Over the River
Dimensions: 31.5 x 32.5″
Media: acrylic on panel
A young boy, floating surreally and serenely, immediately grabs the viewer’s attention in Melnikov’s Over the River. While the painting’s dark background seems, at first glance, somber, its subtle gradation of color becomes apparent with closer analysis, suggesting the nuanced and layered reality of the subconscious sphere. That exploration of the subconscious is compounded by Melnikov’s subject here: a young boy who sleeps, unperturbed, amidst a remote, indistinguishable landscape. Like his other works, Over the River’s deliberately simple backdrop draws all attention to the child featured in this composition, highlighting his vulnerability and childish purity.
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