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Prof. Dr. Willem Elias
Decaan Faculteit Psychologie en Educatiewetenschappen.Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Voorzitter van het Hoger Instituut voor Schone Kunsten (HISK)

"Het oeuvre van Valery Konevin is zeer merkwaardig omdat het een vormgeving is van een zeer diepe beleving van de wereld rondom hem. Hij is inderdaad niet begaan met zijn eigen gemoedstoestanden aan de anderen tot uitdrukking te brengen. Maar stelt zich vragen over de wereld rondom zich, zeg maar de werkelijkheid, want zo grondig bekijkt hij het. Boeiend is dat we bij hem in één persoon drie deskundigheden samen in evenredigheid aantreffen : de wetenschapper , de kunstenaar en door die twee , de kruising ervan : de filosoof. In zijn kunst geeft hij experimenteel vorm aan de vragen die hij zich stelt ,zonder zijn wetenschappelijke background te verloochenen. Dat maakt zijn werk zo intrigerend. Hij fantaseert er niet op los, maar loopt ook niet met positivistische zekerheden in de wereld rond. Hij wandelt, slentert en laat ons zien wat niet te zien is."

Director, Fine Arts Exhibitions and Collections
Haifa University – Israel

After decades of suppression and restrictions, the art world of the former Soviet Union began re-awakening and rediscovering itself in the 1970's. First there was the period from the mid 70's to the early 80's. Sparked by the government's infamous "Bulldozer Show," Western awareness of a Soviet avant-garde initially began to take hold in 1974, when Soviet officials literally bulldozed an exhibition of avant-garde artists outside Moscow. That event caught the eye of the West, and sowed the seeds of American and European interest in a Soviet avant-garde. It was also during this time that small pocket-size underground works of art began leaking out into the West, further stimulating interest.

This period eventually gave way to perestroika and the surfacing of the avant-garde, and a new art scene with a bold new generation of artists. According to the Polish writer Krzystof Stanislavski, these "new people of the 1980's," "...marked by the stigma of Afghanistan and Chernobyl," emerged from the underground and began to "operate officially," not only with their own cultural and artistic organizations, but also with their own music, avant-garde shows and cabarets. And, above all, as Stanislavski reports, "they paint a lot."

Valery Konevin was one of those artists to emerge from the underground avant-garde. Born in 1952 in Leningrad, Kovenin identifies himself as the founder of "Base Art," which he explains as being "... connected [to the] expression [of] more simple structures of World, Space, Time and relations between Man and God." As an "unofficial artist" in the former U.S.S.R., Konevin was forced to work - literally and figuratively - underground in basement studios. Not only were "unofficial artists" denied permission to rent studios, but they were also kept out of the "Union of Official Artists" and therefore unable to purchase supplies and materials at union art stores. "Unofficial artists" also had limited possibilities to exhibit their work. Following perestroika in 1989, Konevin was allowed to exhibit at the Exhibition Center in Leningrad.

But perestroika ultimately gave way to dramatic social and economic change. With it came one grave crisis after another, and many Soviets fled the country. And so Konevin like so many of his countrymen immigrated to Israel in 1990. Settling first in Kfar Saba, outside of Tel-Aviv, he ultimately moved to a studio in Tel-Aviv in the historic Jaffa area, which is the home to many artists and galleries.

Three different attitudes can be identified in Konevin's oeuvre. First there are his elongated figures, which appear most in drawing and painting. Secondly there is a decorative series of work with an emphasis on the employment of a unique textural background made up of a rich but subtle palette. And finally there are Konevin's abstractions.

But by and large Konevin is essentially an abstractionist. His approach to abstraction is quirky, sometimes humorous and economical – without being minimalistic. Working in a traditional manner, it is not hard to see that Konevin's structured economical abstract compositions are grounded in Malevich and Russian Constructivism (even though there also is a bit of Miro in his work). One hastens to add, however, that Konevin brings a contemporary immediacy to his painting that sets it apart from pure1y academic interpretation.

An interesting characteristic in Konevin's work is his tendency to "move in for a close-up."That is to say, that even though Konevin may be dealing with pure abstraction he moves his "viewfinder" very close to his subject. The effect here is that whatever the artist may be representing, the viewer feels as though it's being seen through a zoom lens. Whatever does not fit inside the viewfinder is cropped off.

When Konevin first came to Israel, he made a series of numerous black paintings. These have since given way to an emphasis upon a rich palette of varied colours. But it is a distinctive palette that has a unique leaning toward acid and pastel colours. Certain aspects of it also suggests a kinship with Miro.

Like most artists who have immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union, Konevin works outside the mainstream of the Israeli avant-garde. And like many of Russian immigrant artists in Israel, he is the recipient of growing European interest. Thus Konevin has been exhibiting and selling his work throughout Europe in addition to Israel and the United States.

Valery Konevin is an artist who finds his own way. He cannot be associated with any "schools", movements or "isms". What may be fashionable or the passing trends does not interest him. He paints in the way that is honest and true to his artistic character. And he paints in a manner and style that is clearly and distinctive1y his own.

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