Kostya Novoselov is fascinated with the brevity, expressiveness and elegance of the traditional Chines art. Following the reductionism approach, Kostya is trying to find the minimal forms which would trigger the same fundamental emotions in both artist’s and the spectator’s minds. For Kostya the object is secondary, he essentially concentrates on the hidden signals the painting sends to us, initiating further reflections. In this, he is very close to impressionism and abstract approaches, even though his objects are often very real, sometimes mundane. The search for the “minimal solution” – the most basic distribution of ink on the paper which is able to cause the particular mood – is very similar to his work as an experimental physicist, where his task is to pick, highlight and amplify the effect of interest.
What would be the minimalistic image of a person? The question is reduced to – what is a person for us? Is it limbs, a torso and a head? Or is it the emotions which are depicted on the person’s face? In the series of depictions of human skulls Kostya made an attempt to assign emotions to the dead human faces. This contradictory combination of the dead and the alive, the motionless and dynamic reminds us the concept of Strange Loops by Hofstadter – the idea which particularly captivates the artist. The expressivity is controlled by the combination of sharp black lines drawn by the traditional Chinese ink and the variations of grey achieved through the use of graphene ink.
How do we recognise people? Is it by the particular features of their faces or by the emotions they express? Do we depend on the static snapshots or we require a dynamic picture lasting in time? Is our ability to transmit and recognise the emotions and feelings lays in spatial or temporal domain? Kostya made an attempt to catch in his portraits this border between the short lasting dynamic expressions and the static overall impression. The dynamism is achieved through the combination of the traditional inks with novel materials (graphene).
The intimate relations of the artist and the media lead to Kostya’s fascination with the patterns the Chinese ink creates on the surface of water. Experimenting with those, creating patterns on purpose, Kostya developed a technique of painting on the surface of water. Such patterns are essentially dynamic, so require observation and passion. The paintings presented are essentially the snapshots of the patterns created by ink on the surface of liquid. In this sense, the paintings are closer to photography and are subject to certain serendipity effects. Like a photographer can wait for hours for a perfect shot – Kostya waits for a perfect distribution of inks to be formed, before it is transferred on the rice paper. And yet, as the majority of the parameters are still beyond the control of the photographer (like a sudden blow of wind moving branches of trees or a loud noise makes the animals to suddenly pick their heads up) – the patterns always have something beyond the control of the artist. But is there someone who actually controls them.
Kostya continues to experiment with the media, adding various surfactants to the ink, changing the surface tension of the liquid. Recently he started to produce such patterns with graphene inks and inks based on other two-dimensional materials.
Kostya thinks that the Chinese ink is particularly well-suited for landscape painting. The combination of crisp lines with gradual semitones allows the exposure of the emotions, bringing the feelings and memories triggered by the particular places on top of the landscapes themselves. In the tradition of the Chinese art, Kostya never paints the real landscapes, but rather the reflections of the places in his mind. And yet, it is still possible to trace the images to the particular spots on the map. But can we do it because of the depiction or because of the universal emotions the paintings transmit? The use of graphene in the paintings allows subtle variations of emotions to be transmitted.