Victor Koulbak : Paintings and Drawings

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    November 26 - December 18


  • The Nature of All Things, the Art of Victor Koulbak

    Born in 1946, the artist Victor Koulbak grew up in a congested apartment in Moscowwhere he took solace from his stressful living situation by focusing on drawing.At theage of 12, he began his formal art training which continued throughout his teen years atthe Art school attached to the Russian Academy of Arts where the Old Masters were aprimary focus and a huge inspiration to the young artist.He worked as a draughtsman andillustrator to support himself while a student.After taking part in a number of exhibitionsin Moscow that the Communist Party Officials shut down, he immigrated to Paris in 1976.He now lives in Malta.

    Within a short time of arriving in Paris, Koulbak was participating in both one-man andgroup exhibitions on an international scale.For almost five decades his work has beenincluded in presentations held in France, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Japan, Italy, GreatBritain, Germany, Malta, Canada and the United States.In a 2013 catalogue introduction,HRHThe Prince of Wales noted, His abiding belief that beauty is a manifestation of Godconfers on his work an almost sacred dimension that renders it beyond fashion and beyondthe confines of time.1

    The selection of art for this exhibition celebrates two distinct bodies of work : Koulbaksnature studies and his portraiture.The nature studies are deliberate, objective renderingsthat focus on the act of seeing and interpreting the subject with both clarity and precisionthrough the artists utilization of his tour de force technique.Where one might expectvisceral characteristics of animation and vibrancy, Koulbak draws likenesses of a horse,an eagle and a lemur, among other animals, in what seem like pensive poses of awarenessof the viewer.

    His human portraits, especially those in silverpoint, are both evocative and ephemeral. Inthe three portraits done in acrylic, the artists choice of colour does not so much define ordescribe but further articulates the ethereal nature of each subject. These three, because oftheir costumes, settings and accompanying animate and inanimate objects, seem to be partof a strange and magical existence, resisting the very measured realism of Koulbaksexpression that makes them all the more fascinating, delightful and curious.

    Koulbaks careful consideration of the appearance and techniques of the Old Mastersmakes us think we are actually looking at the work of an artist who lived at another time,someone who had walked the earth with Leonardo da Vinci, Hans Holbein or AlbrechtDrer. Possibly Koulbaks preference for silverpoint drawing on prepared paper harkensback to those artists, who used it widely in their times, or perhaps it is because his work

    1 HRH The Prince of Wales, Forward, Koulbak, paintings, drawings, Didier Aaron, inc., 2013.

  • recalls the same profound sense of austerity and exactitude that pervades the work of theseOld Masters. Even though the work at first elicits these references to an earlier time, itbecomes clear upon further observation that they are of our time. The drawing of Model,2013, of a young girl with her clear blue-eyed gaze directed at the viewer, is not a demurechild of the Renaissance but rather is a self-assured young woman of the modern era.

    Koulbaks technical mastery of silverpoint is breathtaking. This early Renaissance methodof drawing entails dragging a silver (or other metal) stylus over a gessoed surface orground. The slight tooth (irregular surface) of the ground preparation causes a little of thesilver to remain behind, which creates the line. Preparing the support paper can be difficult.Historically artists used a mixture of bone ash, chalk or lead white, with rabbit skin glueas the binder to coat the paper. Today artists often use an acrylic gesso, gouache orcommercially prepared clay-coated paper, but Victor Koulbak still prepares a traditionalground. Another problem is how unforgiving silverpoint is. The artist must commandcomplete control since these drawings cannot be erased or altered once a mark has beenmade. For these reasons, the process became all but obsolete in the 18th century with theintroduction of improved drawing materials like graphite.

    In silverpoint, what begins as a grey line, over time transforms in tone to a warm, mellowbrown through natural oxidization from exposure to the environment. Koulbak hascharacterized the change in colour as the self-developing of the drawing2. His silverpointdrawings emanate a sense of temporality. They seem in the process of evaporating off thepage: those enhanced with a wash of watercolour magically solidify. Whether the subjectis human or animal, these works demonstrate the artists ability to uncover and describethe distinctive and most revealing qualities that define his subjects. It is clear that VictorKoulbak discerns the nature of all things and through his singular genius of art making hepresents them for our delight.

    Marilyn Laufer, PhDDirector of Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

    Auburn University, Alabama, USA

    2 Bruce Weber, Silverpoint Drawing, American Artist, March 1986.

  • Victor Koulbak was born in 1946 in Moscow, where he studied at the Art Schoolfrom 1958 to 1964. He then spent two years working as a draughtsman forvarious publishing houses. In 1966, he was admitted to the Polygraphic Instituteof Moscow, where he studied for three years. He then continued to work as anillustrator to earn his living. Three exhibitions in which he tried to show his workwere closed down within hours of their opening. In 1975, he left Russia andis presently living in Malta. His work has been shown in France, Sweden, Norway,Belgium, Japan, Italy, England, Austria, Germany, Malta, Canada and the UnitedStates.

