Alexander Gurevich 

Tatyana Shekhter 

Alexander Gurevich's artistic concepts were formed in non-official art circles of Saint Petersburg. Since 1970s he has been regularly contributing to various «underground» exhibitions, but it was at the beginning of 1980s when his own style and painterly manner were finally shaped. At this time he created a number of works done in the manner which combined elements of both grotesque and realistic style. These works made his name well-known. 
The originality of Gurevich's oeuvre lies in his masterly blending of myth and reality, subtle irony and brilliant integrity in his treatment of the subjects. An important characteristic of the artist's talent is his gift for a visible comparison which becomes a means of expressing reality. In his works, full of irony, the reality of our life is presented not only as a bad puppet show or a story told by a fool. The artist perceives it as «the time out of joint» and creates a world where rationality and absurdity mingle leading to mutation of people. Facts of today's life, contemporary people, their relationships and inner motivations arc evaluated by the artist in terms of eternal humanistic values which found their expression in myths. Grotesque manner and sarcastic irony of Gurevich's works are softened by a lyrical feeling of sympathy, and compassion which is clearly discernible in the artist's attitude to his personages. The inner world of his personages, sometimes defenseless and naive, sometimes cruel and cunning. In the artist's palette warm colors dominate, there is red color in almost all of his paintings. 
Since 1980s biblical themes have been of primary importance to the artist, because for Alexander Gurevich the biblical narratives are the seeds that never stop germinating, prototypes of historical situations which repeat themselves over and over again, landmarks of spiritual development of peoples and epochs. 
The painting «Lot's wife» is based on the biblical narrative. Under the guidance of the angles Lot, his wife and their daughters were leaving Sodom which was bound to destruction for the wickedness of its inhabitants. On their way from Sodom they were forbidden to look back, but Lot's wife disobeyed and for this she was changed into a pillar of salt. The painting reflects his author's attitude: one should not hesitate and look back when the choice has been made because this might lead to a disaster. 
Several works are devoted to the narrative about Jacob: «Jacob and Esau», «A Mess of Potage», «Rebekah is Instigating" «Jacob Wrestling with the Angel». Simple-hearted Esau becomes a victim of Jacob's cunning; being tired and hungry he sells him his birthright for a mess of potage. Jacob urged on by his mother Rebekah gets by deception his father's blessing as his first-born son. But trials await him, and one of them is wrestling with the angel. This episode is treated symbolically as a clash of the two principal forces of being. The divine and spiritual wins, which helps the man overcome.  
The youth David volunteered to take a challenge of single combat with the giant Goliath who led the Philistines to make war against the ancient Jews. Armed only with a sling and pebbles David overcame Goliath and achieved renown through his courage and strong will («David and Goliath»).  
Seeing beautiful Bathsheba in the bath house David decides to marry her («David and Bathsheba»). To achieve his purpose he sends Bathsheba's husband and his friend Uriah to death. In this narrative love and treachery go hand in hand. In Gurevich's painting we sec its beginning — David meets Bathsheba, — but the emotional aura of the painting is full of premonition.  
Esther («Esther and Aman»), the wife of the Persian king Arthaxerxes, learn that Aman is plotting to destroy the Israelites. She tells the king about it and saves them.  
«Judith» is painting with a clear political implication. The scene is set in Kaznacheyskaya street where the artist's studio is situated. The beheaded figure of Lenin is hovering in the sky; Judith, nude, is passing by the tall buildings and gaping people holding the severed head of Lenin in her hands. Will Lenin's companions — in-arms leave the city as Holoferne's warriors did when they saw their commander killed by Judith?  
«Feast of the house of Simon» is based on the narrative of St. Luke about a sinner who washed feet of Jesus with myrrh and tears as a sign of her repentance. Jesus said, «Her sins, which are many, tire forgiven; for she loved much». In the painting this episode lakes place in contemporary reality. Instead of Christ the artist depicts a former prisoner, the Pharisees look like caricature villains, the repenting woman does not look sincere enough to be believed. This is the reality of the present time.  
«Exodus» is the name of the ship that brought to Palestine the children who were prisoners of German concentration camps. This is the subjects of the next painting.  
The unique talent of Alexander Gurevich consist in his ability to touch upon the most important aspects of being, to show man's spiritual history in its continuity by using biblical themes to interpret the reality of today, to combine irony and sympathy in his pictorial handling of the problems of human existence. 



