Evolution of the Mask Series

Mask Series

“In the beginning was the Word…” – I disagree. In the beginning was the Thought, and the Thought was with Art, and the Thought was Art.

The word is just another imperfect medium for thought. It is up to us to decide, which medium to use to interpret, materialize and communicate the thought. As a painter – my choice is obvious and mostly I refrain from too many words. But it’s a multimedia world and in response to a few requests I will employ a number of words to shed some light on the Great Unmasking series and its evolution, which looks interesting when I align the masks in a chronological order.

— Take a close up look at some of the paintings here. —

Mask Series, 24 paintings, 2015-2018
Evolution of the Mask Series

In the beginning was the thought embedded in the initial painting of this series


– an auto portrait that I did in 2015 and the only painting in this series, where no one has argued that it was not I. What I see is a man resting his heavy head on his hand in contemplation. Here, the body is the mask for thought. An auto portrait, as the body itself, is a treasure-house for privacy and I would feel much more naked if I put up all my thought on public display then if I would find myself without any clothes on in front of a crowd. This is what this auto portrait means to me at the moment. However, I am not going to lie: this connection came in hindsight – three years after painting it. There was no genius idea that I sought to realize on canvas. It is the viewer-I that gets a certain understanding for an artwork that the painter-I has created.
The painter-I and the viewer-I are two very different models for being.

The series didn’t feel complete, there was no beginning until I’ve considered the Autoportrait as a part of the series and its initial seed. Paradoxically, the most recent addition is this painting that predates all others in this line.

To share with you a little secret – that was the first time ever that I’ve painted using a palette knife. It felt good – so nice, quick, clean, crisp and looked surprisingly fine to me.

Little that I knew – it just was not enough. Too simple was the thought of portraying a physical shell, a figure that anyone can see as it is. So as it happens quite often – the circumstances lent a helping hand. To be honest, I just got into an argument with my wife and I was just angry as hell! Why? It was probably something ridiculously trivial and I would not have been able to recall it in a day, but…

Friday, oil on canvas, 30*40 cm, 2015, Painting, MMXV, Contemporary Art by Artist: Kirill Marlinski, Mask, The Great Unmasking Series
Friday Guy

Dammit, I painted anger! This really felt like grabbing a monumental emotion with my bare hands like it was a heavy boulder, picking it up and pushing it way above my head, perceiving the pressure in every vertebra of my spine, my knees and feet, my shoulders, elbows, palms to launch it with all the might I could imagine onto the canvas! Quick, violent, intuitive, simple yet powerful smears of vivid colors gave birth to the Friday Guy (it was a friday – the name was evident). That must have been an act of self-inflicted art therapy. I painted from within and when I was done it was good and I was good.

Eureka! Here it hit me like a lightning. It was a mask that I took off and realized how much I gained by doing so. The concept for a series of paintings seemed as clear at once as Adriatic waters between Dalmatian isles. The primary goal became to capture another part of self for every day of the week. I wanted to see, what I would come up with. And I still do.

The Monday Guy, oil on canvas, 60*90 cm, 2015, Painting, MMXV, Contemporary Art by Artist: Kirill Marlinski, Mask, The Great Unmasking Series
Monday Guy

The fact that I can simply do this entertains me greatly, because just a short while ago I would put on a shirt, tie and suit every monday morning and go to work to an office, make the company goals my own and make sure that my teams did just the same. A sort of tunnel vision that structured life into its flow, which is good in many ways, but that was another role to play, another mask to wear. I failed to see the light in the end of that tunnel, instead I held up a burning match at arm’s length to follow it for years. Just for as long I failed to see that there exist as many other ways as one can imagine. That was the mask of Monday Guy I wore.
I bequeath this mask of the routine to hundreds of millions of people who wear it in good faith around the world. They make the world tick as it does and I trust fully and pray that they will continue to do so. Among them are many of my good friends and great acquaintances with whom it is always a pleasure to reflect on such ideas over many pints of some good craft brew. Some love their roles, some write their own scripts and the Monday Guy mask may not apply any more, some loathe – whatever… Work hard, play hard – is the philosophy of quite a few hard-working ladies and gents I know.