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  • BIBLIOGRAPHYMagasiner . Aftenposten 12.10.1974Enkpings-Posten 19.12.1975Enkpings-Posten 22.12.1975Aftenposten 20.02.1976Morgenbladet 20.02.1976Dagbladet 23.02.1976Morgenbladet 03.03.1976Arbeiderbladet 09.03.1976Aftenposten 18.03.1976Svenska Dagbladet 27.03.1976Kvlls Posten 03.04.1976Svenska Dagbladet 04.04.1976Le Quotidien de Paris 19.06.1976LExpress 15.11.1976Tempo 21.11.1976The New York Times 24.11.1976Oggi 06.12.1976Herald Tribune 09.12.1976Le Figaro 05.01.1977The Times 09.01.1977Elle 10.01.1977Morning Star 19.01.1977Daily Telegraph 22.01.1977Time Out 28.01.1977Le Monde 12.12.1977Le Figaro 02.01.1978Le Point 02.01.1978

    Art News 03.03.1978Le Point 01.09.1980Le Point 15.09.1980Le Figaro 30.09.1981Penses Russes 17.01.1985The Sunday Republican 12.01.1986Secolo dItalia 02.03.1986Corriere della Sera 05.03.1986Europeo 17.03.1986Il Giornale 18.03.1986Secolo dItalia 23.03.1986Republica 18.04.1986Rome Daily 27.04.1986The New York Times 31.10.1986Art & Antiques 09.11.1988The New York Times 23.12.1988Figaro-Magazine 31.03.1990Penses Russes 01.05.1992La Croix 16.02.1997Daily News 12.05.2000Ct Est 09.01.2001Le Journal du Dimanche 04.11.2001Jours de Chasse Autumn 2001Elle 05.11.2001The Sciences Spring 2001La Gazette Drouot 28.01.2011Le Figaro Magazine 25.05.2012

    BOOKSRen Huyghe, Les signes du temps et lArt moderne, Flammarion.Grard Xuriguera, Les Figurations, Editions Mayer.Blandine Verlet, LOffrande Musicale, Descle de Brouwer, Paris 2002.Nicolas Bokov, Or dAutomne et Pointe dArgent. Conversation avec Victor Koulbak, Les Editions Noir sur Blanc,Lausanne 2005.Rudolf Kober u. a., Fnf Plus Eins. Reflexionen der Zeit, Panorama Museum, Bad Frankenhausen 2006.

    CATALOGUESValentine Marcad, Galerie Etienne de Causans, Paris, France 1977Michel Gibson, Takeichi Gallery, Tokyo, Japan 1980Michel Lancelot, Galerie Isy Brachot, Paris, France 1981Leonide Korabelnikov, Galerie Isy Brachot, Paris, France 1984Antonello Tronbadori, Luci del Sottosuolo, Studio S, Rome, Italy 1986Victor Koulbak, Leslie Cecil Gallery, New York, USA 1988Theodore F. Wolff, The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, USA 1999Townsend Wolff, The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, USA 1999Gerard Haggerty, Beadleston Gallery, New York, USA 2000Franklin W. Robinson, Beadleston Gallery, New York, USA 2002Victor Koulbak, W.M. Brady & Co, New York, USA 2004Theodore F. Wolff, Portland Gallery, London, Great Britain 2005Nicolas Bokov, W.M. Brady & Co, New York, USA 2007Nicolas Bokov, Portland Gallery, London, Great Britain 2008Nathalie Laue, Galerie & Edition, Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland 2009HRH The Prince of Wales, Didier Aaron Gallery, New York, USA 2013Marilyn Laufer, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn, Alabama, USA 2015Marilyn Laufer, Didier Aaron Gallery, London, Great Britain 2015

  • ONE MAN SHOWS1975 Sweden, Helsinborg, Briiska Galleriet.1976 Sweden, Stockholm, Grafikhuset Futura.

    Sweden, Malm, Galerie Leger.Norway, Oslo, Galerie 27.

    1977 France, Paris, Galerie Etienne de Causans.1980 Japan, Tokyo, Galerie Takeishi.1981 France, Paris, Galerie Isy Brachot.1982 Canada, Toronto, Lavrov-Tanenbaum

    Gallery.1983 Belgium, Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot.1984 France, Paris, Galerie Isy Brachot.1985 Japan, Tokyo, Isetan Gallery.1986 Italy, Rome, Studio S.

    USA, New Yor