Ella Kruglyanskaya is a Latvian artist with a name hard to pronounce and work hard to review. Her latest exhibition – produced by Tate Liverpool – is currently on display at Tramway, in the southern suburbs of Glasgow. No venue could ever be more appropriate for Kruglyanskaya’s artworks; the old tram station was converted in a cultural center, but has maintained its original location, keeping its distance from urban life. This is not just an edgy space, another underground you bump into when at a coffee shop near an art school. Ella Kruglyanskaya is taking place among industrial buildings; if you want to see it, you’ll have to go and find her.
A classic “white cube” display was set up for the artist’s work. Clear walls, no labels. Post-modernity? Minimalism? Perhaps just a sensible aesthetic choice, since Ella Kruglyanskaya’s paintings are so colourful it overwhelms the viewer. Her work fills the space with a patchwork of shapes and saturation of patterns so intense that any external element would look redundant. An enhancing background would not work for Kruglyanskaya: her artworks don’t need one.
The media employed by the artist are traditional ones – good old tempera, canvas or wood panels. Kruglyanskaya is an artist that draws: in a recent interview to she pointed out how “forgiving” she believes pencil are; she sketches obsessively until she finds a good drawing, one that “carries enough weight” to be transformed into a painting. This linear creative process is not that common anymore among artists, nor is the honesty in sharing it. She does not try to impress anyone, and isn’t that impressive? Her subjects definitely are: women whispering to each other, or reading in silence, sunbathing and glancing suspicious over their shoulders. A subtle world of implicit communication, a straightforward depiction of silent relationships.
Many critics, men and women, were concerned with the size of Kruglyanskaya’s characters. These are thick ladies, everyone seems to point out. Their breasts, their butts; they are big and powerful, they don’t belong to passive subjects, they are not meant to be simply looked at. One wrote about the absence of looking men, the absence of male-driven desire, as central theme of the exhibition: a good feminist review, nonetheless one that ironically switched the attention to men and forgot to talk about the women. However questionable the outcome of these considerations (big women – not submissive! Must be a feminist! ) they do point out some kind of truth: Kruglyanskaya’s women are big; they are big for the frame, for they almost never fully fit within it. The picture can’t really contain them- nor can any critic’s definition. That’s the beauty of her work.
Ella Kruglyanskaya displayed at Tramway until the 11th of December. For info, visit www.tramway.org