configurations and colours.

"Real colours are not quite the same as what we see with our eyes." He also begins to mentally frame the landscape.

"In still life, the arrangement, the composition, is very important. There are classical rules." These established set of laws exist, not so much in that they can be read in a book, but in how they can be followed through generations of artists' work.

It is a methodology Afanassiev carries into landscapes, which, just as his still lifes and portraits, are classical compositions. He said landscapes are a challenge for him to paint.

"I started with portraits, and there, you have to take care of the likeness, you have to take care of the flesh tones. And the drawing should be very good. What also matters to me is structure. If a landscape has grass and trees, you are not able to paint every little leaf or every little blade. The likeness is achieved with different tricks, the structure requires little tricks to achieve.

"Some people see a painting and imagine these things, even if they are just hinted. The trick of good painting is to put some hints there."

Afanassiev hopes to continue working in bigger canvases, and will have pieces in all three genres - portrait, still life and landscape - at a three-hander show at the Leyton Gallery this fall.

This current group show also includes work from six other artists.

Sue Miller has six paintings, all with a nicely scratchy, pocked and weathered surface that brings a lot of movement to her views of distant outports, abandoned houses and big skies.

Carolyne Honey Harrison has "Grasslands" and "Jade River," big, bold, vibrant songs in paint.

John Haney has two big, horizontal photographs, effervescent in black, white and gray.

Michael Connolly has two prints of forest scenes. And Jack Botsford has four pieces, all centred on roots and stems, rock shapes and cliff lines, their subterranean systems and interlocking forms presented in a playful airiness.

Concurrently, Afanassiev also has work in "After Hours," a group show of artwork from the current and retired faculty and staff of Memorial University, which includes 26 artists creating in multiple media.

And the materials are incredibly varied. There are even paintings on recycled irregular wood and corkboard from Andrew Harvey, involving simple forms like clouds, or a purple ghost with affixed goggling eyes, or cherries.

Joyce Cho's "Yellow Rose" and "Pink Rose" (watercolour) exude volume and poise. "Arrangement in Blue" (multi-media drawing) from Kathleen Parewick is cast in assured realism.

"Water Street" by Michael Morrow (acrylic on canvas) is a chipper, naÏve view of the downtown venue. "Battery Kitties # 1" and "#2" by Paul DeDecker is worth noting just for the titles alone, as is the strawberry shortcake palette of Alain Potrel's two abstracts in oil on canvas.

"Landscapes" continues at the Leyton Gallery of Fine Art until June 27. "After Hours 2009" continues at the Queen Elizabeth II Library until Aug. 14.

Organizations: Queen Elizabeth II Library

Geographic location: Jade River, Water Street

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