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featuring Mikhail Turovsky
Acritic once wrote of Mikhail Turovsky’s work, “One cannot leave an encounter with Turovsky unscathed.” His work depicts his truth, his experience. At once, the viewer sees beauty and, at times, chaos.
Originally from the Ukraine, now living in New York, Turovsky’s canvases create pictures tinged with a combination of cruelty and kindness, humiliation and ennoblement — expressions of his history. Born in Kiev in 1933, Turovksy first painted on makeshift easels, yet his talent was quite evident. In 1941, with the advent of war he, along with his mother and brother, had to flee the city, moving from one hiding place to another. Then, when the Bolshevik Revolution took place, Turovsky entered the Kiev Art Institute. However, the school’s iron discipline quashed any dissent, any self-expression. The artists became puppets.
“Mikhail is a product of the Soviet Union’s art system where the artists were trained the same way the Gold Medal athletes and the Bolshoi dancers were trained,” says Marc LeVarn, co-owner of Vail International Gallery. “The ‘system’ emphasized a rigorous classical art education and you can see that in the technical foundation of his work. Turovsky had it made in the old Soviet system. He was a member of the painter’s union and had a full-time job as an artist, but he couldn’t stomach the artistic control of the Soviet system.”
Compelled to leave the USSR in 1979 during the Cold War, Turovsky and his family emigrated to New York. Three hundred of his works, confiscated by the Soviet authorities as “national treasures,” were the price of his freedom.
Writes Serge Lenczner in his book, “Turovsky,” “His break with the totalitarian world and a career controlled by the government provided the passkey that unlocked our understanding of the requirement for quality and authenticity that would constitute a marked characteristic of his work throughout his life.”
“Turovsky’s rough and physical style on the one hand bears witness to extreme situations buried in the collective memory and, on the other, brings together legendary portraits and then heavy and sculpted female nudes, and lightens its register by focusing on urban scenes and sill lifes with refreshingly invigorating tones,” says art critic and historian Gérard Xuribuera.
Turovsky’s paintings reveal a mastery of technique, enthusiasm and rhythm that are, at once, imposing and incredibly fresh.
“When I look at Turovsky’s work, I see a distillation of the greatest modern painters of the 20th century, filtered through his own talent, his own vision,” reveals LeVarn. “So, when you look at his art, you can see elements of Kandinsky. You can see elements of Chagall, Matisse, Klimt. They’re all there.”
“But they’re not definitively there, so that when you look at a painting you might say, ’He’s doing this or that.’ Yet it’s his own feeling, his own voice. They’re sensual, they’re beautiful, they’re optimistic and they’re just lovely, lovely paintings.”
LeVarn and Patrick Cassidy, co-owner of the gallery, visited Turovsky’s home and hand picked the paintings they will be showing.
“And being there, in that space with him was truly magical,” says LeVarn. It was as though we were meeting someone of historical importance.”
Vail International Gallery will have a reception for Mikhail Turovksy on Saturday, February 18, 2017.
— by brenda himelfarb