Only occasionally one comes across work of such exquisite beauty that it stops you in your tracks. The silverpoint work and paintings by Victor Koulbak fall into this category. Didier Aaron, Inc. will be presenting from May 7th until the 31st, sixty recently finished works never exhibited before in the United States.
Victor Koulbak works in a medium which is now rarely seen. It is a technique which goes back to Raphael, Michelangelo and beyond. He uses a silver-pointed tip to scratch into the coated surface of hand- made paper to create “drawings” of wonderful intimacy and tenderness. Paradoxically, while the method and style are pure Renaissance, the subject matter is contemporary, resulting in a glorious fusion of the past with the present. The breathtaking quality of craftsmanship has to be seen first hand to be believed.
Koulbak was born in Moscow in 1946 and began his early training there at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He realized early in his career that he needed to discover for himself the principles and techniques of the Old Masters, by turning to Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Albrecht Durer, Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. He refused the dictates of official Soviet art and in 1975 he left the USSR, settling within a year in Paris.
The artist has said that his “view of the world has influenced the techniques I use. I draw in silverpoint, which consists in fixing a thin metal wire, high in silver content (96 percent) to a holder. This can then be used like a pencil – or almost. When the wire scratches the surface of the paper, it leaves tiny particles that act as microscopic mirrors, picking up and reflecting the light. The form emerges gradually, as though floating in space, because the reflections fuddle our perception of distance.”
The past has not only inspired Koulbak; it has infused his techniques, his subjects and his style. He makes his own paints and papers, following the same process artists used hundreds of years ago. His patience and perseverance dictate the tools he uses. For example, when he is preparing paper for a silverpoint drawing, he uses a spatula modeled on the ones for Renaissance drawings. When he primes a canvas for an oil painting, he works with elaborately shaped knives, inspired by a model the Old Masters used. He is a contemporary Renaissance artist.
Seven paintings form a series of works inspired by the biblical story of Eve. Several paintings of men are responses to those Eve paintings. Often one can see the inspiration of Giovanni Bellini and Antonello da Messina. The fifty drawings are of varied subjects: the largest group is of unusual animals including bats, tigers, lemurs and frogs in unconventional poses. A fascinating group of portrait drawings and nudes is also included.
The opening reception will take place on Tuesday, May 7 from 5-8 p.m.