Maria Kreyn paints the kind of paintings that you'd expect to see several centuries back, drawing more from the Old Masters than any contemporary artist. It isn't just her art that is similar, but also the path she took in learning how to create it.
The traditional route to painting was an apprenticeship, rather than just a conventional three or four years at art school. It was something akin to this path that Kreyn chose to take. If you were to only hear her story, without context, you'd be inclined to believe that she is, in fact, from a different era. Born in Russia to polymath parents, she studied philosophy and mathematics at the University of Chicago. Aged 20, she left for Europe, in search of the things she'd seen in books. The pristine marble sculptures and atmospheric paintings of her favourite artists.
Finding herself in Norway, Maria spent time embedded with a master painter and, just like in the past, spent her time observing the techniques, values and perspectives required to create work of the ilk that she so deeply desired. Her natural interests in science and mathematics, as well as poetry, ring similar bells to the mavericks that helped define classical Occidental art. It was in Norway that her technical abilities began to develop. However, it took a return Stateside to fully embrace her role as an artist. It was in New York that she could develop relationships and networks with other artists.
It's here, in one of the world's artistic capitals, that she has began to fully develop her own visual language, layering her own interpretations on the classics and adapting them for a contemporary audience. Although her paintings don't look like a quintessential piece of contemporary art, that's because they're not, yet they do allow modern sensibilities to manifest in the figures that appear throughout.
It wasn't just the technical side that concerned her perception of how she should paint, it was also the content. Considering the vast majority of painters from the era of greatest interest to Kreyn were male, she was also concerned about painting in a typically male way. Conscious of not necessarily making it female, but of making it human above all else, her work is powerful in it's unwillingness to be put into an expected box. The transition was natural. She saw what she liked and imitated it, then she tried to forge her own style and eventually, through experience, she's been looking to work beyond any particular binary and portray the subjects as honest to her own experiences as possible.
Kreyn's paintings are large, yet intimate. A zoomed-in look at a moment that tells a very personal story. The poses are regularly filled with stunted motion, like the face of a person unknowingly caught in action, entirely unaware of their surroundings. Kreyn has stated that she personally has problems with intimacy, something that has fuelled the exploration of this theme in her art, especially as she chooses to paint as a way of channeling her intuition - a subconscious action.
Interestingly, it's in this choice of painting figurative art that, similar to many present-day artists, she is able to realise and actualise the most intense human emotions and expressions that are circling around her head. The relationship between seemingly abstract expressions of human emotions being painted in a literal style captivates her and is what continues to push her to explore the human condition throughout her physical depictions of its many guises.
It's not only in classical painting that she finds inspiration, but also sculpture. Particularly taken by Rodin, Kreyn is taken aback at the way he sculpted the face of John The Baptist in a way that, although seemingly naturalistic, is verging on the surreal. The surface is created with abstract forms as a means of capturing light in interesting ways, making the face seem alive and breathing, something Kreyn aims to emulate in her painting - to make people live, she must look beyond realism.
In her depiction of the female form, Kreyn aims to paint a simultaneous relationship between strength and vulnerability. For this, the model herself is important, as is the pose, yet there's more to it. There's the background, the way the skin looks. To capture such a complex dichotomy on canvas, she requires her own Rodin-esque moments of thought. To do so requires her own strength, to be willing to bend the rules that govern her form, granting her the freedom to depict the fragile honesty that has defined her artistic journey.
Maria Kreyn is obsessed with the work she creates. Like the best aesthetes, she values beauty immensely. She must, otherwise the depiction of the human form loses all value. That's not to say beauty must have a standard, but the obsession with portraying things as beautifully as one can was the eternal pursuit of the forebears of figurative arts. Now they've passed the torch on to Kreyn and she isn't even sweating.
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