For the attentive observer, now and then, everyday things become objects of fascination. When that happens, a shadow’s shape noticed at random, and recorded in a sketch, may at some point reappear in a painting as a wholly abstract form (offen, 2006). This recording of the serendipitous or of moments characterises Julia Gutkina’s way of working. On numerous journeys, on study trips, walks and daily paths she gathers impressions, which she first captures in the form of sketches and concise colour notes. Then later, in the studio, the memories give rise to paintings, prints or large drawings. During this intellectual and painterly process, Gutkina sorts her impressions, reduces the portrayal further and further to the essential, and it can be months before the picture is completed. A concentrate remains in the end, which is no topographical portrayal of any particular landscape but contains the essence of the landscape at hand, seen and felt by Julia Gutkina. Her works are a totally subjective reflection of the occurrence – something universal inheres in them nevertheless.

Julia Gutkina mostly draws outdoors, she rarely paints en plein air (see text by Franka Keil). When she does so, her painting assumes almost naturalistic traits sometimes, whereas fundamentally it is more a game of abstraction and natural form. Gutkina is concerned with seeing shapes and colours in new ways, picturing them differently. To that end, leaning towards the experimental, she explores the most diverse techniques in paintings, drawings, and prints, and sometimes one thing proceeds from the other. For example, the woodblock into which the light incidence in the choir of Beeskow church was carved (compare the woodcut o. titel, 2017) seemed to her, in landscape format, to resemble a reflection on the water. The product of this arbitrary visual experience and the Beeskow woodblock was ultimately the relief weiße nacht, 2018 – seeing is always a matter of viewing angle too.

The original woodcut is one of the rare architecture motifs in Gutkina’s work. Nature is almost always her starting point. Her works are also devoid of people; merely their traces in the form of human interventions into nature are visible here and there, such as the characteristic breakwaters on the Baltic Sea coast (usedom, also baltic sea) or the smooth-sawn surface of a tree stump (o. titel, 2007). Precise location, anecdotes, are alien to Gutkina. Whereas the picture titles do, occasionally, refer to the place that gave rise to these impressions (Allgäu, Usedom), these are not illustrations of these places but the capturing of the essence, of the “compositional”, the feeling and conveying of the respective landscapes’ atmosphere.

The shapes of a small group of works on oriented strand boards are seemingly wholly abstract (open und untitled). Initially, the material’s structures were Gutkina’s intended compositional elements. But here, too, the above mentioned casting of shadow, or respectively a forest, are starting points for the motifs: tree trunks and crowns appear strongly abstract and gleaming against the matt ground. For Gutkina, structures in the material, be they in OSBs, printing blocks or even on the backs of used etching plates, are repeatedly a stimulus to react to.

Drawing can also be the attempt at comprehending the ungraspable side of nature. Julia Gutkina considers the world in its formal manifestation as a structure of lines and surfaces, as an opposition of light and shade, full of optical phenomena such as mirrorings or light reflections. She contemplates without intent, as an outsider, is therefore able to analyse first and deconstruct the occurrence into its formal components. It is a graphic way of seeing. Gutkina breaks down the image in front of her eyes into basic, partly recurring graphic elements. These can be the thin vertical lines of tree trunks or the dark horizontal lines of breakwaters, which in their rhythmic repetition recall the placement of bars. These can also be large surfaces, clashing in light-dark contrasts, as in the recurring theme of perspective or the view into light (o. titel (von innen), 2016, aus der höhle, 2011, breakthrough und klamm 1, 2010). Even the drawings and studies created in situ are rarely a representation, but rather a recording of graphic impressions, colour values and moods. For onlookers, it is then a matter of their own perception whether, for example, they see a snow-covered landscape or a light-dark structure of lines and planes.

In the works by Julia Gutkina, colour is a carrier of mood above all. It reflects Gutkina’s visual experiences and sensibilities and transfers these to the viewers. Even the (colour) moods are less an illustration, rather an echo of a sensibility of the moment – be it the autumnal forest, appearing in the picture as a gleaming yellow colour storm against dark lines (oktober, 2009/10) or the blue of a summer evening and its specific light by the Saimaa lake in Finland (abend, saimaa, 2013) or also the dark, crystalline contours of a branch in a white blue plane (ast, 2009). Nevertheless, the scent of the autumnal forest, the silence by the lake or the coldness of the snow, these momentary sensory perceptions are palpable during contemplation of the picture, and are therefore detached from their origin’s time and place. The chosen colour values are partly naturalistic, partly wholly abstract or based on perceptual physiology, such as complementary and simultaneous contrast. This can be read very clearly in an etching that depicts the view into a tree’s crown in sunlight: backlit, the leaves become roundish shapes, the structures emerge more forcefully, in eye and picture alike the green becomes a complementary red tone.

In Julia Gutkina’s works, expression of short-lived sensibility and supratemporal idea are linked with physiological and emotional aspects of seeing. They depict a highly personal view on the outside world and each of them is an entirely specific world in itself. Each is an invitation to discover that world.

Kim Behm

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