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Revealing Essence

by Bruce Thorn, 2019

Dimitri Pavlotsky transforms basic forms such as head and shoulders, bust or portrait, or the entire human figure, into conceptual structures or armatures upon which improvisational action painting explores psychological and emotional interior landscapes. Working between the gestural anxiety of expressionism and the more choreographed movement of figurative abstraction, the work examines questions of essence and individuality.

Pavlotsky’s approach is a visceral, process-based search for subconscious energy within the hidden intricacies of controlled explosions of paint and the surprises created by intuitive and speedy applications of line, color and shape. The sculptural appearance of the images suggests a violent chiseling away of insignificant parts to reveal what is essential. Chromatic backgrounds of negative space are counter-intuitively painted over compositions instead of underneath. A measured spontaneity indicates a builder and a destroyer, an architect and demolition expert.

Some of the recent paintings happen in public performance. Pavlotsky takes the intense energy of stage fright and directs it towards painting with live music, working with a call and response between instrumentalist and painter. Emotion might be important in all of his work, particularly for the automatic and kinesthetic aspects of the process, but the drama of each picture is imbued with a personal distance that records the changing moods of days required to modify each work over multiple sessions. The paintings resemble topographic time-lapse exposures of nervous energy and synapses; maybe they also reference the motion and activity of subatomic particles and elements of being.

The direction of Pavlotsky’s art has evolved from a thirst for whimsy and self-expression, and as a reaction to his previous academic training and successful career in architecture (MA in Architecture, Moscow Institute of Architecture, 1986). After working a year in Moscow, he came to America in 1989 and continued architectural work in San Francisco and Chicago, while also taking classes at the San Francisco Art Institute, UC Berkeley and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His transformation to full time artist happened on September 1, 2018.

Looking at Pavlotsky’s works, one recognizes the influences of Chaim Soutine, Edvard Munch, Oskar Kokoshcka, Alberto Giacometti, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Brice Marden, Georg Baselitz, Karel Appel and Frank Auerbach. Pavlotsky tames and modernizes the aggressiveness of 1950’s New York abstract expressionists with bright, flat backgrounds, freed from the past and its burden of world wars.

What distinguishes Pavlotsky’s territory is his examination of emotional states through spontaneous and quirky calligraphic lines that insinuate form, and the subsequent superimposition of chromatic negative space above these forms. Pavlotsky’s goal is to facilitate acknowledgement of and engagement with things that are beneath the surface, beyond the visible and perhaps unknowable, to contemplate the substance of identity behind the mask. His cavalcade of brushwork encourages a letting go of details, facades and definitions, while suggesting a place where curiosity and playful experimentation are preferred to answers, and the show is viewed close-up from the orchestra pit.