“Studies for an Impossible Portrait” Roman Kalinovski’s Solo Show at DigiAna Studio (APR.7-MAY.7.2023)
DigiAna Studio is pleased to present Studies for an Impossible Portrait, an exhibition of recent paintings by Roman Kalinovski.
Oil paint has long been used to depict the sheen and texture of flesh, with artists using its unique illusionistic properties to heighten the realism of their subject’s presence. Kalinovski takes a different approach in his work: he uses oil paint to depict the flat screen upon which flesh is displayed.
Drawing inspiration from digital and analog video stills, Kalinovski mobilizes the illusionistic qualities of oil paint to depict another illusion: the flat, distorted world of the screen. Pixels become brushstrokes as electronic images are solidified and materialized according to the logic and realism of the screen rather than referencing any deeper reality beyond the surface. The figures, faces, and flesh onscreen aren’t brought into being with paint but, rather, remain remote in the realm of fantasy, frozen under gleaming layers of jewel-like varnish, oil, and resin. Jacques Lacan’s famous adage “il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel 1 ” can be interpreted to mean that any direct connection between individuals is impossible. Instead, desire is always mediated by something, whether by various “partial objects” of the Other (gaze, voice, etc.) or by each partner’s private fantasies. These fantasies and desires aren’t our own: rather, we learn to desire from exposure to media, especially the alluring narratives and images of film and video.
In painting stills from erotic and pornographic movies, Kalinovski depicts the residue of such internal fantasies after they have been externalized and commodified. Splayed across the screen, the fetishized body becomes a machine for the perpetual generation of artificial desire. The scenes and shots Kalinovski paints present the subject as tantalizingly close yet untouchably distant. Whether brushing her teeth, holding her hand against the camera lens, or staring into a camcorder held inches away from her face, her closeness fills the entire frame with a suffocating intimacy. Despite this apparent closeness, the subject — the other — remains distant and is ultimately inaccessible, eternally separated from the viewer under veils of mediation: paint, screen, camera, lens, character, performer, and fantasy. A complete portrait of the other as a human being is an impossibility. In its place is an endless litany of partial simulacra: images of images of images floating onscreen, untethered from material reality.
Roman Kalinovski is an artist, writer, and gallerist. He has a BFA from Syracuse University and an MFA from Pratt Institute. Kalinovski’s work has been exhibited at spaces across New York and beyond, including Space 776, Galerie Manqué, Anthony Phillip Fine Art, and the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts. His writing on art, culture, and technology has been featured in Artcritical, Hyperallergic, Art Spiel, Quiet Lunch, and Digitally Downloaded, among other publications. He has presented papers at international conferences including Electronic Literature Organization conferences in Victoria, BC and Montreal, QC, as well as Global Posthuman Symposiums at NYU. Kalinovski is the senior editor of Arcade Project, an online arts and culture zine, and associate director of Arcade Project Curatorial, an art gallery in Bushwick. He lives and works in Brooklyn.
STUDIES FOR AN IMPOSSIBLE PORTRAIT
Statement by Seungjin Lee
As an organizer of the DigiAna Group, I have known Roman Kalinovski for a long time, having seen his artworks in the group’s exhibitions and performance shows since this group was established six years ago. Whenever I see his artwork — not only the current paintings on view in this exhibition but also his series of Hatsune Miku glitch art — I am struck by his deep study of the relationship between human desire and digitized contemporary culture. His artworks are records of the difficult task of making art that shifts between digital images and manual painting. It has been a pleasure to help organize this solo show of his work in our studio space.
You can see and feel a unique and solemn atmosphere in this line-up of Kalinovski’s paintings; starting from the left wall with eight paintings to the right side with three, we organized the show to allow the viewer to concentrate on each artwork one-by-one. Contemporary people, including myself, tend to see or recognize things and information too quickly, daily using digital media formats such as swiping through Instagram posts on mobile. Furthermore, by improving the technology of AI, one can easily jump in and see, in detail, infinitely many images of generated artworks on digital screens: after all, it can be almost impossible to judge whether the artwork is made by human or AI. One of the reasons for having DigiAna Studio is based on this point: as an organizer of this venue I want it to serve as an grounding place, time, and atmosphere through which participating artists and visitors can redefine the combination of new and upcoming digital technologies with the human body and spirit. And I believe that this sensibility of recombination — hard to explain in words — becomes apparent in the act of looking at Kalinovski’s works.
DigiAna Group was made for organizing unique events by artists who deal with multi-sensory digital and analog media; more than 40 artists have participated from around the world. Over six years, we have done many online and offline events such as group exhibitions, performance shows, YouTube stream shows, and VR exhibitions. DigiAna Studio was opened in this space two months ago to serve as a working studio and a gathering salon and event space, always welcoming for anyone looking to plan future events together.
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