A multitude of artists from modernism to present day were, and still are, interested in representing intimacy, a peculiar human activity related to sexuality. Without a doubt, such an art was an effect of the artist’s fascination with one’s body (or their own), but it also served as a critical reflection of certain social and political phenomenon.
Nevertheless, regardless of any particular discourse, the young Russian painter Ivan Alifan produces authentic and quite uncanny works centered on the human body and in general the topic of intimacy. From a completely new perspective, the artist examines the very notion of what desire is by rethinking and reshaping primarily the traditional genre of classical portrayal.
In particular, his series Hand study show the artists rapid growth not in a painterly sense, but rather in conceptual one.
Ivan Alifan was born in 1989 in Rostov on Don, a port city in the southeastern part of the vast Russian Federation. He graduated from OCAD University in 2012 with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting. The Hermitage Museum residency in St. Petersburg enriched the artist much and introduced him to the circumstances on the local scene, while the OCAD University off-campus studies in Florence gave him a similar insight of the circumstances on an international scale.
Alifan was surely impressed with the rich historical legacy of both cities; notable is the influence of the magnificent Russian baroque expressed through the great architectural deeds of Peter The Great or the ceilings of the Medici palaces and other Florentine sights.
The apparent interest in the representation of corporeality seems to be the base of Ivan Alifan’s work, but besides the plain depiction of the human body, the artist searches for the wide array of meanings of consumption in relation to sexuality.
Namely, the portrayed (male and female) heads, busts or bodies are all covered with dripping white liquid. However the observer decides to interpret it, the composition cannot be read differently than as succulent, exotic, explicit and even strange.
The peculiar pallet consisting mostly of turquoise and pink is reminiscent of baroque lavishness and decadent delight. An addition to that statement is the very method Ivan Alifan uses in order to apply the paint; he is squeezing the paint out of the tube as if adding the topping onto the cake. Therefore, each segment of the creation process is well-thought, as the artist himself states:
Art is beyond an image of perception and creativity. Art is part of the past, present, future, where one can interpret their own view. Painting allows me as an artist to express my strengths or my vulnerability. Each brushstroke builds up a story, a life and, a passion. I hope my paintings will change your outlook on life...
The series titled The Hands study is perhaps the most delicate and strangely the most realistic ones. Regardless of the highly imaginative and common whipped cream compositions, with these series Ivan Alifan is completely devoted to female intimacy. The very moment of self-penetration is in focus and is depicted almost fully deployed of the person’s body. The observer is exposed to the sacred moment of indulgence; it is no longer a sexual act, it becomes the moment of enlightenment, a pure bliss.
It seems that the artist has decided to articulate what is a taboo even in contemporary society and that is female masturbation. By calling the series simply Hands, he wanted to accentuate the profundity of the female pleasure and self-awareness regardless of the omnipresent male gaze.
Although rather young, Ivan Alifan very quickly became the next best thing thanks to his peculiar and authentic poetics and overall painterly approach.
The domains of Alifan's artistic practice have been recognized so he received the Mercedes Benz Financial and Nora E. Vaughan Award, and his works have been published in several prestigious magazines like the ELLE Canada or Bliss Magazine, and displayed in several group and solo exhibitions.
All images are courtesy of the artist.