Sunday, oil on canvas, 60*80 cm, 2015, Painting, MMXV, Contemporary Art by Artist: Kirill Marlinski, Mask, The Great Unmasking Series
Sunday Guy

One thing that quite a few of them (and I) may find in common after long conversations and too many drinks is the Sunday Guy – a mask that everyone is surely conscious of, when wearing. As blue as sunday can ever be. That’s for the color, though: blue, black and white. I’ve simplified the form and painted with a minimum of bold strokes to emanate an ancient timelessness and mystery like a giant Moai statue on the Easter Island – another association that appeared in retrospective. Yet, I am not made of stone and the feeling that all of this, good and bad, is here to stay sooner or later fades away like clouds in the skies.

The sky, no doubt, fascinates me. Clouds are wonderful and clear skies are amazing any time of year. I love looking up and seeing what’s going on in the world around me. Beautiful, light-hearted, light-blue – “the world is yours”, they tell me. And so it is – I won’t contest. That sounds quite romantic. And beauty is. As is the sky whenever and wherever. Yet, when you are in it – dozens of thousands of feet above the ground in an airplane (I envy pilots), you always find yourself surrounded by this beauty – so peaceful and calm above the clouds. Sometimes – in between of layers of clouds, where there is the sky – so clear and divine ahead, those clouds that seem like whipped cream below and above – mesmerizing… dreamy… divine…

Tuesday, oil on canvas, 90*80 cm, 2015, Painting, MMXV, Contemporary Art by Artist Kirill Marlinski, Mask, The Great Unmasking Series
Tuesday Guy

There was a feeling of balance in everything as I was on a plane to Amsterdam. Right between such clouds it looked like there were two horizons. It was a Tuesday. But only when we were back in Kiev, have I thought about this. Maybe I am slow to recognize many a thing, but that’s just how it is. Making a sense of images and feelings requires time – sometimes years. Yet, hopefully, it is fruitful. This time around it was a bit faster as for a few weeks straight (only on Tuesdays, for some reason) this picture just reappeared in my mind. It was this idea of balance that didn’t let me go.

I kept imagining those two even, straight, well-defined layers separated by a few hundred yards of blue skyline – as if they were painted. Next Tuesday this transformed into the idea of a new look at balance – a new Yin & Yang of a personal kind. The Tuesday Guy was born. So solid, yet transparent. So dark, yet letting through all the brightness. So new, yet looking like he’s aging thanks to the craquelure. A character of his own.

The character that always exists and does not shut his eyes. The character that loves, what he does. The character that does not care, whether his embodiment is I or anyone else. The character that has the unquenchable thirst to create. The character that forgets about anything besides his… I forgot what…

Saturday, oil on canvas painting, 60*90 cm, 2015,, Painting, MMXV, Contemporary Art by Artist: Kirill Marlinski, Mask, The Great Unmasking Series
Saturday Guy

Well, Tuesday past and it’s saturday night. I am on the balcony on my floor opposite from my flat. I see those street lights and cars from my fifth floor. Across the drive way is a nine story building that is a shabby dorm of some institution. Below me are a bunch of cars under the street lights. As lights keep going out in the dorm I feel that I am the only one awake and working. I don’t mind. I paint late into the night. It is a pleasure.

That is now – the moment that I always enjoy. This ever faster fleeting present – is life. The present is what fascinates me more and more throughout my life and my work. So I paint. I paint through good and bad, through wise and foolish, through all the colours. In the present I try to grasp the past and the future. But it seems that in the present moment itself there is no room for anything. It is a humble, elusive moment – always at a crossroads.

Wednesday aka. Gemini, oil on canvas, 70*80 cm, 2015, Painting, MMXV, Contemporary Art by Artist: Kirill Marlinski, Mask, The Great Unmasking Series
Wednesday Guy

With the Wednesday Guy there is no present in the picture. There is a past and a potential future. The two I’s are not I, which is somewhere in the void between them. Now, I believe that there are other universes, where time is like “left” and “right” and is to be navigated. And I can imagine this and put a hint of it in oil paint on canvas depicting something that is no more and another state of the same thing that has yet to occur. In a way this is the best and simplest definition of the present as neither the past, nor the future.

No surprise that there are sayings in different languages referring to people not living in the present or living in the past. I catch myself sometimes living in the future, sometimes – in the past. Both feels like imagination to me. And the present becomes the past just way too quick to even pinpoint. It’s like star-gazing and seeing light that at present is millions of years old. Even our beloved sun is 8 minutes and 20 seconds away from now.

