Going to the bookstore is like a treasure hunt. It is one of my ways of finding great artists (past and present) that I do not know. From their works, I can find inspiration and ingredients for my own artistic refinement. It is a constant part of my learning curve.
It was in such a circumstance that I came to know the works of a great Russian artist, Aleksei Gritsai (1914-1997). In 2011 when I travelled in Hong Kong, I bought a book about his landscape oil paintings and was immediately hooked on his brush strokes and the plain and earthy feel of his paintings.
This writing is my tribute to him as a great artist who, in my opinion, would easily be in the class of the other world renowned Russian artists the like of Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898) and Isaac Levitan (1860-1900). Unfortunately, newer generations might not have heard of him as there is very little information available even in the internet. Based on what I gathered, he spent most of his lifetime in painting and had not set foot outside Russia. He had been a recipient of a number of top artist awards in the country during the 1950's.
His brush strokes were fine and expressive particular in rendering the mood in an overcast weather, or under a mild autumn or winter sun. His painting of the silver birch was particularly brilliant. It is a great joy to be able to go over the canvas up close, follow the brush strokes, and appreciate the manner the colours run into each other. When a painting is so good, you can easily spend hours going over the details with little sense of time.
The picture showing here is a photo I took from the book. It is called "伏爾加河上空" (77cm x 161cm) -- an oil painting he finished in 1952. It is very atmospheric. The evening sun is about to set below the horizon. The last glows in the sky have their match in the reflection on the surface of the river. There is a great sense of tranquility. In a land which is seemingly free of human occupation, in the remoteness and the vastness of the space in sight, a tree stands tall on the edge of the cliff as if it is about to share its story of courage, a story of how it has weathered the good and bad of days and comes out stronger as ever. It is thought provoking.
I was so drawn to the mood and the scenery that I couldn't resist doing a small size copy of it but in soft pastels (see picture underneath). It was the closest thing I could do to experience what might have transpired in the artist's creative process. I think I have done the original painting justice. I would wish to be on the same spot to do a en plein air one day, God willing. Or, to have the chance to view the original painting which has yet to be found.
Live life, Junius.