Dimensions: 32.63 x 29.88″
Media: oil on canvas
The title of this work by Melnikov helps order the situation at hand: a recently broken strand of beads; a repentant child; a warmly lit space. The child sits, head in hands, contemplating her misdeeds with a haunted look on her face. In this case, Melnikov returns, again, to the purity and subjectivity of the childhood experience, captured here by the compositional and thematic focus on this charmingly pensive child. The little girl who scattered the titular beads awaits her fate alone, drawing the viewer into her psychological landscape. The viewer is reminded of the drama of childhood: the small misdeeds that seem to carry enormous gravity. As such, this painting becomes a compelling exploration of the psychology 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