Art Dictionary

Alexander Rodin

Biography

Belorussian artist Alexander Rodin (*1947 in Baranavichy) has lived in Minsk since 1950; attended the Art School No. 1 there from 1960-1965, and the Belorussian Art Academy from 1965-1971. Since then, exhibitions in Belorussia, Russia, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, and Germany. Since 2001 Rodin has spent part of every year in Berlin.

Book related to this subject

Alexander RodinGlobal Warning

Alexander RodinGlobal Warning
Werke aus dem Kunsthaus Tacheles, Berlin

out of print
ISBN 978-3-7757-3272-7
» More information

Beyond taboos and conventional norms

»Breaking the chains of unconscious instinct, dissolving the comprehensible in the depths of the irrational and infinite world of forms and non-forms, I try to use the sculptural motion of rhythms and colorful textures to capture and link together on the painted canvas the macro- and microcosms of mental, physical, and astral existence.« (Alexander Rodin)

Alexander Rodin’s paintings demand much patience and imagination from the observer. His large oils—some of them six meters wide and two meters high, spread across several canvases—are covered in countless meticulously painted facets and an abundance of hidden details, which add up to complex, often disturbing stories with manifold levels of interpretation. They are like mosaics in which the viewer often looks down from above on an unsettling panorama. Rodin’s palette is limited to a few, frequently monochromatic color schemes. Biomorphic, technological, architectural, and geological shapes are often intriguingly contrasted. About himself, Rodin says, “As an artist I am a medium between reality and unreality.”

Rodin began with paintings critical of the system in the former Soviet Union. He soon discovered a passion for the experimental, but he was rarely permitted to exhibit his work. After the fall of the Iron Curtain he followed up with ambitious, spectacular paintings, but the hoped-for opportunities to spread his wings as an artist did not occur, so in 2001 he began spending several months a year in Berlin. There, he created works critical of culture and civilization on the threshold between East and West.

Although he also works with performances and video art, his main focus is on traditional painting. At the same time, he does not bother with ideological taboos and conventional norms. The technical precision with which he literally fills in each square centimeter of his monumental canvases is completely out of step with a phase in which craftsmanship is subordinated to concept. His process alludes to Pointillism, while his paintings are simultaneously anecdotal and abstract. He associates reminiscences of the past with visions of the future and links classical art with avant-garde achievements.

Metaphors for movement—and not just of the chronological kind—can be found in almost all of his works: sailboats, airplanes, rockets, and water are set side-by-side with motifs of seeing and being seen. Many individual elements belong in different epochs of civilization, or to various cultures. For instance, small lions or sphinxes are strewn across his pictures, almost as if by accident. They represent the fading knowledge of worlds and cultures that once existed, or might have existed. Different styles and visual vocabularies are blended: Old German panel painting, baroque allegories, surreal dreamscapes, the emotional paintings of the Russian Revolution, and the aesthetics of science fiction genres. Rodin’s paintings recall Kafkaesque worlds of incomprehensible symbols and signs, in which the present, past, and future conflate to form a claustrophobic universe with apocalyptic features.

November 28, 2011 Anja Breloh

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