Contemporary Russian artist Andrey Remnev is a rising superstar on the art scene today. Born in Yakhroma, a small town outside of Moscow, his work is very influenced by traditional Russian icons. One of the reasons for this is that Remnev began his education studying icon painting at the Holy Andronic Monastery in Moscow. The monastery is the home of innumerable Russian Orthodox artworks, many of which were painted by the abbey’s most famous monk and artist, Andrei Rublev (1360-1427). Remnev combines the old with the new in his own unique style to create a statement about our modern world. Just like Russian icon art, Remnev’s work is decorative, colorful and deeply symbolic. “My paintings are distinguished by attention to detail and meticulous decorating, in a traditional Russian style,”1 he says. Remnev’s work seems very traditional initially with the dresses and costumes worn by his characters. Upon closer inspection you can see elegant additions that propel the piece right into contemporary times.
Women play an important role in Remnev’s paintings, often taking up a large part of the picture plan contrasted by a miniature town. This compositional technique makes the women look powerful. Remnev uses this traditional device of shrinking the space around the main character to give them a feeling of monumentality or importance. It was a technique employed by Renaissance artists, particularly Leonardo da Vinci. The women in his paintings possess a universal quality of grandeur and mystery. Remnev explains, “My characters are not real women, but symbols.”2 He is not looking to make his women have specific character traits, but to stand for a concept or ideal. Remnev believes that art in general is accountable for what it brings to the world. He wants his art to bring beauty to the world, to create a type of eternal beauty.
Andrey Remnev’s process of creating his paintings is a slow one. He looks at other artists’ paintings for influence and to figure out compositional problems. He says one of his biggest struggles is how to create space in his work, because he feels it depicts the main mood of the painting. Remnev often begins with egg tempera and puts oil paint on top of it. Though the process of painting is very joyful for Remnev, it is also one filled with suffering and doubts. Remnev does a lot of revisions on his canvas until he arrives at the final outcome.
1. & 2. “A Beautiful Life,” womankind, Spring 2017, pages 22-7 and 48-51.
About the Author:
Cathy Locke is an award-winning fine art painter, professor, and published writer, specializing in Russian art of the 19th and 20th centuries. She organizes annual art excursions to Russia every summer and is the editor of Musings-on-art.org.