Anna Ravliuc Lends Redeeming Beauty to Harsh Truths

Inspired by pagan traditions and prehistoric legends, Anna Ravliuc, an artist born in the Ukraine, now living in Romania, emerges as a contemporary heir to Gustave Moreau in the paintings viewed at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, from February 24 through March 17. (Reception: Thursday, March 5, 6 to 8pm.)

For like that great Symbolist, Ravliuc possesses the skill to render her most fantastic visions convincing. Along with her mastery of anatomy, she also lends her compositions considerable tactile and chromatic appeal by virtue of a special technique, involving the application of multiple oil glazes and layers of varnish that she then scrapes away in some areas, revealing the underpainting in a manner that imbues them with great depth and drama. Such self-dramatizing touches as revealing that she was born on “Walpurgis Night” (the Witches’ Sabbath) also reflect the theatrical mood of Ravliuc’s paintings, with their macabre figures and a palette poised between dark and fiery hues. One of her recurring figures, seen in various poses and guises in several of her canvases, is a figure with the face of a skeleton and the body of a living person.

In the painting titled with the phrase “There is no truth on earth, but there is no truth above either,” the macabre personage is seen seated on a dark throne, perhaps pondering this bleak concept. A glowing globe beside him on the black and white checkerboard-tiled floor illuminates his bare legs, X-raying the bones below the flesh. This powerful painting could be said to present a symbolic counterpoint to another provocative statement by the artist: “You can easily learn to wear a clown’s or a king’s mask. Yet the most difficult is to learn how to wear the mask of your own face, and do it proudly. I want to be Angel and Demon, Lie and Truth, Heart and Blood, but whatever self I take, more than ever I want to be myself.”

Indeed, when Anna Ravliuc speaks of her artistic intentions she does so in a kind of prose poetry that throws considerable light on her dark vision. Horses, for example, are another recurring motif, as seen in the shadowy steed that dominates the complex and striking nocturnal scene, “Kidnapping the Moon,” as well as the heroic profile of the wild-eyed white horse set against an area of visceral red in another painting titled, “In My End is My Beginning.”

Relating an incident from her childhood, when she was so absorbed in play that she did not realize that a carriage with runaway horses was bearing down on her until she heard their breathing, she concludes “The horses stopped right before me, by themselves ¬¬ there was nobody in the carriage...Since then I have a special relationship with horses. I love them and I trust them...”

Yet another painting of an eerie equine skull, poignantly reflects the French term for still life, “nature morte,” and seems to make the point that we must all be brave in the face of the knowledge that time will rob us all of all that we love. But Anna Ravliuc must be forgiven for this harsh reminder, since her paintings are possessed of what William Butler Yeats once termed “a terrible beauty.”

Peter Wiley

Image Credits: Overcoming Instinct, Oil& Acrylic on Canvas, 46" x 35"

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