Al least psychologically, the first encounter with a work of art is decisive for the subsequent assessment and classification of other works by the same artist. The first time I viewed one of Alyona Kirtsova's paintings was under especially unfavorable circumstances - I can hardly speak of having encountered the picture at all. It hung in the artist's combined living room, which also served as her studio, in her house - one of Moscow's last remaining houses: for visitors at least, a romantic Russian "izba". Because of the room's poor lighting, I was hardly able to make out any details of the picture. It was held in the grip of darkness - a play of violet hues. I initially perceived it as little more than another patch of darkness or a dark shadow on a dark wall. In the course of the evening, the picture began to bring me under its spell, appearing to open up unseen depths. Like certain kinds of shadows in a dark room, it began developing a spatial presence, one more sensed than actually perceived, one that was surprisingly immaterial but which nevertheless appeared to be well defined. The dark layer of paint, the color of the color space's contours, as it were, became increasingly transparent. One gained the impression of numerous underlying layers of paint. In time, it seemed more and more likely that the supposed visible outer layer of paint did not really exist; it was only the optical sum of all the under lying layers that had merely solidified, thereby imparting an optical surface impressio
The remarkable and fascinating effect remained unexplained on that particular evening, but it left a deep impression on me.
Not long after this first encounter I viewed an exhibition by Alyona Kirtsova at Moscow University. With increasing despair, I sought to return both to "my picture" as well as to the first impression I had of it. In vain! The paintings hung there on the wall, exposed to day light just, like conventionally displayed objects.
In this environment, they not only refused to reveal their secrets; they even seemed to be stubbornly refusing to admit that they were concealing anything. Now, after a lengthy acquaintanceship with the work of this exceptional painter, I am conscious of the extraordinary degree to which these pictures depended on their environment - on their "presentation". Yet this is by no means merely a technical problem, one that could be solved solely by a change in lighting and in the manner the pictures are hung. As one particular critic familiar with Alyona Kirtsova's art work once observed, the problem is psychological in the sense that these pictures represent a form of psychological self-identification. Yet, the artist herself has warned us against taking such an interpretation to the extreme of only perceiving her person. She gained this impression from her earlier attempts at writing, in which she felt she had the need to write "what was already inside me and had no opportunity to develop, to be transformed into something new". This "something new" is the transformation of an existential feeling for life info a painting. And not least, the enigmatic depth that is immediately perceptible in Kirtsova's paintings is explained by the time invested in the painting process, which can surely be seen as a kind of time running parallel to everyday life. If these pictures and the later glass objects are simply treated as artistic products, the particular danger arises that this output could loose its uniqueness. It would be easy to classify the artist's earlier works - oriented as they are to real spaces and their perspectives, and with distinctly delineated surfaces - as "hard-edge". However, doing so would mean overlooking this artist's typical orientation vis-à-vis visual reality, just as a reduction of her later pictures to comparisons, (or example, with Rothko, Ryman or Girke, would disregard with the derived element of time - including its psychological elements.
It is typical for Alyona Kirtsova that she has gone beyond the categories of abstractionism - they are thus no longer of use in evaluating her work. In the words of Alexander Borovsky, one must speak of "post-painterly abstraction" in connection with this young art; he thereby questions not the validity of the technical term, but rather the painterly consciousness created by abstract art as well - a consciousness that this generation of artists has already left behind it. With this in mind, an additional interesting phenomenon characterizes the works of Kirtsova, one that she shares with a number of artists of her generation but which is particularly distinctive in her case. I am referring to a nearly conservative "painting culture". It is this that generates the feel of her paintings, a feel that the viewer immediately senses. Not a single one of her paintings shows even a hint of trying for effect. Rather, they give the appearance - one almost wants to say: like the old masters- of being solidly crafted works. But this is only the technical aspect of the contemporary consciousness that is reflected in these pictures. What goes even further and constitutes what is truly new in these artworks is the nearly spontaneous inclusion of existence in all its complexity. Through art, the contradictions exemplifying this existence become a process of harmonization. The necessary effort, made visible in the artist's work and injected into it, creates the work's depth, which in this context represents a transformation of complexity.
Alyona Kirtsova describes this process of transformation, which is present in her artwork and at the same time is evidence of its production, as a process of "growth and maturation" - a process that occurs beyond the control of her artistic planning, thereby playing a somewhat autonomous, constitutive role in her art. Nevertheless, this process is aesthetically controlled and thus subject to the laws of artistic production, so that purely artistic changes and developments - if you will, of a formal nature - are visible in the works.
The depth of the color space that characterizes many of Alyona Kirtsova's pictures, her indirect treatment of light as a kind of immaterial reflection of color, is also to be found in her more recent broken-glass objects in an unexpectedly playful manner. But even here, one sees an attempt to synthesize the disparate, the unequal and the heterogeneous. However, with the glass objects, the dissimilarity of the elements does not stem from reality, but is artistically produced through the shattering of bottles and glass containers.
This artist is interested less in the effects that result from the smashed form than in the capability of the parts to be recombined at a meta-level as part of a new totality. The artist is interested not in an imagined unity of a destroyed form (which will remain destroyed forever), but rather in releasing existing but invisible possibilities associated with light. One could also characterize these possibilities the metaphoric components that, in fact, invariably distinguish Kirtsova's art and without which an essential dimension-and even part of her identity- would be lost.