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UNDERBELLY

AN INTERVIEW WITH LEV KHESIN

Through colour, texture, and layers of silicone, Lev Khesin brings us extraordinary his deeply magnetic and unexplainable paintings. Such paradoxical tensions leave us questioning what lies in the underbelly of such dark and enigmatic works of art. With a new book on the way, Khesin answers all our questions about his practice and life.

"Please introduce yourself."

I was born in Penza, Russia. That's where I also began studying art, although my paintings were mostly figurative at that time. After several years I moved to Germany to start from scratch at the Universität der Künste in Berlin. My focus became colour field painting and industrial material and tools. 10 years since graduating and I still live and work in Berlin.

"Fascinating! When you arrive at your studio in Berlin, what inspires you to begin working?"

I’d say it’s an inner urge to invent and to build new things. To play with different tools, materials and additives. I guess I also could be an engineer like my grandfather was, but unfortunately, or luckily, physics and maths are not my strong point. There are also several contemporary artists I admire, though it is more their way of thinking rather then the optic of their works that inspires me. Their way of looking at common things and banalities, and their clever irony. I could name Fischli & Weiss, Vic Muniz or Wim Delvoye.

"Considering you to be an engineer, like your grandfather, feels very relevant when looking at your work. What can you tell us about your process?"

I work with silicone because it has a unique spectrum of qualities: thickness, viscosities, glossiness, and transparency.

The process of applying the silicone is primary to me, as Robert Ryman once said, "The basic problem is what to do with paint". I do not plan the execution of my work, the artwork emerges gradually in an interactive process. Every development is analysed, and the subsequent direction arises from the internal logic of the medium and the tools.  

"The word engineer feels even more relevant in the way you work. Would you say you are a painter?"

This way my works are not "painted" in a traditional sense. Rather, I let the work grow over the course of many layers. Although my paintings have a formal construction and are not intentional depictions of objects or phenomena of the external world, their construction relates loosely to the structure of minerals or crystals. 

"The hundreds, of layers you apply to each piece create an unbelievable depth and spectrum of colour, what do you want these pieces to communicate?"

Thank you! I don't try to communicate anything through my art. The process, the active meditation or a game of making a painting is my main purpose. 

Despite what I've just said, it is possible that some spectators ask themselves similar questions while looking at the paintings as I do while working on them, for instance about a meaning and the nature of coincidence in the art making process or in human life in general.

"Thank you."

Want to discover more? View Lev's Instagram and Website here. 

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