Preview: Ella Kruglyanskaya
Bright, bold figurative paintings from Latvian artist
You might not have heard of Ella Kruglyanskaya, whose exhibition is a headliner in Tramway's autumn season. This is, in fact, the first museum show for the Latvia-born, Brooklyn-based artist (it comes to Glasgow from Tate Liverpool) but she has been making waves on the art scene for several years in an unexpected medium: figurative painting.
This retrospective of work from the last ten years charts Kruglyanskaya's development as an original and in some ways unexpected voice. The subjects of her paintings are usually women, voluptuous and colourfully dressed figures who have been described as 'sexy, sassy and often extremely stroppy'. Drawing influences from as diverse sources as ancient Etruscan painting, German expressionism and 1950s cinema, she creates her own playful dialogue with the objectification of women in the history of art.
Initially, she says, she shied away from painting, so loaded was the medium with history and association. 'There is so much representation of women in our visual culture,' she explains. 'I'm interested in that, but also in giving (the woman) a bit of agency, making her the protagonist of the work.' She rarely paints nudes because, she says, it's difficult to fight when you're naked.
But there is nothing preachy about her pictures: her women are often having fun. She's having fun, too, one suspects, with her medium. Recently, she has been incorporating drawings into her paintings by rendering them photorealistically in paint. Everything made by an artist is a representation of a thing, not the thing itself, so why not a painting of a drawing?
Another recent development has been a series of paintings of objects made by avant-garde German designers Bauhaus, painted not from life but from pictures in books, her take on the still life. Kruglyanskaya likes to shake up genre a little, but her work is celebratory too. This is unlikely to be the last we hear of her.
Tramway, Glasgow, Wed 12 Oct–Mon 15 Dec.