Exhibition "Drops of Happiness"

Jürgen Weichardt (translated by Ulfert Hafermann)

Gennady Karabinskiy

has given his exhibition the almost philosophical title “Drops of Happiness“, demonstrating that his paintings are not just depictions of some reality or other but that they are intended to convey a meaning. For example images of happiness. Although this feeling of being fortunate, of being happy is not unfamiliar to any of us, we all understand it in different ways, according to our education, our experience or the impact of the trashy magazines that claim to know precisely what happiness means. Gennady Karabinskiy does not pretend to know what happiness is, and he does not pretend to suggest whether it is, for example, property or something extraordinary, sensational. It is the small, but special things that he hints at as «drops of happiness“: a flower, a fruit, an animal, togetherness - a moment, something fleeting, and it is the impression of this, rather than its origin, that is remembered. It is something that is difficult for outsiders to perceive, because happiness is quite a private emotion, not a collective one – with the exception of a goal at football. Gennady Karabinskiy’s paintings are pleasing, and this is due to their colours. The artist possesses a remarkable ability to combine them, to make them merge, but also to set them against each other, to develop contrasts. He usually starts by using the three primary colours – red, yellow, blue - but he soon turns to a mixture that is no less intense than that of the primary colours – violet , orange and green, a colour very fashionable today.. You will also see areas in which the painter has mixed different colours, areas whose base colours cannot be determined. However – the main thing about the colours in these paintings is not their composition but their aura, their effect: they evoke moods, appeal to feelings, emphasizing not so much the concreteness of the motifs, as quite often objects are covered with several tones, but feelings the viewer might or will have. The colours cause a slight suspense: on the one hand they are bright, and even where the artist chooses dark ones they evoke agreeable feelings, on the other hand they are melancholic. The colours never appear shallow, but they act like a sponge which does not reveal how deeply they have penetrated it. The colours give the pictures great depth. In a melancholic way, the paintings remind us of times when everything – that is life itself and all the things man needs to exist – was still rather easy to comprehend. But it would be wrong to brush this aside with terms like “the good old days“ or nostalgia because there are quite a number of motifs in Gennady Karabinskiy’s paintings that cannot be assigned to a certain era and could in fact be viewed as contemporary when we transfer them to our surroundings – the still-life with flowers, the fruit on the table, man and animal. But Gennady Karabinskiy detaches himself from reality by combining objects in an unusual way: heads with birds, people with plants. The painter gives these heads and faces a strong expression – deep emotions, great desires, homesickness perhaps, or just everyday worry or joy. The objects or animals on the heads hint at something: what does the bird that has alighted on a hat or even a bare head represent, or what does the fruit on the table, sometimes whole, but often sliced, stand for? The artist suggests interpretations taken from the Jewish Wisdom, from tradition. His figures and objects may appear contemporary, yet they do not clash with their past or the tradition in which they are embedded – like the painter himself. They are symbols – drops – of life, freedom, happiness and desires, and nobody can interpret these symbolic details better than the artist himself. By doing away with the proportions we are used to, he transports the human beings, animals and fruit to a different world. In art-historic terms, this would be described as «surrealism“, but I would rather speak of “magic realism“(which is applied to many works of Radziwill, but has a broader meaning and can be applied to Gennady Karabinskiy’s oeuvre, too.) On the one hand, the paintings are close to reality as they do not depict any unreal activities, on the other hand they are magical as the artist gives each subject an impression so intense it exceeds normality. This magic is continued in the colours that attract the viewer’s eye and mind, and in the attractiveness of these paintings and their details. Gennady Karabinskiy produces from within himself the objects and symbolic expressions that make the pictures attractive. A spark from the artist’s inner world is transferred to the person portrayed, mirrored in their facial expression, their eyes and their gestures. From here Gennady Karabinskiy turns to the outer world, which is seen and felt in a entirely subjective way. The artist places his subjects in a calm setting which appears by no means unfamiliar but just not quite that modern. No pathos, but soft tones with modest and generally humble people. Quite often this means only their heads, their faces, sometimes truncated, just like the memory only allows for details, whether they are put before your mind’s eye from a distant past or from a short while ago. People with timid gestures. These alone, as rare as they are, express what man feels in view of today’s world or the world remembered: perplexity, whose only remedy is the immediate occupation with everyday life: the flowers, the fruit, the items that are grouped together in a still-life. However we can also detect a slight hint of caricature in the faces and figures, a pinch of humour that creates a certain distance and equanimity towards the emotional figurations of both bygone memories and the present. Any distance, however, is cancelled out again by the colours. What makes Gennady Karabinskiy’s paintings special is that nothing is done without consideration yet everything is rooted in emotion. The pictures, painted in a small studio in Oldenburg, should not only be seen as memories, but rather as comments on present-day life. However, they cannot exist without recollection. The painter we meet today, who as an artist and an emigrant is generally painfully aware of the present, remembers the world of images that once passed before his eyes...

28.01.2011   Jürgen Weichardt

(translated from German into English by Ulfert Hafermann)