Exhibitions

Raffi Kalenderian

Portraits

November 4 - December 22, 2017

Galerie Peter Kilchmann is pleased to present the fifth solo exhibition of the American artist Raffi

Kalenderian. He was born in Los Angeles in 1981 and the Californian metropole is now the centre of his

artistic production. Kalenderian’s paintings and drawings explore the possibilities of the portrait genre

and range between reality and poetic illusion. For the exhibition Kalenderian is presenting a newly

created work group consisting of large and medium-format oil paintings on canvas (150 x 122cm, 122 x

91.5cm and 91.5 x 61.5cm) and eleven works on paper (134 x 91.5cm and 71 x 51cm).

Kalenderian’s portraits act like windows into his personal microcosm. They create intimate moments

between model and artist which include the observer. Friends, family members and people with whom

the artist is personally connected but also acquaintances from the creative scene such as musicians,

writers and poets are the central protagonists of his interiors, which are very spartan in this new series: a

delicate chair, an empty unadorned room, a composition that in its simplicity directs the viewer’s curiosity

towards the pose of the centrally placed model. Relevant details, such as the floor covered with

countless spots of paint in Erika in the Studio, but also the consciously arranged carpet, the painted

partition screen with the Californian flag in Emily create the awareness that these works were created in

the studio in the living presence of the models.

At the same time, the artist’s great passion for detail can be felt in every corner and on every level of the

picture. Kalenderian’s compositions are permeated by strong colours and unusual geometrical patterns

which attract and repel each other. Busy stripes or checks on the painted fabrics give the artist an

instrument for distortion and abstraction. A bright green pattern on the wallpaper, as dominates in Dasha,

moves into the foreground. In Shanti it is the young man’s clothing with its extreme focus that stands out

from the background. The intense red of his shirt and the navy blue check contrast with the restless

structure of the texture, reminiscent of wood, on the wall behind his back. It is an intensive and highcontrast

colourfulness that Kalenderian skilfully uses to set off certain colours such as deep red and

vibrant white even more intensively, as in Steven (see invitation card).

Kalenderian often overpaints existing works then partly scratches off the new layers of paint to allow

certain parts of the picture to re-emerge. It is an interplay between pastose overlays, glazes, encaustic

elements and erasing existing surfaces. As a result of this the portrayed figures seem to partly dissolve

and become one with the background or stand out very strongly from it. The brushwork is lively and

strong. Energised curved patterns dissolve in static straight lines. Strongly worked contours fade and

fuse with dappled areas of colour.

Despite the insights into the studio space, the eye of the viewer repeatedly turns to the subject’s face

and explores its physiognomy and facial expression which looks towards the artist in a dreamy, relaxed

or sometimes challenging way. Such as in Alison who, turned in profile to the viewer, looks out almost

suspiciously from the side. In contrast to the usual frugality of props we see here an arrangement of

smaller objects on a white-glazed chest of drawers which, with its pastel tones, contrasts strongly with

the black of the leather jacket and the austere backward-braided plaits. Kalenderian’s faces appear

authentic and at the same time mask-like and unfathomable. The people are either integrated or

displaced between reality and alienation in the real surroundings of the studio. It is an unconventional

style of portraiture which is less concerned with the physicality of the model than with the fragility of the

psyche and the relationship between the inner and outer state.

Raffi Kalenderian’s work has already been shown at many international solo and group exhibitions in the

USA and Europe. In 2016 Kalenderian was part of the exhibition Painters' Painters at the Saatchi Gallery

in London, UK. In 2010 his works were on show at the Next Generation exhibition at Kunstmuseum St.

Gallen, Switzerland. Kalenderian graduated in painting from UCLA, California, where he studied under

Laura Owens and Yutaka Sone among others. Kalenderian is one of the new generation of young artists

from Los Angeles.