Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Third Semester as an MFA Candidate at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Daria Souvorova. Judith and Holofernes.
Judith and Holofernes. Oil on linen. 46x68in. 2012.

I began the fall semester with a large scale drawing and painting on the theme of Judith beheading Holofernes. This composition, and the transition thereof, reflects my thinking process over the summer, and the evolution between the roles of heroes and villains in my life.

Daria Souvorova. Judith and Holofernes.
Judith and Holofernes. Graphite on paper. 50x72in. 2012.
Instead of choosing the traditional moment depicting Holofernes struggling for his life, I chose to show him in the moment before he is beheaded. I drew him fluid and slumping onto the Fury’s grip. He is delirious and in denial. Smiling, in fact. He is incapable of taking responsibility for his actions and does not even understand his punishment.

The fluid movement between the figures in this work became important. The lighting also played a big role: Holofernes is almost completely in silhouette, which separates him from Judith who is brilliantly lit against the darkness of the wall behind her. Fury wields the sword that pierces the space. It points toward the bed and alludes to the nature of the punishment. A sliver of light follows the edge of the sword and is mirrored by the silhouette of the woman on the bed, that Holofernes was just dragged off of.

Daria Souvorova. Judith and Holofernes.
Judith and Holofernes. Pastel on paper. 20x30in. 2012.
The slashing of the blade became a very important movement in the composition. I wanted to emphasize it. I originally composed a three-figure grouping –  the bulk of the right panel. I added a second panel to the left to allow room for the blade. This was the first instance in which I began to reconsider the symmetrical rhythm of my compositions. The figure's silhouette is the only light on the bulk of the left panel, and as the figure disintegrates almost entirely save for the sliver of light that mirrors the sword, the figure proves unimportant outside of its role of identifying the secondary villain.

It is at this point that I began to make portraits in conjunction with my narrative pieces. Having struggled for so long to create narratives and understandable fables, I forgot  my fervent interest in looking at objects and depicting them. Working on a self-portrait, I drew and redrew myself until I stopped focusing on the Idealized shapes that could be pulled from my form, and began to be more interested in the melting aspect of the light, and the qualities of one shape folding into the next. I forced myself to consider the space between my outlines.

Daria Souvorova Melancholy
Melancholy. Graphite on paper. 30x22in. 2012.
Returning to the Judith and Holofernes painting: I became interested in segregating the hero and villain through taking advantage of pushing some figures towards Idealization, and others towards Characterization.  I created more specificity in the gestures and features of the figures, and began to find interest in the spaces that surrounded them.  The angle of the doorway and the groupings of figures that
Daria Souvorova Judith and Holofernes
Judith and Holofernes. Oil on linen. 46x68in. 2012. Detail.
 melted away into the light began to be considered as narrative devices, as much as representations of the main characters.  I was thrilled to paint the chair and the fabric that envelops it – the violet folds of a yellow pillow became characters of their own right. I repainted the composition in halves and was delighted at the improvement of each section yet continuously dismayed as previously successful areas appeared inferior in comparison. This painting took over three months to complete and became a representation of the progress of my narratives.

Looking at the completed Judith and Holofernes in conjunction with my drawings and the portraits I have been working on, I was surprised at the stark difference between the drawings and the painting.

Daria Souvorova Tom Reclining
Tom Reclining. Graphite on paper. 30x22in. 2012
Judith and Holofernes was a very black and white composition for me, created at a time when I was focused on morality and a strict intended narrative in my works. Seeing it set against the relative subtlety of the portraits made me realize the level of theatricality in the image.  At this point, I began searching for more earnestness and connection between the viewer and my images.

Samson and Delilah is a story about power and trust. God grants Samson unlimited strength, so long as he does not cut his hair. Samson wins all of his battles and tramples his foes with ease, yet soon he grows vain and foolish.  Working for his enemies, Delilah comes to Samson and seduces him. As they lie in his bed, Delilah plies him with drink and asks him what his secret is – he lies. Thrice she asks him and thrice he gives her a lie, but finally he breaks down and tells her that if his hair were cut, he would be as weak as any other man. Delilah waits for him to fall asleep, cuts his hair and allows his enemies to capture and blind him. It is the moment in which, albeit drunkenly and rather foolishly, Samson puts his trust in Delilah.

I returned several times to this composition over the past two years. When I was working on the preliminary drawing, I yearned for connection and earnestness, that despite our seeming closeness, I was lacking.

Daria Souvorova Samson and Delilah
Samson and Delilah. Pastel on paper. 38x50in. 2012

Thus, my story is not what it appears, as the villain and the fool are misplaced, but the concept of trust remains. Samson, in his drunkenness, feels himself loved and safe and gives away his secret: he gives up his strength and power for the sake of intimacy. This composition is a conversation about
the relative values of earnestness and secrecy.

It was important to me that the figures of the two characters merge into one shape, as an embodiment of trust and surrender of mind. They form a loose triangle, which is enveloped by the angles of the fabric
hangings surrounding the grouping. Series of literal and compositional stripes represent the slashing of a pair of scissors, foreshadowing the cropping of Samson's hair.  A sharp ray of light lights a green table with an open pair of shears and Samson’s face and golden hair, twisted in Delilah’s fingers: this moment is meant to represent Delilah at the precipice of deciding whether to save Samson or to seal his doom.

Daria Souvorova Tom as Bacchus
Tom as Bacchus. Graphite on paper. 22x30in. 2012

This composition was finished at the tail of the Fall semester, check back in for the continued narrative in my next entry about my Spring semester.

1 comment:

  1. I write a blog about the art of Judith (judith2you.wordpress.com) and would like to include your work. Please take a look and let me know if I have your permission. Your thoughts on the work are are very thorough and I would like to include them with minimal editing to convey why and how your approached the subject.

    Thanks for your reply in advance,