RUSSIAN ARTIST ANDREY REMNEV takes inspiration from his native town Yachroma, where as a child he watched small rivers and springs, woods, fields and villages, the railway, ships and trains, all through a window in his home. There are indeed touches of nature in Remnev's work but they are anything but pastoral landscapes. Most striking about his paintings is the opulent, somewhat devotional quality they possess, of characters rendered in elaborate costume and ornately ambiguous environments. They have no halos or wings but their poses and gazes remind almost of angels and saints in medieval paintings.
It was in 1996 that Remnev studied icon painting in Moscow's Spaso-Andronikov monastery. From Greek icon meaning "image" or "likeness", icon paintings depict sacred persons or events, and are normally venerated in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Russian icons in particular are painted on wood panels, with pigments tempered with egg or wax. They are sometimes displayed with a metal cover called riza to protect the paint from darkening. Made of gilt or silvered metal, the rizas are filigreed and at times set with artificial, precious or semi-precious stones, while being punctured to reveal elements of the painting underneath; the faces normally. Though some icons on their own contain gold or silver leaf, rizas are often more elaborate than the icons, looking like jeweled cases attached to the paintings.
Remnev's works do not come with rizas but their depictions of intricately-adorned garments and backdrops more than make up for the lack of a bejeweled cover. As with icon painting, Remnev paints with egg yolk, and bases his own technique on a combination of Russian icon painting, 18th century Russian painting, Constructivism and the composition methods of the Mir Iskusstva.
Of course, Remnev's paintings do not serve to inspire religious veneration. This, however, does not exempt its onlookers from other forms of reverence, be it for the paintings' sartorial aptitude or the artist's sheer talent, among other things. Are Remnev's icon-influenced paintings a reflection of the more trivial qualities we venerate today?
Paintings by Andrey Remnev, www.remnev.ru Images from artrussia.ru