Dimensions: 25.5 x 28″
Media: oil on panel
Flora III differs from many of Melnikov’s other paintings of children: the bright, richly saturated colors of its subject and backdrop contrast the subdued, ethereal palette his other works. The subject here, a small child, wears a fantastic, exuberant, flower-laden hat. The hat is, in many ways, the center of attention, emphasizing the child’s sense of frivolity. Despite the static posture of Melnikov’s subject, the painting has a sense of whimsical playfulness, as viewers consider the ostentatious lightheartedness of the child’s hat. The freshness of the flowers serves as an allegory for the dewy youthfulness of the child, emphasizing the beauty and preciousness of childhood itself.
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