Gray Scale


Alyona Kirtsova - GRAY SCALE,

Solo Exhibition at the Stella Art Gallery, Moscow 2014


Colour has excited me since childhood.

But for a long time it has been more fascinating for being restrained.

With age nothing is more precious to the eye than dust, a city pigeon feather, silver, ash.

And white: moths fly and throw themselves in to the abyss of the glowing lightbulb at the dacha.

And the pulsing black origin.

The severity and precision of grays, the absence of melodrama.


Alyona Kirtsova

Shades of gray in the range from white to black are called achromatic, which translates from ancient Greek as ‘colourless’. In optics an achromatic colour indicates not an absence of colour but a colour which lacks a concrete spectral tone. Test tables of gray shades are used in technical photo sessions and computer settings. The so-called grayscale, a table showing the brightness of white, distinguishes 256 gradations of gray where 8 bits of information fit on each pixel. Ensuring a ‘real’ half-tone image, black and white photography and film were, for more than a century, the only documentary means of producing and receiving information about the world around us. Today black and white photography and film are used primarily for artistic purposes.

Painting with achromatic colours is known as grisaille and can be seen in Roman frescoes. Giotto, Rembrandt and Bosch painted using the grisaille method. Guernica is painted in achromatic tones. Grisaille is taught in beginner’s painting classes. This technique was often used to depict stone architectural elements of buildings and monumental sculpture.

In her third exhibition at Stella Art Foundation, Alyona Kirtsova uses the grisaille method to demonstrate a series of landscape distances reduced to the conciseness of a suprematist formula. The exhibition is presented as a set of laconic achromatic rhythms in which are encoded various experiences of the infinite landscape. Kirtsova calls this series, and the exhibition, “Grayscale”, introducing to the imaginary distance a kind of graduated test table painted using oil applied to canvas with a palette knife. The coloured horizontal stripes in her “Landscapes”, well-known to the viewer and important to the artist, are in essence desaturated, deprived of their spectral brightness, moving to the category of ‘colourless’. This transition does not impoverish the paintings but, on the contrary, results in a monumental expression in which the painted picture takes on a lapidary quality or is ‘carved in stone’, to use the Latin translation of the term. “Holes” is a series within a series, gray and black concentric squares which redirect the viewer’s gaze from the horizon to space, where there is only light and the darkness which absorbs it. Simple and clear. Like an epitaph.

The exhibition consists of 21 paintings on canvas and 3 sketches on paper.

Yuri Avvakumov