Thursday Guy aka St.Painter, oil painting, 70*90 cm, 2016, Painting, MMXVI, Contemporary Art by Artist: Kirill Marlinski, Mask, The Great Unmasking Series
Thursday Guy

The Thursday Guy stands with the back to the viewer and faces the sun. He has no face, or rather, he has potentially them all. That is the Saint Painter that is either a genius or a fool that risks getting his retina burned to either discover something new with this action or to just go blind. Isaac Newton did such an experiment to provoke after-images, but his vision recovered, luckily. Yet, an after-image of the sun literally burned into one’s eyes is an extension of the 8 minutes and 20 seconds – an attempt to see whatever one hasn’t yet seen whatever can not be seen in normal circumstances – neither the past, nor the present, nor the future. A quest for the timeless idea, for discovery, for the pleasure of new thought and alternative perspective, but that may go along with certain sacrifices in the process, where the cost my be just a bit too high like the realization of one’s own total blindness.

I am not a proponent of martyrdom, like staring at the sun until complete blindness for some greater cause or burning oneself to death to spark the Arab Spring. Not at all. But there are sacrifices that accompany every decision and they sometimes add up in curious ways, which touches in a way on an underlying theme for several paintings after the initial “week days” in the Unmasking series.

In four square one by one meter paintings I introduce a new shape for masks that is visually more abstract and start sacrificing physical resemblance to the human face. I would love to know, what sparked this transformation and these forms, but I can not pinpoint anything. Also putting these four in a certain order is challenging because they got intertwined as I worked on all of them simultaneously.

Openness is the first thing that comes to my mind, when I look at the “Eclectic” mask, because it lies deep within its roots.

Eclectic, oil on canvas, 1*1 m, 2016, Painting, MMXVI, Contemporary Art by Artist: Kirill Marlinski, Mask, The Great Unmasking Series

It is a concept that I wanted to embrace, when I was 16 years old as my parents and I moved from Berlin to Chicago in 1999. I remember clearly how I wanted to embrace whatever would lay ahead in that new chapter of my life to not fight against the upcoming circumstances. It seemed important to me at that point, because it took me a long time to adapt to Berlin after moving there from Kiev four or five years before and I wanted the move to the USA to be easier. I envisioned at that moment that being like a sponge to absorb whatever a completely new environment would offer, provided an easy way for assimilation, for accepting and for being accepted. And soon it was evident that I was right. However, there was much more to it…
Being like water in the city – taking on the shapes of its urban surrounding and becoming an indefinite, translucent blend-in, an enchanted mimicry of the multitude of colors around it – is a transformative experience. One that opens up or creates a new self through losing own characteristics, adapting and transforming into a self of other’s colors. That may sound and look great, but it may come at the cost of a great sacrifice – what happens with the initial self? Is the intrinsic self actually revealed in this process or does it get hidden under layers of compromises? And sooner or later it is great to be able to take off the “Eclectic” mask.

But, what do I do? I take one off and put one on.

Gold Mask, oil on canvas, 100*100 cm, 2016, Painting, MMXVI, Contemporary Art by Artist: Kirill Marlinski, Mask, The Great Unmasking Series

Gold is a singularity. A singular perception of oneself. It’s logical, cold, impartial, receptive and pro-active, calculated and stark, mercilessly material.

“Cash rules everything around me” (remember Wu-Tang?) and money is a common denominator to make you free in a way, but a slave for life – a bit of a hater, it may seem. But he won’t feel like a hater ever. Everything he does, it seems to him, is a blessing for the world and so it actually may be. He realizes that there is no room for shame in doing anything, because the doing itself, as just being able to act, is a blessing bestowed from high above. So playful he may be in his doing, which is the action’s medium and hence a blessing, so permissive that within the most perverted dreams turned into action all norms may fade away. It may just be another norm, whether you deem it so or otherwise. This guy’s logic leads him to never hurt. I liked to wear this mask, although it made me numb. It is a vector for personal development that may not let you ever go, even if you realize that it would be better to step back and stop it for a while as you get blinded by what you imagine to be the light like the St. Painter. The stop in this game hides right behind the fear of letting go and flow into the unknowns – the better good and worse – it all may be the same, because perspective is that you will gain – the step beyond the fear may be just great.