G. Tati  

When for the first time (let it be by chance, involuntary and unpremeditatedly) you stay too long before this edition you must proceed from the fact that this one is only sign, news and notice of your unprejudiced readiness to answer the question — what is in silently looking at us paintings, a few chosen. 
— What are they across their being, what arc they for painter who created them and appeared in them. 
— What finally arc these works solely for us listening to pictorial speech of man and contemporary. 
At first realization of striking saturation, concentration and fullness of represented becomes the unknown that is sought for in such threefold question. Every detail of the focus, every it's nearly disappearing element defends it's being, resists it's ephemeral insignificance, in defiance of all asserts itself, asserts it's self — sufficing unremovable component significance in integrity of reproduced. This selective leterallness that becomes poetical, this communicating with us frank virtuosity and filigree of particular that reaches nevertheless symphonism — lie in the lap of personalist tradition that is professed by the author and the man of which is certainly burdened by corporeality, provided with sensation and finding the spiritual. 
And so according to the lest of these determining factors the more perceptible degree of the concrete that is transformed by inspiration is the more tangible measure of ability to transfiguration of perception of the imprinted is. But above all that is also manifestation of happily found quality which besides ability for reincarnation I. Bunin considered to be another main component of talent and which was designated by him as «sharp sensation of all-beings. 
Conditional seemingness of supposedly redundant fullness is not the only kind of resistance of materials met here. Then it will report itself in adding some sarcastic and even parody meaning to material, themes and texture of fulfilled. But most of all—in adding not triumphing but little by little almost all-penetrating irony. Though this irony is such kind of irony the language of which according to Thomas Mann becomes the water of life for old text. And though the biblical plots are walked all over everybody and every time tries their over-eternity anew by self. And due also to this participation, partiality and claim on the right to narrate about something that is invisible for somebody it will be true to say about irony used by the artist that according to B. Brecht it is manifestation of the «high irony of love». 
Finally this original outlook is marked by aspiration to succession connecting together historical character of culture and the directness of daily life. That is not some reminiscences, not refined repetition or research of modeling constructions, although they may observe reuniting with the classics of favorite Flamingoes and clear space from the beginning of our perturbative century truth of image and metaphor to reproduced thing, face and space. All the same that is not return but quiet, strict and exacting realized appeal to the mystery in the well of the past which sometimes can solve the collision between preserved and transformed. Such is the inertia of succession. And if the word Judaism translated from Hebrew means besides the other notion, sense and meaning word «text» the organizes of this single real, the contextually of the saved text of past and accomplished is at once the condition and the aim of something that is being reached. That is not rational, not calculated but as if naturally expected, unfoseenly coming true in the best works of the artist. That forms peculiar to his inspiration and trade inner grounds and external justification of the done by him. Painting as poetry and as perhaps art at all as Marsel Prust notices not so much reflection. When this is realized it remains for us to make good effort to answer with understanding possibility to draw up, rebuild and complete ourselves in ourselves according to approached perfection.

Sankt-Petersburg
1993, Februay

Nurith Limor

Myth and sharp irony blend in the collage like canvasses in which Gurevich interweaves words and pages from Jewish prayer books - like scraps of personal memories from a diary of a people. 
Gurevich uses not only personal codes that communicate in a purely pictorial way but also a well known vocabulary of shapes and symbols which he manipulates to will. David, the king of heavenly Jerusalem, shown in his moment of weakness lusting after the body of a very earthly Bath-Sheba, or Jacob and Rebecca in a scene of cunning and deception. The figures turn towards us with wide open tormented eyes but only look inward. Even in their dreams the heroes of the myth are held in a spell of dark conspiracies that form the grotesque drama of their lives and of ours. 
The heaviness of the narrative scene and the tension of the played roles is lightened by the use of round shapes, decoratively flowing lines and the warm palette of colors. The light shines on this theater of the absurd, and is reflected from the frozen postures of the actors, Jacob will wrestle with the angel .... eternally.

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