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TM-STUDIA at The Carrousel du Louvre, Paris.

By Celio H. Barreto
Originally published in January, 2015.

TM-Studia is an artist collective from Russia. Much of their painting is primarily (but not always) done in the plain-air style, that is, on the spot, deep in the forests around Novgorod. The theme of their work is nature, its colors, shapes, forms and light. One of the most striking features for me is the tremendous vibrancy of their color palette, the exquisite composition of their canvases and the formal and yet playful geometry of their forms. Deep hues built up with transparent layers that both reflect and refract the light combined with rich textures and masterful use of rich color palette and professional operation with forms are unifying threads that hold TM-Studia’s work together. Let’s take a look at some of the most outstanding pieces in more detail:

① Elena Bykova’s “Evening”

(Oil on canvas, 42cm x 59cm) 

Bykova uses broad strokes, contrasting colors and simple geometrical shapes in this picture to render a countryside scene. The short and thick strokes to capture the clouds reveal prior layers of deep blues, greens and yellows. Her trees spring up from blue, green and mustard soil in elegant and gentle curves. The eye travels across the canvas following the various vertical, horizontal and diagonal likes that make up the cottage buildings amidst the trees. 

② Irene Makarova, “Red-headed Pierrot” 

(Oil on canvas, 70cm x 30cm)

This is a wonderful play of opposites, creating tension and contrast with colors, compositional elements as well as communicating a complex emotional state in its subject. The title of the piece emphasises two archetypes that allude to the prejudice experienced by those with red hair and that of the melancholic entertainer who must cheer others up - Laughing on the outside but crying on the inside. 

The gradating blues in the left of the canvas, migrate from pale shades to deep and intense hues towards the centre of the picture plane. Here it is arrested by a figure in white, topped with a fiery red head of hair, from which flows an almost sinuous curve to the small of her back. Here a line springs out and down while another shoots down as it fades into the base of the painting. To the right of the figure, the palest shades of blue fade out on to the edge. The figure is caught between fluidity on her left and a congealed state on the right, her head like the core of a fiery torch, but her face sunk in sadness.

③ Arseniy Kupriyanov, “Landsсape” 

(Oil on canvas, 62cm x 42cm) 

In this bright and colourful plain-air piece, Kupriyanov has captured the Russian forest with elegance and formality. Using bold strokes and voluminous color fields he renders tall and delicate trees and their autumnal foliage with grace. They almost look like tall-ship masts with their sails aloft. Of particular note is the bright orange foliage near the centre of the composition, which brings together the colors transitioning from summer to autumn hues. The red walls and yellow roof a lone cottage on the bottom left pops out of the green and blue fields in vivid resplendence and it is at the same time counter-balanced by a deep red shadow on the opposite side of the canvas, creating a solid foundation for the verticality of the scene. With simplicity of form, color and shape, Kupriyanov’s “Landscape” is a sophisticated interpretation of the beautiful forests of Nizhnii Novgorod.

④ Nataliia Khilova “Forest"

(Oil on board, 70cm x 50cm)

Khilova’s fluid brushwork spreads paint around the canvas with dynamic confidence. She used much more muted tones and hues in her palette, proceeding to create a scene with more natural colors and a more sombre mood. Her work invites reflection, as we contemplate a single figure walking through the majesty of towering forest trees. The figure sets a scale that seems to remind us of our relationship with nature. Khilova’s has rendered soft shadows, natural light, and a sense of depth that invites the viewer to join the figure in blue for a walk in the woods. 

⑤ Konstantin Konstantinov "Aleksandrovskiy Monastery”
(Oil on canvas, 60cm x 40cm)

In this masterful piece, Konstantinov’s dexterity with more traditionally representative styles is easy to see. Gentle lines form the subtle perspectives of this calm rural scene. In the foreground a clear river dissects the bottom part of the picture in a downward diagonal path from left to right. Reeds populate the edges of the river banks and the sky is beautiful reflected on the surface of the mirror-like river. Beyond this, a gentle slope angles upwards and to the right, slowly building the horizontal line that supports the gorgeous Aleksandrovskiy Monastery. The building is bathed in a soft glow of natural light. demure shadows envelop its right surfaces while brilliant daylight irradiates the left facade with splendid color. The composition is largely made with greens, blues and whites, with some darker tones and hues to set some features down under the grass. The painting is serene and meditative, reflective of the importance of the mystical in Orthodox Christianity. It is also a timeless image that emphasises one of the ancient cultural traditions of rural Russia. The Monastery is a form of beacon in the landscape, attesting to man’s search for meaning in life and greater understanding for the world around and within him. Konstantinov has created here also a very mystical-looking composition that highlights the structure in harmony with its surroundings. It is as if he is making a point about the balance between mind and spirit, the material and the immaterial, the eternal and the temporal. 

Having met this wonderful group of artists, who work together across various disciplines as well, has left me with a very strong desire to join them one of these summers in Nizhnii Novgorod for their plein-air painting camps. I was thoroughly impressed by their enthusiasm, devotion and commitment to their vision and very much inspired by their energy to share art with those around them (and not only through exhibitions, but through a series of cross-disciplinary workshops and many other activities). 

I am looking forward to meeting TM-Studia again, and see for myself their new body of work in the near future.

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