Yellow, oil/canvas, 100*100cm, 2016

This mask of Gold is easy and fine to hide behind. It is great as all hues become monochrome and what is left are simply riches on your mind – they are your lover and a friend – the one, who does not let you go as long as you just care. But in the moment of accepting this mask as my own I felt the sacrifice was made. Just like the Yellow mask is ripe to kill to get desire satisfied. The sacrifice is made. It is Ophelia’s last breath in light of fading love. It is the one that’s ready for last true loving touch even no matter if you hate. It is the final kiss goodbye that turns to last of thoughts. I’d paint it black for death, but it is not. As any black there is – just simply shines as my mind fades in darkness deeper than total lack of light. One that is there because it’s not, but my eye simply would just know. It is the perfect state of thing, which means – the end is here – the zero point at which in no time a new beginning just occurs, because it is the state of things as perfection lasts just this single moment that a human mind can’t really grasp – it is always now. Hence all reflection that occurs worldwide is art in all its forms. As thought bears all its might at any single point in time: The timeless time it is – the Now.

We do not have the time. The time has us. It is the sacrifice that rests within us all. The common denominator for all that we may ever know is constant transformation.

Now it just seems to me that the best thing for the art of life that I can do is spend more time with my kids and share with them each single choice’s sacrifice I made to make them truly rich at early age with all experience I have to never witness how it fades, but see it grow and blossom bright. If they will learn from the mistakes I’ve made, of which there are a lot, then it will be an early step towards wisdom – a concept that seems inapplicable to me. Instead, the dream of endless life is much more real as long as I am even just a single drop, a salty tear in the vast ocean of thought.

Mr. Pink, 100*100cm, oil/canvas, 2016
Mr. Pink

So where does it all stem from? Where does it lead? I just don’t know. Should I not care? Is this a weakness as I go? It’s vulnerability turned into strength by realizing simple facts. Whether I argue for, or oppose the truth – it makes no difference until I just accept all for what it is. No judgement, no disdain. Step number one – just look within and find the Mr. Pink. Is it a mask? Or is it simply paint?

Ceci n’est pas un masque. Ceci n’est pas de la peinture.

Ok. I take it. I accept.

The time is ripe for me to see the masks are just too many. The closer that I look the more of them I see, although I thought they would be getting fewer. It was a false assumption, I must admit. The human form that I can see from far disintegrates in multitudes of shapes that make it up as I get close. The rituals of masks are mostly lost, forgotten, drowned in time, but quantity is there like never seen before. There are more masks than faces on this planet. They look at us from screens of our TV’s, on all the streets and offices and even in the mirror, and social networks are the apogee.

Silhouettes, oil on canvas, 100*100 cm, 2016, Painting, MMXVI, Contemporary Art by Artist: Kirill Marlinski, Mask, Great Unmasking series

That multiplicity of roles and meanings, views and facets, identities that form even a single being in its own mind and ready to display is just immense. In “Silhouettes,” which derives its general outlines from the “Sunday Guy,” all shapes and lines are made of faces viewed in profile. Hundreds of silhouettes combine to form the lines. Moreover all silhouettes have two sides to them – a bright and a darker one, which are also made up of more layers that echo each small face. If I moved closer I would see each single part like every screw and bolt, each cogwheel of the whole machine. But at a moment, when I don’t want to ask way too many questions of myself, I take ten steps back and regard the simpler picture. With this in mind, I cease to be surprised about this painting causing distress to some people who found their desks too close to it, when it was a part of my solo exhibition in the open office space of the House of Decentralisation in Kiev. The emotions caused by this painting were on the opposite extremes of the spectrum.

“Silhouettes” is a pre-conceived painting. The opposite was true of the following artwork. In the beginning was the thought, and the thought was just to make something big. So I purchased three fairly large canvasses and let the paint do its job in leading me.

RGB, Oil on canvas, 280 * 190 cm, 2016

The underpainting outlined an eye that spans and unites all three canvasses, which is not any less symbolical than the vertical consideration of the same outline. These underlying symbols together created the most fertile conditions for other ideas to arise as each brush stroke became a life in itself. The “life-lines” all affected each other on canvas with a ripple effect that varied by response and either went through hundreds of other brush strokes or faded into silence in a much shorter sequence.

Introducing different predominant colours to separate each part of the triptych lead to the opposite and created new connections between them. The petals of paint slowly grouped into shapes that reminded me of the forms that I have seen before in the “Eclectic,” “Yellow,” “Gold” and “Pink” paintings. So I’ve played along. I thought that there would be three masks, yet, there were only two. They were split as they grew from one canvas onto the next – one between red and green, one between green and blue. Like two eyes on the same face that have slightly different perspectives. They extend over canvasses like perception of reality extends far over the picture that our eyes perceive at any given moment. And in this larger perspective I grasped the that the initial thought of “big” has led me to something really small.

