Continuing through October 28, 2019
Igor Melnikov’s portraits present themselves as expertly executed acrylic on board paintings in the style of the Old Masters. But the Russian-born artists’ work is more than just figurative or representational. His paintings of young blond children with large, searching eyes and lightly flushed cheeks are a probing psychological exploration of the soul. The faces of the children, such as the somber boy depicted in “Abandoned Meadow,” are emotionally ambiguous. A hint of melancholy or inquisitiveness is implied, but nothing more. The settings are also indistinct, often a grassy field or simply a dark background enveloping the subject.
The artist says of his work, “For me these are not portraits of children, but portraits of human souls … a soul immersed in itself, reticent, perplexed, searching for and preserving a hope.” Because Melnikov’s work does not seek to convey specific people, places or experiences, it allows us to connect more easily with it. As a young child growing up in isolated Siberia, Melnikov views childhood and its inward reflectiveness as a representative of purity and innocence. While some of the paintings feel haunting, with their muted color palettes and the look on the children’s faces, they could be but are not mournful. They rather stimulate self-reflection. We see within the faces of the children elements of our own emotions and inner workings.