Last Thursday the Romano Gallery showcased paintings by artist Chris Semergieff. His paintings incorporated elusive natural elements into coarse, industrialized cityscapes. Brooklyn neighborhoods, skylines, and Manhattan were his main focus.
When asked about the objects he chose to include in his paintings, he simply replied, “They just came to me.” He said for the painting many of the people were always there while others, for example the woman and her child, were only one-time passersby who he captured quickly. To him, the painting was a composition of spontaneous as well as ritual events, like the everyday arrival of the train. Even though the time it spent at that exact place was short, he always knew that two minutes later, another train would come again to that same spot.
His paintings of skylines and lights, two of his most emphasized subjects, also portray the same sorts of casual routines. His paintings of mercurial elements, such as the position of the clouds or a moving sunbeam rely on nature’s fundamental repetitiveness. The clouds, though changing at that moment, would always follow a certain pattern that, if the artist was meticulous and patient, could be captured. Although Semergieff jokingly described himself as someone without imagination, his ability to capture these moments shows that he was modest about his abilities.
What was also fascinating was his use of color, which reminded me of commercials from the 1960s. The overall hue of the painting was subtle and faded. However, he also pointed out that he intentionally incorporated some “elements of surprise” that had stronger and more contrasting color. For example, in the painting “Low Tide, Hastings,” there is a small but vivid dot of red on the left hand side. It was the mixture of mainly unintentional instincts and small intentional highlights that make those paintings sing.
Each painting was like many slices of time stacked together. Through such a mixture of perspectives, he presented to the viewers a collective vision and personal experiences of each place. While possible for the viewers to relate on a personal level to each piece, together they form a symphony, greater than its constituent parts. They were truly fantastic paintings, and I strongly encourage everyone to visit the gallery.
(Copyright 2016 Chriss Liu)