A tiny “RGB Pixel,” two masks, three paintings. One triptych that hints at the possibility of the impossible; that seemingly tries to prove that three equals two equals one. It succeeds in a way. It is the mask of that moment when I imagine doing something grand and at the peak of grandeur the other side of the coin hits me like a rock and I realize that it was a mirage – it is no more than a single pixel of which I would need millions to portray even a matchbox. It’s a feeling of a devoted scientist, when all life’s work gets disproved in an instant and becomes just another superseded scientific theory. Consoling is that it may have paved the way for something else.

The “RGB” painting has shown me that a laissez-faire attitude to paint is fruitful in my semi-abstract case. The implication of less control over the evolution of the image intrigued me.

Imperfect Conscience, oil on canvas painting, 100*110cm, 2017, Kirill Marlinski
Imperfect Conscience

The thought was that perfection is a flaw, it may be somewhere in the end and in the beginning of the universe – a state of total unity in a single unmeasurable moment before the Big Bang. We are far from it and can only try to grasp truth within the limitations of reason. So why not let it flow?

A brilliant red flow so bright and glowing, hot like lava cooled down and solidified all the traces of its movement – just enough for a new layer of marvelous, transparent blue to appear on the surface like the oceans on earth that after being vapor turned into a new liquid state. A yellow flow became the catalyst for the shapes and forms to appear, as well as, green hues. The underlying red reemerged, mixed with yellow and created a shape that in my imagination resembles a mask arising from the chaos, which is countered by the orderly definitions of the black line. This evolution gave rise to the “Imperfect Conscience”.

By this time I have already been working on another painting from this series for several months. Each layer was defined by a color scheme that mirrored another painting from this series that I worked on in parallel. This gradual, slow, patient process created a growing number of reiterations of this character and from the onset it was clear to me that it would be very different one. The unifying, underlying concept of a clearly defined “openness” of the previous works in this series seemed undermined as the “flesh and blood” of this painting got hidden deeper and deeper under growing numbers of layers. This painting took on the contextual characteristics of the “Veiling” series that principally opposes the “Unmasking” as it visually blurs an artwork’s theme beyond recognition into seeming abstraction. An hypocritical move for a member of the “Unmasking” family that ought to shed some light on what one can be, however, one may also be an impostor – just like Moliere’s “Tartuffe”:

Tartuffe, 100*100cm, oil painting on canvas, 2017, Kirill Marlinski

“There’s a vast difference, so it seems to me,
Between true piety and hypocrisy:
How do you fail to see it, may I ask?
Is not a face quite different from a mask?”

And who am I to hinder the evolution of paint on canvas and, more importantly, the evolution of thought? It is beyond my power and at the end of the day I am the viewer and my role is transformed, as well. So now I look at “Tartuffe” as the first bridge-mask between two opposing ideas – one that veils its nature and truth way deep, and another that lays it all bare with a single line. But it is never what I see.

In a way, this intermingling of the opposites was like an act of aggression of one idea versus another, a philosophical combat that left both participants tarnished and any implication of purity – destroyed. But sometimes in our lives (those of you that have raised or are raising kids may relate) we want to be pure, calm, moderate to create a smooth environment for the next generation to grow and thrive from the first days of their lives. In all senses we create pastel coloured walls.

Intra Muros, 100*100cm, oil painting on canvas, 2017, Kirill Marlinski
Intra Muros

“Intra Muros” is the mask that hides within these pastel coloured walls, as the name blatantly implies. The edgy, the spiky, the rough, the aggressive, the acute, the anxious, the fearing, the million other things go to rest there for a while. There are many symbols that you can distinguish depending upon the lighting, but it is the blurring effect that I want now. The top layer is performed in the technique, as in “Tartuffe,” but – no double standards or hypocrisy. Some things are just better left unsaid – so people think quite often, I suppose.

This reminds me of Franz Kafka, since he built such walls around many of his works by not publishing them and intending to destroy all of his unpublished writings. But, we most likely know about Kafka only because those walls were demolished and his works have been published contrary to his wishes after he died.

