ALEXANDER FLORENSKY'S

Florensky’s painting is mellow, smooth, without abrupt movements; the color intensifies, creating dense smoky billows that lightly dissipate at the edges; it has the unhurried steadiness and circumstantiality of the era of steam boilers, samovars, and Kuznetsov porcelain. Naturally, anything the artist portrays is saturated with the most delicate aromas of time that possess that special allure belonging to old things. No, the painting is not at all retro; it is very fresh, with a lot of rich, bright colors, moods, and various subtly noted present-day realities. However, despite its bright and prosodic spirit, it has that grace of the past, like the haze on silver bromide photographs.

Florensky travels extensively and wherever he goes, he brings back sketches, photographs, etudes, paintings, and even mail art, which he and his family have mastered successfully. Georgia holds a special place in this vast creative geography of the artist. His family background drew him there long ago, to where the Florensky family once lived in old Tiphlis. With the death of his great-grandfather, a railway engineer, the breadwinner became the eldest son – Pavel Florensky, who moved the family to Moscow. Thus, Alexander is related to the famous philosopher and theologian as a great-nephew. Having settled in Tbilisi, he quickly fit in and became part of the Georgian art community, joining in the local life with ease. Over the course of five years he has probably traveled the entire country; with the eagerness of an explorer and at the same time with the authority of ancestral memory, like a traveler returning to his land, he has depicted it in a multitude of drawings and paintings. Maybe this is why his Georgian pieces have so much simple homey coziness, as if it is not happening in another country, but as if Florensky just walked down Kuznechniy lane in Petersburg where his studio is, crossed the street, and found himself on Dzhavahishvili street in Tbilisi. On the very same street where his great-grandfather and great-grandmother lived, who (by the way) were named Alexander and Olga.

 

Time has returned to normal, and now Florensky becomes ever more tied to Georgia, considering it his home. He is, of course, magnetically drawn to the old city, where the aromas of time evoke dreams of Pirosmani. And the soft velvet black as if it is a little bit from there, from the oilcloth of the Tiphlis Rousseau. Small paintings immerse us in the dense colors of twilight or the mysterious Southern night, with dark silhouettes of figures, trees, a green bench lit by windows. The colored air breathes warmth in the winter Georgian landscapes as well, where the fallen snow is particularly beautiful in its melting whiteness. Tall slender trees, their branches and crowns, houses, churches with crosses, signboards, street lamps, passersby,  and stocky dogs are all drawn with a thick brush of the same size, so that everything is slightly fattened and rounded, contours are simplified, everything superfluous disappears, and the scales of objects and backgrounds are closer to each other, lending a fairy-tale air.

The artist’s gaze easily makes the foreground feel like home: he “portretises” food, labeling it with the lace of the Georgian language as if on old Tiphlis signs: matsoni, dried apricots, prunes, Adzharian khachapuri, curds, imureli cheese, and so on. He handles the landscape plans with the same ease, pulling them close to us with the same tangible density of painting, where each color can be tasted, almost like food. Tirelessly omnivorous, as if based on a universalist recording approach that harkens to 19th-century compilations of dictionaries and encyclopedias, the artist creates drawings and paintings where every new scene, view, object, or lighting attracts his attention with the possibility of portraying it in some theoretical picture as a whole. These were used to create the Tbilisi Alphabet, a painted guide with a large number of inscriptions in both Russian and Georgian, as if he is telling his friends what they are seeing and how to get there. Thus a collective portrait of Georgia is created, as a country where everything breathes warmth and comfort.

 

A separate series of works is made up of views of Batumi, the ports and sea with ships. Here the sea and sky are saturated with color, the lines of the shores with high mountains disappear in the haze of the violet, blue, and grey air that wraps around the ships, lively spots of red and white, and the yellow flames of passing vessels, and the port cranes. The artist literally dissolves us in the landscape, immersing us in lazy southern contentment and the lively atmosphere of the port. And there is a Petersburg echo here as well, with his paintings of the Lieutenant Schmidt embankment. Florensky remains himself wherever he goes, and in his works About Georgia he displays the magic of his gift: these landscapes make you want to live in them, where you feel at home and protected, like in childhood.

 

   Gleb Ershov