Belarussian artist Maya Brodsky's paintings are painful. It's hard to articulate why, but their fondness for intimacy and the past means that her painted memories are infinitely relatable and because of that, entirely absorbing.
Our lives can be remembered as memories strung together and placed in a loose chronological order. This is how we understand our past and try to make sense of whatever is happening in the present. Brodsky paints such faint memories. Our friends and family are ties we hold dear. Our memories of them often include particular places and spaces.
While not entirely confined to, these places are often their homes - the place that they have settled and that become a temporary part of their life, or they a temporary part of the life of the home. Recalling such places is an intimate experience. The old fireplaces, either electric or gas, the fluffy carpets that are threadbare over the most well-walked paths. Alongside textures and temperatures, we remember smells and patterns - often vividly - whether entirely true to life or not.
Our minds embellish these memories and turn them into our own homes, a place in our mind that we have settled. Brodsky paints such intimate portraits of familial life, both in content and scale, that she has experienced and is inviting us to experience too. Having people look into your home can feel intrusive, it is ineffably your own. But allowing people into other homes is entirely different, especially when these places hold such reverence in your own memories.
The places often come with people, some elderly and some young. Their unawareness of the presence of an eye in the room, us, gives them a sense of vulnerability. They're acting like they would if no one was watching. It's as honest as it can be. Our presence, as an audience, is something like an apparition. We are seeing something that we shouldn't and regardless of their total obliviousness, it's hard to avoid the feeling that somehow they can still sense you there. It's a familiar feeling for all of us, that something or someone is there, that we're never truly alone.
Despite this, loneliness certainly seems to feature heavily as a theme in her work. It's maybe not the loneliness that we experience as a result of tragedy or being cast-away, but the simple loneliness of existence. Some people live alone, wilfully or otherwise and it's this feeling that Brodsky manages to capture. Even when there is more than one person in the room, the sense of them working entirely independently of each other cannot be overlooked. It might be your home, but that doesn't mean it comes with your loved ones attached.
Furthering her exploration of intimacy in everyday life, a common feature is the bed. It's somewhere you sleep, eat, watch television, have sex and talk. If your home is private, your bed is even more so. The beds she paints sometimes have a disconnected couple, a sleeping child or a worried mother. Sometimes they're being shared, but other times they are not. It is in our beds that, alone or otherwise, we are faced with our gravest fears. It's a quiet place of reflection that some people can never fully come to terms with.
Maya Brodsky keeps a low-profile, with barely any work online, however, after recently sharing a photograph of her newborn child on Instagram, we may not have to wait too long until the inspiration to create more regularly returns.
It will be interesting to see whether this huge change in circumstances will also influence her artwork and whether Brodsky's possible new outlook to life will shine through in her paintings.
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