Be careful, what you wish for, because neither you, nor I – nobody is perfect – thus the title of this painting inspired by Franz Kafka – “Nikdo Není Dokonalý.” The title is in Czech to give credit to his heritage. But a few words about this painting must be said in German – the language that Kafka used for writing:

Nikdo Není Dokonalý, 100*150cm, oil painting on canvas, 2018, Kirill Marlinski
Nikdo Není Dokonalý

Der Prozess lief über die Buchzeilen auf die Leinwand stundenlang ohne Pause hinaus ohne den K. sogar für einen Moment um einen Schluck Wasser zu trinken loszulassen als seine Kehle wegen der dicker, gehitzter und mit Lösmitteln aus der Farbe gefüllter Luft austrocknete. Die Verwandlung des Bildes war schon so stark vorangekommen dass nicht mal ein Echo des Ausgangspunktes in Erinnerungen hinter den Figuren der Abspaltungen des Selbstbewusstseins noch zu sehen war – ohne Anfang und, was als viel schrecklicher zu sein erschien, ohne Ende. Wie sadomasochistische Hungerkünstler, die ihr Lebenssinn in Erschaffung eigener Machtlosigkeit in einer Welt, die all mögliche Freiheiten für den Willigen zu bieten scheint, suchen und damit immer wieder scheitern, finden diese Figuren höchstphilosophischen Sinn und Befriedigung durch in eigenen Köpfen eingerichtete Foltermaschinen, deren Zweck ist ein grausames Elend so extrem, schmerzvoll, lang wie möglich voranzuziehen und den Tod niemals zur Erlösung werden zu lassen. Ein Teufelskreis aus Wiedergeburten in dieselben Schuhe war sein Urteil.

Let’s move on, though. New day, new mask, new beginning, new creation that stems from roots, which are strong, wide and deep, planted with bitter tears to let the tree’s crown grow thick and high, flourish and bear the most wonderful of fruits.

Lacrimae Rerum
Lacrimae Rerum

The mask of “Lacrimae Rerum” – words from Virgil’s Aeneid – the work that laid the seed of national identity, which turned the city-state, Rome, into one of the most powerful empires in human history. Ethereal embodiment of angst without object for its dread, and sorrow without object of pity, dictates the sharpness of the line and shapes this painting. Hope opens the door to the consciousness at a moment of an internal conflict between imagination and perception of reality, love and hate, delight and gloom, doom and blessing. The pure tears that lie at heart of things mark the dawn of wisdom, indomitable courage and resilience in life’s fights defying fate and human foolishness.

“Lacrimae Rerum” reintroduces highly defined lines into the Mask series and plays with the number three: There are three lines, to be exact; There ought to be three eyes, as well, but one of them we can not see. The third eye is present; There are three colors.

Someone told me that the thick lines here seem to capture a demon. Or they captured time – the past, the present and the future. How far we’ve come… How far we are… How far we’ll go… I could argue that the only infinite of these is now. When looking at this painting now, from a viewer’s perspective, it evokes numerous correlations to some great artworks from the past in its own way. Time, certainly, plays some kind of a role here. Most importantly, the thought of defining a mask and its context with three freehand lines opened a new dimension in this series. I was fascinated and translated these lines into more paintings…

Ruby, 100*100cm, oil/canvas, 2018

The first layer of this painting was Ultramarine blue. It was beautiful, even, calming, but I wished that I had real Afghan Lapis Lazuli to rub it into pigment and patiently blend it with the finest oil to see the real color that every paint manufacturer tries to imitate. This pure blue abstraction received some more hues and slightly reminded me of another painting I did a while ago – an abstract “Cityscape” that is also a square meter piece. Hence, I set out to transform it, because I do not enjoy painting anything that resembles what I have seen already.

Here the lines came in handy to cut into abstraction at its finest. At first I had a heavy heart, when I literally carved lines into the abstract (under)painting ripping its surface, destroying it like a vandal. But this was a fleeting feeling for just a few days until the paint dried and I saw the sense in what I have done… It all was to draw “a drop of heart’s blood of Mother Earth.” And this translucent, bright, blood-red color shines like a flowing river of the Sunrise Ruby. The “Ruby” mask appeared upon a bed of Sapphire, Emerald, Citrine, Garnet, Jade and Moonstone.

Where there are precious gemstones, there should be precious metals to form a setting, or on their own. Coincidentally, the same day that I’ve painted one canvas blue that turned into the “Ruby,” I’ve painted another canvas gold. The preciousness in these first stages it that I really like to see a fresh single color field painting to revitalize thought, to take a step back and zero in the scale on something new.

