The painting legends and myths of Andrejs Kostromins


Fairy stories, myths and legends have accompanied since childhood. In our lifetime, every one of us has, in one way or another, actively or passively, taken part in the process of creating this oral culture. We have varied and modernised the storylines adding to them with signs of the times, introducing contemporary characters and broadening the semantic fields with actual content. Throughout the centuries, art has played the role of visualising, translating and popularising social mythology without forgetting its immediate tasks, one of which, according to the 18th century French philosopher Claude Adrien Helvétius, is to excite the heart.
Artist Andrejs Kostromins creates his own „private mythology” by researching various issues in biology, genetics, the psychology of evolution, theology, astro- and quantum physics. Using the imagery of the language of painting he not only tells us about the fragile meaning of existence and other themes that are important or well understood by each of us, he also translates life’s secret codes and paradoxical subtexts that open the door (if only for brief moment) to a parallel world. As shown by individual works in the exhibition „Xenotopia” (from the Greek xenos – strange, topos – place), this alternative, fantastic universe has its own rational order, ancient rituals and laws which may seem harsh but they are indisputable – dura lex sed lex. The protagonists in Andrejs Kostromins’ painting are able to please and confuse, upset and challenge, elicit wonder and a feeling of discomfort; they can hide behind the laconic title of a work and ask questions of a sensitive nature thus involving the viewer in an intensive process of empathetic thinking and experience.
For the top layer of narrative or to reflect the message, the artist uses a carefully selected painterly setting confirming his ability to condense his knowledge, experience and delicate conclusions in expressive visual solutions. Andrejs Kostromins considers the form and content of an artwork to be equally important; they are born and develop simultaneously, and determine its conceptual depth, uniformity of perception and variety of interpretation. By creatively synthesising and transforming elements of realism, symbolism, surrealism, abstractionism and post-modernism, he demonstrates convincingly the potential of contemporary art to evoke individual revelations without using provocative means. The artist’s paintings are compositionally clear, sophisticated in line and tone and restrained in the choice of colours. This allows their inherent subdued expression to attain a certain degree of psychological drama („Crime and Punishment”, „Natural Selection”, „Sacrifice”, „Arbor mundi”).
Andrejs Kostromins’ metaphorically capacious and nuance saturated painting addresses us with an associatively multi-layered system of images, a cultivated sense of colour, romanticisingly distanced vision, aestheticised stylisation and its static quality. He explores the mutual interaction of colours, looks for fine nuances, balances between the light and the dark, warm and cool gradations of tone, elegant contrasts in finish and texture, and interesting variations of structure. In order to achieve the desired mood, the artist consciously uses painterly techniques to dematerialise the space where the story is told („Brothers and Sisters”, „Behind the Glass”). The human figure often has broader significance in terms of the general idea or symbols („Contraception”, „The Birth of the Myth”, „The Seventeenth”).
Andrejs Kostromins' works catch our attention with the magic of their secrets and mythologised mystification. It is as if they face the viewer full on yet at the same time they are withdrawn in their autonomous existence. By intuitively calling upon the principles of hermeticism, the author provokes us into an intellectual and emotionally open dialogue. It seems that the task of many of the compositions is to deliberately create a deformation of viewers' everyday view of the world and to activate their imagination making them believe that behind the apparent „simplicity”, there could be some other hidden and unexplored layers to which the dimension of time does not apply („Argument about an Elephant”, „Princess Metamorphosis”, „Purple Pantocrator”, „Dichotomy”, „Anatomy of the World”).
The treatment of form cultivated by the painter liberates the viewer's perception and allows anyone to interpret the meaning contained in the works according to their creative capacity by searching for more and more twists in the narrative and wandering through the labyrinth of subjective associations. For instance, connotations with Sergey Gayer in Andrejs Kostromins' paintings suggest original and sometimes unexpected explanations for the stories. These poetically philosophical commentaries serve as inspirational examples for the future direction of the development of individual reflections. Myth or dream, legend or vision, fiction or fact? Everyone has to find their own answers to these questions.

Art historian Natalie Suyunshalieva