Barak Rozenvain Artist Review
Landscapes in paintings has been a favorite subject matter for artist’s for thousands of years. The earliest pure landscapes are found in Greek frescos from around 1500 B.C.E. However, it was not until landscape paintings saw their true beginnings in East Asian art when spiritual elements were included that drew from philosophical traditions such as Daoism. In these ink paintings, human presence was only glimpsed and the focus was entirely on the landscape. They focused on balance, harmony and the use of positive and negative space to create dreamlike landscapes that made the viewer see more that just a pretty place. These imaginary landscapes became the most prestigious form of visual art as the aesthetic theory of the region placed imagination above all else in importance.
Travelers Among Mountains and Streams, 960-1279
The Western interpretation of landscape painting had new noticeable influences and major contrasts from Asian landscape paintings. Most notably was the low position landscape painting occupied in the Western art world until the 19th century. The natural world was certainly present in the art world previously, however the landscapes and natural elements always acted as secondary focuses for artists who’s primary focus was on the human influence in the landscapes they occupied. From these history focused paintings, landscape painting branched off and became its own valued artistic subject matter in the West. In the United States, the Hudson River School which was prominent in the middle to late 19th century is possibly the best-known native development in landscape art. This mid century art movement depicted American landscapes such as the Hudson River Valley, the Catskills and the Adirondack mountains. Similarly to Eastern Asian landscapes, these paintings were created to evoke an emotional response from the viewer and not to simply serve as a place for man to occupy.
A View of the Mountains Pass Called the Notch of the White Mountains, 1839
Barak Rozenvain’s mountain landscapes have exciting and new ways to demonstrate the beauty of nature. Strong on the fundamentals, Barak took a unique step in his painting process by finding ways to create actual depth and texture on his paintings. Starting with clay that is sculpted to reflect the mountains and pop out at the viewer, Barak creates landscapes that feel real and tangible to the viewer. This new and unexpected take on landscape painting sets Barak apart for his ingenuity and creativity. Much like the landscape painters before him, Barak captures the landscapes that inspire him and conveys the wonder and majesty they evoke when viewed.
Principals of Art:
Space: Barak creates visual space by showing atmospheric perspective though the fading of color and details as the landscape recedes into the background. Note in Alpine Glory how only hints of line compose the background mountains, this lack of detail makes them feel far away. The physical texture of the clay that comes out at the viewer also creates physical depth and space in addition to the atmospheric perspective.
Color: Most of Barak’s mountain landscapes are done in a cool color pallet dominated mostly by blues, grays, and contrasting white and black. These cool colors reflect the actual reality of mountains, as well as establish a tranquil mood in the paintings.
Shape: The shapes in Barak’s paintings are organic and reflect actual shapes found in mountains. Shape comes into play when creating harmony in the piece, which Barak accomplishes by repeating the vertical cliff faces and peaks throughout the composition.
Form: Circle is to shape as sphere is to form. Shapes transform into form when Barak adds the dark and light value changes that indicate depth and give an indication of the light source. Notice how the front ridge in Alpine Glory sits darkly against the light mountain face. These changes in value shows the mountain valleys, crevices, peaks and slopes and all of the hidden spaces that give life and form to the mountains.
Value: Value relates to the tint/shade of a hue (color). Every color can be tinted by adding white or shaded by adding black. The purpose of considering value in a painting is to help create both dimension and a mood to a painting. Value plays an enormous roll in Barak’s paintings as it aids in recreating the depth found in mountain rages. It also serves to show where the light source is coming from and how light rests on mountains. In Alpine Glory the viewer can see the light source originates from the upper left due to the left sides of the mountains being lighter in value in opposition to the dark backsides of the mountain ridges.
Texture: Barak creates actual physical texture through the use of clay and sand which is sculptured onto the wooden panel before paint is added. This texture leaps out at the viewer and makes the piece more dimensional and interactive for the viewer as they observe the painting from new perspectives.
Principals of Design:
Balance: Barak creates visual balance by weighing the mountains against one another. In Alpine Glory you can see how most of the visual weight sits in the bottom third of the composition and is the darkest and most crisp portion of the painting. This is counter balanced by the upper two thirds of the composition which offers less detail and softer colors but occupies more space in the composition.
Unity: The unity of a piece is what creates a sense of completeness. There is unity by nature in Barak’s mountain landscapes due to the focus on intimate close up views of the mountains. A sense of unity is furthered by Barak’s consistent use of medium and style..
Variety: Variety is what adds interest into a work of art. The variety created in Barak’s paintings is natural, spontaneous, and serendipitous as the mediums work together. In some portions the blacks and grays appear textured like charcoal, and in other portions the white paint contrasts bright and fresh like snow. These subtle changes make the piece more visually interesting as there is so much for the eye to discover.
Emphasis: Emphasis is what the artist uses to create a focal point. Focal points can vary viewer to viewer, but a truly successful composition will have one clear focal point that the eye is continually drawn to over and over again. Focal points may vary for viewers when looking at Barak’s paintings due to their complexity and variety. In Alpine Glory the emphasis is the front lower portion as it is more defined in details, rich in colors, and dramatic in value changes.
Movement: Movement implies motion is a snapshot of time. Barak’s painting may often feel still, as mountains sometimes are. Motion is best demonstrated on the upper peaks which can be blurred from distance and indicate clouds and wind movement. To make the viewer’s eye move around the composition Barak changes linear directions that subconsciously prompt the eye to stop, change direction and move.
Pattern: Think of pattern as the visual skeleton that organizes the parts of a composition. This underlying structure uses consistent and regular repetition. You can have both natural and man made pattern. The organic patterns of mountain peaks in Barak’s landscapes repeat and create a natural rhythm as they appear throughout the the composition.
Perspective: Perspective is what’s creates a three dimensional painting vs a two dimensional painting. Barak’s painting are all about perspective and creating depth. The physical texture created creates real changes in perspective as the viewer walks around the piece. Beyond that Barack also creates perspective by demonstrating the ways that atmosphere blurs distant landscapes. In Alpine Glory, you can see how the upper mountains become less detailed and more hazy as they fade into the distance. To give even more perspective on details, Barak uses strong contrasting values to highlight the ridges, valleys, and peaks in his mountain landscapes.
Barak starts his mountain landscapes on a wooden panel. As opposed to a canvas, which is often open backed and cloth, wooden panels are rigid and consistent in their structure. This strong surface provides Barak's paintings a more stable surface to work upon. The mountains are sculpted in clay and they become heavy as more layers are applied, but the strength of the panel holds them perfectly. The sculpted mountain shapes would not remain structurally sound if not for the rigidity and strength of the panel. Barak will often mix in sand to add texture in his foreground mountains. When the clay and sand has dried, Barak then applies oil paints on top with a combination of brushes and pallet knives. This interesting combination of mediums combines both sculpture and painting.