With his traditional academic art training and painterly style Tinei has created a series of theatrical stages and intensely dramatic, unnerving depictions that are somewhere between reality and fiction.
Ana Cristea Gallery is delighted to present Alexander Tinei's second solo exhibition at the gallery. Born in pre-independence Moldova, Alexander Tinei describes himself as 'an absolute product of soviet culture, transformed into western culture, transformed into myself'. Known for his striking portraits of tattooed young subjects derived from magazines, photographs and 'live' sittings with friends, over the past two years Tinei has become increasingly concerned with the phenomenon of instant global visibility and the exposure of people's formerly private moments on the internet through social networking sites. Using his traditional academic art training and painterly style to stage and submerge these 'icons' of cyberspace within the traditional context of portraiture, Tinei has created a series of theatrical stages and intensely dramatic, unnerving depictions that are somewhere between reality and fiction: projections of the self's desire to connect with others and to experiment with issues surrounding identity and the boundaries of social 'norms'.
While still drawing from new media sources, Tinei has begun to intersperse these 'finds' with iconic images from art history. With this particular body of paintings, it is possible to find subtle references to Greek mythology, Giorgione, Goya and Caravaggio, partly in terms of composition, with Caravaggio's 'Deposition' (1604) providing Tinei with inspiration, but also in the adoption of a bold chiaroscuro and a certain 'atmosphere' that exudes something of the fantastical theatre of the High Renaissance and Baroque periods, and the intensity of exchange between artist and his courtly or clerical protagonists.
The sense that many people today inhabit an 'other world' on line in parallel to their ordinary 'real' lives is beautifully conveyed by Tinei's treatment of his figures. Their skin is strangely white, almost ethereal, as if not fully human. Often contrasted against darkly unfathomable backgrounds, they pose in this alternate universe for 'friends' only known to them in this realm. In a way Tinei is playing with fiction and inventing stories that re-connect him with the inspirations of his youth. Growing up in Moldova he spoke Russian and accepted Russian heroes such as Dostoevsky, Repin and Serov, while not being actually Russian himself. Looking back the artist now feels he accepted unquestionably the imposition of another culture (or 'realm'), an alternate reality imposed on Moldova when it became part of the Soviet Union.
Tinei's subjects are marked out, perhaps wounded by life. There is a strong sense that in this strange other world of his paintings, there is a kind of safety zone where no matter how damaged, or how strange, the subject is accepted for who he or she is. Their skin glows as if illuminated by a supernatural source. Perhaps this is a benign life force, a physical manifestation of hope or of light in the darkness. It isn't entirely clear, and perhaps Tinei is being intentionally ambiguous, pushing the viewer to spend time in front of his paintings with their strange hybrid subjects, performative actions and dark undercurrents. By using paint and the tropes of art history to create portraits of 'creatures' that are apparently only half human, Tinei conveys in an acutely poignant way how other-worldly so much human activity has become.
Tinei was born in 1967 and is currently living and working in Budapest. His work has been featured in the Prague Biennale (2008 and 2010), Calvert 22, London (2009), Hudson Valley Centre for Contemporary Art, New York (2010), and Knoxville Museum of Art, Tennessee (2011). Most recently he is one of the artists selected in Vitamin P2 survey on contemporary painting published by Phaidon.
Opening: NOvember 17, 6-8pm
Ana Cristea Gallery
21 West 26th Street
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 6pm.