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VOL. 124 | NO. 210 | Monday, October 26, 2009

Broad Avenue Arts District Gets Boost With Rare Russian Exhibit

By JONATHAN DEVIN | The Memphis News

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An emerging arts district in the center of Memphis has received a rare taste of Russia in a gallery exhibition meant to promote awareness. Artist Yan Karpovich of St. Petersburg, Russia, opened his show titled “Dark Days/ White Nights” at T Clifton Art in the Broad Avenue Arts District earlier this month.

Karpovich’s first show outside of Europe helped kick off the 4th Annual Broad Avenue Art Walk held Oct. 2. The show will continue through Friday.

In spite of the words “dark days” in the exhibition’s title, Karpovich said his exhibit was meant to express “a lightness of energy.”

“The paintings that are represented here are from different periods (in my life), but generally speaking, they all carry a very positive mood,” said Karpovich through a translator, his sister, Anna Karpovich. “I’m moving toward using lighter colors generally in the new paintings. That’s why I think it’s all quite positive, carrying a light energy.”

Yan Karpovich presented 15 framed paintings in mixed media including water color pastels, charcoal and gouache to a crowd of about 600 at the opening. The paintings, which range in size from 14 x 17 inches to 23 x 30 inches, not including the frames, are listed for $1,500 to $4,500.

After the opening, Karpovich added an encore of several unframed works to the show.

The imagery in the paintings is heavily influenced by Karpovich’s father, also a painter, and by the natural environment of his upbringing on the Kolsky Peninsula, north of the Arctic Circle.

“Russian artists, in general, they are so connected to earth and nature,” explained Anna Karpovich. “What our father would do is get 10 to 15 artists together and they would go on an artist camping trip. They got to make art in a very remote place in nature and they would settle there for a week or two or a month or however long. It can be very far in the north and very cold, but they would be there painting all together.”

In “Sanctuary,” the barely visible outline of a traditional Russian Orthodox cathedral with onion-shaped crowns on its turrets shines through falling snow against a light gray sky.

“This is a little more concrete of a piece of work,” Yan Karpovich said. “This painting expresses the lightness one receives when he or she comes to believe in God – the lightness you feel, which is brought to you by going to a religious place, the lightness of the snow is the lightness of the soul.”

In other works, Karpovich said he relied less on imagery and more on color to create a mood.

“Crystalline Dawn” uses greens, whites and umber in natural formations that resemble a rocky hill crossed by a creek in morning light before the sun burns away the fog.

“What’s expressed (in this painting) is the freshness of the mood and my outlook on life,” Karpovich said. “It doesn’t even matter what you see in the picture – trees, houses – the mood is expressed. It’s the expression of a certain energy level. What’s expressed here is really for me a very refined feeling of giving out all of the gifts I have received and feel inside me.”

“The nice thing about Yan’s work for me is it’s helped me learn more about Russian art, the whole mindset of a different culture, and how they relate it to their environment,” said Tom Clifton, owner of the gallery. “We all as artists think very similarly and put our hearts and souls onto paper in the same way even though the images may be vastly different.”

“Dark Days/White Nights” remains on exhibit through Friday at T Clifton Art at 2571 Broad Ave.

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