Dimensions: 30 x 32.5″
Media: oil on panel
Like Scattered Beads, Broken Toys invites us into the world of a misbehaving child, patiently awaiting censure or forgiveness. In this case, the subject of Melnikov’s painting gazes out the corner of the painting; perhaps he is contemplating the titular Broken Toys, or perhaps he is simply mulling over his situation. Either way, the lack of expository details leave viewers to fill in the missing pieces themselves, drawing on their own childhood psychologies for answers to the puzzle presented in Melnikov’s work. In doing so, Melnikov subtly examines the psychology of both his child subject and of viewers themselves, revealing the shared yet subjective experience of childhood.
Russian born artist, Igor Melnikov, upends traditional associations with portraiture through his haunting and intrinsically psychological paintings of emotionally ambiguous children and within his subtle natural explorations. Rather than focusing on the individual identity of those within his works, Melnikov instead looks to viewers as dynamic participants in the interpretation of his paintings, allowing them to determine whether the children might burst into tears or laughter, based on personal experience, thought, and upbringing. Melnikov is fascinated with the simultaneity of happiness and suffering, which he believes function as an expression of the ‘complexity of the human personality’ and exist as a component of the ‘meaning of being’. Melnikov’s paintings are collage-like, yet not in the traditional, material sense of the process—instead layering his own psychological explorations onto his attempted understandings of the human condition and expression. While his muted color palettes might at first appear to be reductive, they instead focus viewers’ attention on the figures within the work and encourage slow and thorough readings of the detailing that remains visually available. While people and the human condition remain the primary subjects within his paintings, Melnikov also expresses an artistic concern for the natural world, whether expressed in landscape surroundings or in its more material and familiar manifestations, seen in the figure’s clothing and simple possessions.
by Keira Seidenberg, Art History/Gender Studies student, McGill University