A glimmer of a column, a glimpse of a curved wall and then a flash of recognition as you realize you’re looking at a church or temple in Goa. Interspersed with structured shapes of leaves and forms of coconut and banana trees, these images are simultaneously architectural and evocative of nature’s plenitude. These disparate elements are deconstructed and reinvented in layered canvases to form startling new images that bring them all together. Aljona Shapovalova’s new suite of works in Rare Renditions draws heavily from Goa’s landscape in a very intriguing way. Viewers have to engage with the abstract works and allow themselves to be drawn in before the recognizable elements emerge. The artist uses bold abstraction in her renditions, employing colour, shape and form in interesting ways.
The Russian artist’s works are not motivated by conceptual or intellectual concerns but are more the result of an inner emotive process. Starting out as an artist, Aljona’s acrylics on canvas were more colorful and vibrant. As she started to travel and gain exposure to «new places, new experiences and new friends,» her style changed. For the last five to six years, Aljona has used only three colors to express herself — white, red and black. She says, «With their symbolism of light, life and death — these three colors can explain the whole world.
«For instance, I use red not for aggression but with a lot of expression. There is a lot of conflict where I live and even here with Goa’s history of the Inquisition. I can show by using red how I feel, I can translate a feeling through the colour red that I cannot explain in words.»
And yet, Goa’s vivacity and freshness has sparked something new in the artist’s expressive idiom. Says Aljona, «For a long time I thought it was enough to use these three colours of black, white and red. Now, I don’t think it is enough, I need more. I’m really happy to find something new here, in Goa.»
While her visually arresting canvases continue to resonate with lustrous blacks, subtle whites and intense reds, Aljona has in this show incorporated a striking green; for her — «the colour of Goa.» «This is special for Goa,» she says, inspired by Goa’s lush natural landscape.
And so we have layered canvases brimming with nuanced colour, tone and texture. The works reflect Aljona’s love for ruins and old architecture and are inspired by her walks around Panjim and Old Goa. Time and timelessness are evoked in these haunting canvases. But, it is Goa’s natural beauty that has «absolutely absorbed me,» she says. «There is something so powerful about the nature here in Goa. I have dived into that. ‘Rendition’ for me is a way to understand and interpret what I see here. I like the shape and perspective of the banana leaf, the palm leaf, I like to work with it. I like all these natural organic elements.»
Political references get transformed into abstract musings. For the show, Aljona created an installation on the coconut tree titled Gold of Goa. Seeing the tree throughout Goa wherever she went, she imaged it in an installation, completely unaware of the political situation surrounding Goa’s iconic tree. Ironically, now the work becomes potent with meaning and political symbolism.
Aljona’s previous experience with collage work, graphic style painting and fascination for structured and architectural forms all coalesce in this show that moves her particular style of abstraction forward. There is freshness, faith, life, renewal and hope in these organic refreshing rare renditions.
— Samira Sheth