ARTSCENE - December 26, 2001

Local painter Natalia Andreeva unveils new styles in Trillium show


Many art patrons in the local area are very familiar with the artist Natalia Andreeva. She is a fixture in the East Lansing Art Fair, having won the People’s Choice Award in 1997 and 1998, as well as receiving a Purchase Award in 2000.
Her classical oils and watercolors depict landscapes, still life and figures. Andreeva’s work has always possessed a beautiful clarity of subject and an exquisite painting technique. The public will be interested to know that Andreeva has developed another style of painting. The most recent collection of watercolors and oil, showing at Trillium Gallery in January and February, is a departure from her traditional work. “Chaos & Harmony” is an exhibit demonstrating her new technique and more abstract subject matter.
A gigantic leap of invention for the artist, Andreeva’s large-scale watercolor and oil paintings, approximately 24-inches-by-30-inches, present complex shapes in specific color schemes while more subtle imagery is nestled in.
One particular painting highlights the delicate nature of watercolor. Icy blue notes combined with other cool hues to create a winter feel. As if the viewer is face to face with a larger than life snowflake, each ice crystal is broken down into simple shapes while smaller, more defined flakes float by. Though it is clear that winter is the theme, the broad color planes and geometric forms are gentle on the eyes making peacefulness a likely subject.
Another piece primarily worked in blacks, grays and whites looks like a dark celestial event. A lightly outlined snake, winding its way along the bottom half of the painting overlaps with what appears to be a spider’s web. Small areas of deep red paint rest near the bottom of the picture plane as a sharp white lightning bolt form activates the entire page. This painting is high in value contrast. More geometric white shapes are scattered about, lying on top of the detailed imagery.
Significantly different from the other paintings, one of Andreeva’s watercolors resembles a forest engulfed in flames or perhaps simply a wood lot glowing from autumn foliage. The hot red and orange palette dominates the setting as small, unexpected details whisper in the background. Loosely gestured tree branches define the foreground as a tiny house sits off to the side giving the painting a great sense of depth.
My favorite in this new body of work is a kaleidoscope of color and bubble-like imagery. Greens, purples, yellows and pinks fill every inch with soft color and texture. More intentionally placed white rectangles of various shapes and sizes are placed on top the dozens of overlapping circles. When viewing this painting, one moment I felt like I was submerged in water and my vision was clouded by air bubbles. The next moment it was as if I was looking into very shallow water observing a variety of round stones or objects lying just inches below the surface.
A pattern started to emerge the longer I examined the work. Every painting had specifically placed white rectangles and squares. The small white shapes let a great deal of light into the pieces, but I was sure there was a more deliberate intention. Suddenly my eye started to connect the dots, so to speak, and I found that not so hidden were lovely outlines of female figures. The womanly forms, like constellations in the sky, add another layer of depth as the color and texture, once the focus of the paintings, recede to the background. In many ways these new paintings are a conglomerate of the classical themes Andreeva has worked with over the years. Here they are combined in a most unexpected way.
Natalia Andreeva, originally from Novosibirsk, Siberia, graduated from its most prestigious art college. Not too many years ago, Andreeva moved to East Lansing and continued her art career while raising a family. Her talents have won her many awards such as an Award of Merit in 2000 at the 9th Annual Cover Art Competition for Manhattan Arts International in New York, along with second place in the 86th Annual Scarab Club Gold Medal Exhibition in Detroit. Over the New Year, the artist is relocating to Chicago, so we are lucky to have an opportunity to view her newest work here in town.
Trillium Gallery has featured the oils and watercolors of Andreeva since it opened in 1998. It is a real treat for gallery owner Kalli Halpern to be apart of the artist’s changing flavor. The show is opening 1-4 p.m. Jan. 6 during First Sunday Gallery Walk and will last until Feb. 26. For the most up-to-date gallery hours, please call 333-3130. Trillium Gallery is located at 207 E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing directly across from the MSU Student Union.


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