But the line became a dictator that forced its grip over yet another canvas and did not even think about letting me loose. And I was more than happy about it.

Crispus, 100*100cm, oil/canvas, 2018

What that led to was something different, again. It came to be a fiery, curly, passionate, somewhat narcissistic, powerful and monumental mask, yet, balanced, graphic and defined. A tragic hero. Inspired and inspiring, able and great in his own right, but with many faults and in the end – not in control. A Caesar, but not an Emperor, like Flavius Claudius Crispus – the first son and execution victim of dictator/Emperor Constantine. Hence I called this painting “Crispus.”

Roman history and that of the ruling class, especially the Caesars’ and Emperors’ families is full of brutality, deceit, intrigues, all kinds of dirt like a cesspool. One could argue that it’s the same in many governments around the world today. I hope it’s not. At least there are fewer hereditary ruling structures and there is no need for brothers to kill each other to grab the power from the ailing father and then in a few years kill some of their own children to ensure that the favourite one gets the crown. It must have been rough.

Three Brothers From Different Mothers, triptych, 300*180cm, oil/canvas
Three Brothers From Different Mothers

Can you even imagine these “Three Brothers From Different Mothers” fighting each other like they are Caesars – the Emperor’s heirs – until two are torn to pieces and burned into ashes and the third one survives, but a bit ripped needing to be sewn back together? I don’t even want to. They all would be useless in the end – even the surviving one. Who would appreciate a ripped, torn and tarnished painting that is just a third of the artwork? Maybe in two thousand years, but we won’t live to see that.

“Three Brothers From Different Mothers” are in good shape and well-balanced, stable in their minds. They are big and look fantastic. They give the game with number three another twist. It is a triptych – three colors and three shapes differentiate the three canvasses, three layers on each part, three lines that form three masks in three different ways, combined they miss three eyes, but there are three third eyes. Different, yet, alike. Well defined and separate multiplicity that exists in unity. Only all together are they a single mask of a certain state of mind. Deeply dark and shining bright at the same time. The Holy Trinity of the Unmasking series.

Tenebrae, 100*100cm, oil/canvas, 2018

I have a smile on my face from the description that I gave those bro’s, but it quickly fades. The sun shines bright, but deep inside the day is dark as a cloudy night like on the other side of earth. It’s that kind of mood, which of course I can make seem happy, joyful and satisfied, yet I would have to force upon myself another mask, but I decline to do so in order to give credit to the truth. Another revolution happened on canvas and ended the dictatorship of the three lines, yet many more lines contest the power here.

At birth this mask was bright in all kinds of soft blue hues on white. “The most comforting of paintings that I’ve seen” – someone has said, when seeing the newborn. The seed of darkness, depth and introspection lives deep within every healthy human mind and soul and time has come to give it its own face – the mask of “Tenebrae” transformed and fully switched its colors as it matured under my hand. Warm, but with its twists. From a few steps away it looks like in the darkness of the night unseen eyes make their gaze physically felt and quiet footsteps and whispers send shivers down the spine – or do they arouse? Are you the hunter or the prey, are you awake or in a dream’s embrace? I won’t go any further. In the end you do the thinking and choose your own direction.

What I choose for now is to seize presenting masks even though there is another, quite colorful one that follows and flows out of the “Tenebrae” – but that one is far from finished, so the show goes on into the future. This series already made an incredible transformation of my face into masks of shapes, lines and senses that I could have not imagined in my life. They seemingly have nothing in common with myself any more, but haven’t lost a human touch and became more universal in my own understanding, because I notice other people wearing them here and there. With billions of people populating this planet I think that many millions could relate to one or another image, thousands could feel that it is or was them and may regard any state of being may be just a mask, but most importantly – these masks inspired contemplation and the thought that lies at root of what makes us human. The “true” self is a great thing to look for, because such a goal opens a whole endless road of discovery of endless you.

And as for me – each self is true. Each one that I’ve put onto canvas is an independent character ready to play multitudes of roles in many more artworks.

— Take a close up look at some of the paintings here. —

2 thoughts on “Evolution of the Mask Series

  1. Відмінна робота Кирило, так тримати! Особливо сподобалось читаємість твоїх робіт, яскраве світло імоцій. Начебто читає книгу, а не дивишся серію картин)

    1. Дякую тобі, друже! Радий, що тобі подобається.

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