When I asked Alina Maksimenko if she’d create a new body of work for us to exhibit as part of Somerset Art Works 2019 Festival, and that perhaps she’d be interested in working on something figurative, Alina responded with so much more than I expected. I don’t only admire Alina’s work, I admire her practice as well; a true creative, curious and enquiring, she is always open to new challenges. She agreed to my suggestion adding that she’d like to look at dance, representing both the male and female figures. I readily agreed. I love dance and it’s a curious challenge to try and capture it in oil paint.
A few months later, Alina sent through images of the new paintings along with a short explanation into the form of dance she was looking at. Pina Bausch – I’d never heard of her. I immediately went to YouTube – of course – to look her up and was spellbound by what I found.
Pina Bausch [1940 – 2009] was German dancer and choreographer who invented a style of dance now referred to Tanztheatre. It’s a totally enthralling and expressive movement, every part of the dancer is used to express the emotion, feeling, event. It’s passionate, well observed and surprising in its observation and interpretation. I returned to Alina and asked her a few questions.
Where did you first see Pina Bausch’s work?
I saw a recording of her work, which responded to Russian composer Igor Stravinsky ‘The Rite of Spring’ at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. It was so amazing and beautiful that I returned to see it many times.
What inspires you so much about Pina Bausch?
I’m fascinated by the language that Pina has discovered for us, using the human body as a vehicle for interpretation through gesture and movement. It is strikingly simple and yet has such depth in its truth, she represents the beauty and inconsistency of human nature with such love.
What do you think this style of dance reflects or expresses?
As humans, our personality is understood through our relationships with the outside world and with each other, both as strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes it’s very hard to explain this with language and Pina expresses it powerfully through dance. With our increasing reliance on technology these days, I feel this expression is more important than ever.
How do you translate the dancer’s movement into paint?
I use traditional techniques with oil on canvas. It seems to me that despite the many masterpieces that have been created over the centuries and the consistent development and exploring into this medium, it is still largely unrecognised and under-utilised. Painting is a universal language.
When I worked on the Dance for Pina collection, I made a lot of drawings first. They lay scattered across my studio floor as points of reference whilst I worked. I also kept the images of the dancers in my mind whilst I painted, using my drawings as reference material and changing parts in the painting until I found the right movement.
Alina’s new paintings, Dance for Pina, will be shown as part of our exhibition with SAW Festival 2019, 27 September to 6 October.