Topographies of Outer and Inner Landscapes

On the visual work of Julia Gutkina

Julia Gutkina looks. Her gaze sweeps over a broad territory. Examining, recording, measuring, alighting. Panorama and close-up, representation and re-creation, narrative and analysis. Her working spectrum ranges between painting, graphic and sculptural dimensions oscillating between figurative reality and atmospherical abstraction.
Doing so the immediate focus of her interest seems to be directed to what is actually visible, tangible, ‘real’ in the conventional sense. However, Gutkina doesn’t limit her work to a reproductive manner. As she approaches nature initially by exploring forms and visual phenomena, she subsequently opens up an aesthetic dialogue with the world, choosing an experiential access and resorting to the principles of artistic research. In this way her work penetrates deeper planes of reality behind the outer appearance of what is or seems to be.

In Gutkina’s work landscape plays an important role.
Landscape and nature here appear as more than just topoi of art. They not only serve as an occasion to transmit her personal view and emotional response by visual means but unequivocally exceed subjective notions and impressions, reaching into the supra-personal sphere of existence – impossible to capture by verbal means.

Considering this, the question arises, how Gutkina´s art attains this special quality and how it could be characterized from the perspective of the beholder. As an example, one small-sized work might open up a view into a great scale colourful scenery of a nordic sea- or lakeside-landscape. Within one moment we feel immersed into a mighty illusory space with almost dreamlike atmosphere, evoking memories of warm and endless summer afternoons. Another work seems to let us witness how light patches of autumn trees or reflections on a water-surface transform into autonomous fields of colour. Vibrating, flickering, dancing within an infinite process of change and disintegration: a purely visual flow of experience. Eventually the physical phenomenology between substance (paint) and light (colour) leads us beyond the optical limits. The haptic sense, stimulated by the material quality of forms and surfaces, starts to enter the field of awareness. Even sound-like, tonal qualities seem to radiate from Gutkina’s works, as if a musical matrix were intrinsically inherent within the visual plane. Formal opposites within the work bring about contrast and energy: oscillating and transient shades of colour on the ‘soft side’ – opaque, contoured and massive pictorial elements on the ‘hard side’. The opposites collide, merge, drift apart… Tender and fragile drawing-lines here – mighty paint strokes and heavy masses there. Warm vs. icy, luminosity vs. darkness, irregularity vs. geometric order. Plan and spontaneity, control and improvisation interact and give birth to a living third. Eventually and inexplicably a unique notion of coherence seems to somehow hold all of this dynamically together. These formal features and their effects correspond with analogue responses on the beholder’s side: following the rhythm of visual impressions, one feels the fracturing and cohesive powers within one’s own inner world. Through this bewildering looking-experience Gutkina’s pictures start becoming more than objects of perception. They begin to interact with the beholder, seem to actively direct his or her gaze, blocking or alluring it … until, in a puzzling manner, it appears as if these same pictures are somehow looking back into the world themselves…

How can this phenomenon be explained?

At first, in the pictures and reliefs we seem to glimpse fragments of reality that are borrowed from the outside world, yet at the same time appear to transform the outside world - into something which touches us in a new way.

Now, if we remain in the visual experience, another plane of Gutkina’s pictorial worlds opens up. The gaze onto the art object with its narrative power is suddenly reflected towards ourselves and our own interior world, as through a mirror. Surprisingly we have entered into a state of beholding our own inner landscapes and spaces, and we notice (perhaps only retrospectively later on) that we ourselves have joined Gutkina’s procedure of interlinking external with internal events. Now, the works seem to radiate back to us – and even beyond, thus causing a change in the world of phenomena within and around us.

At this point a lot can happen. Memories, insights, emotions, perception-shifts or simply pure experience are phenomena that arise when contemplating Julia Gutkina’s art. And along this a space of wonder might open up, confronting the beholder with existential questions about the Being, the Appearing and the Personal.

This ontological dimension, approached by an aesthetic dialogue with (and between) self and nature, psyche and artwork, the individual and the whole, reveals a dimension of romanticism underlying Gutkina’s works.
However, the artist neither mystifies nor explains. No answers are given, no rules recommended. Instead, Gutkina’s work challenges us to gaze, perceive and resonate in a self-determined way. Gutkina’s artistic craft, based on many years of working experience, strives for sophisticated technical quality and a precise outcome. In an astounding freedom does she combine her appreciation of academic painting traditions and narrative distinctness with a playful attitude of a natural, nearly adventurous ‘laissez faire’.

Jürgen Fritsche

Kindly supported by
BBK „Neustart Kultur“
Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien