Alyona Kirtsova is one of the most recognisable actors on the Moscow art scene. And it's not about her as a personality, although contemporary artistic life can easily be called, to paraphrase Guy Debord, an 'atomised spectacle', and in this 'society of the spectacle' Alyona has her role to play. But Kirtsova's recognisability is of another nature. She is known for providing a stable immersion in her own painterly problematics. Let's be honest, today, when social, conceptual, media and behavioural gestures are valued, the investing of the viewer's expectations in such unhurried, silent, intimate processes, progressing deep into the painterly medium, is worth a lot.

Kirtsova's solo exhibitions don't happen that often, although in each of them she attempts to show the stages of this progress, to experience them once more together with the viewer.

One exhibition suggested a phenomenological relationship to colourism (Color Guide), and another (Gray Scale) was constructed around the relationship between the spiritual and the material.

The 'subject' of this exhibition was dictated by a non-artistic situation, a flood in the studio (not a reference to Ilya Kabakov's Incident in the Museum, but a real-life event). Kirtsova has long suspected that her paintings live an independent life, which becomes apparent through their existence: transportation, hanging, stacked in long-term storage. Traces appear on the painterly surfaces, like the 'developers' tricks' of pre-digital photography.

The flood intensified this situation of traces.

Kirtsova is interested in the traces of the flood: changes to the paint layer, drips, scuffs. She suspects that this is not aleatoric, that there are some signals here, being sent by the medium. Of course, the works are being restored, but Kirtsova sees within them a new physicality and occasionally, it seems, retouches something or other. In any case, their symbolic capital grows, since they've been through thick and thin, an ordeal.

Of course, the flood made the exhibition organisers focus on watery motifs. Thankfully, in various periods Kirtsova has explored the theme of water in its physical and symbolic states.
I could never understand what Kirtsova might learn at Vasily Sitnikov's academy: his sweeping, mocking, playful element and Kirtsova's chromatic focus, the fact that even in the harmonisation of colours she feared, as she put it, 'melodrama'. Then I took another look. In Sitnikov's few geometrical still lifes and, strange as it may seem, his nudes, there was a significant dose of colour, despite the overall striving for monochrome. It was a kind of starting position: then the dose was discarded, and the crackers and fireworks appeared (although there was also infernal luminescence).

Looking at Kirtsova's art practice in summary, we find an artist with strong optical concentration and selectivity. In Russian art there are few artists who are so close to American minimalist painting, from the 'square canon' of Josef Albers through the symmetry split by 'lightning' of Barnett Newman to the standard coordinate matrices and monochromes of Ad Reinhardt and Robert Ryman. I believe that Ed Ruscha's dynamic of incarnated optical aggression also falls within her field of interests.

Derrida (I don't like to refer to him, but here he's relevant) wrote somewhere of the self-presence of the artist, separate from 'before' and 'after'. This self-presence characterises Kirtsova's poetics. The reflexivity of contemporary art is before. The narrative of the independent life of paintings in storage (and the water motif of the exhibition) is after. And self-presence is a moment of mutual visual and speculative penetration. View of the Embankment from the Moscow-River Bridge at Night in Early Spring is an example of this kind of interference. The artists knows that beneath the bridge flows water of various compositions, colours, illuminations and speeds. And at the edge there are remnants of snow. And the light of streetlamps. Kirtsova is not attempting to reproduce the overall colouristic condition of the 'spring waters', although of course the natural viewer's impressions remain in her consciousness. But when she cuts the coloured chunks that form the real multi-layered nature of the flow, she is involved with the real picture plane. Here, the behaviour of colour and reflexes tears itself away from mimesis (despite the concrete nature of the 'places and times' in the name): achromatic white, the crazy orange reflex of Paolo Veronese from a tube and the delicate olive tone of wormwood are mixed together for vision and speculation.
In relatively recent series (Gray Scale) the ordering and systematisation increases. Natural situations are typological. Colour and tone are close to monochrome. The visual and the speculative synthesise. A vision of the universal, of natural laws, is the vector of Kirtsova's development.

This exhibition includes works from another store (they are from an earlier period). The 'flood' forces us to consider them anew. In these works — which can be defined overall by the artist's title, Watershed — there is a natural trace, an observation of the chromatic condition of water's substance. Of course, it is extremely mediated. Although a real, observed or speculative watershed provides the impulse for the movement of colour and its division that Kirtsova produces on the flat surface. This 'division' features the dynamic of different directions and even repulsion. But there is a uniting factor. And it is stronger. It defines the attempt to 'construct', to collect, to order not only forms on a surface but moments of the artist's own consciousness. This factor, or instrument, is the materialisation of chromatic bands, their substantiation, their 'physicality'. Recently Kirtsova has more distinctly applied herself to tactile perception. The word 'texture' is not quite right here. For the artist (Kirtsova works with a knife) the process of applying colour, evening out and smoothing it is important. And it is the basis for self-presence. Kirtsova values this moment. It seems she finds it difficult to let the painting go its own way. This is where the abovementioned interest in the traces of independent life of paintings comes from: it is a continuation, a stretching out of contact in time. Like the theme of the flood in the formation of the exhibition: as a means of biographically prolonging self-presence in the painting, not letting go (the philosopher again comes to mind) of everything that is 'after'.
January 2022, translated by Ruth Edison
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