Lev Khesin

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*1981 Pensa, Russland
1996–1999 College of Art Education Savitski Pensa
2002–2008 Universität der Künste Berlin, masterclass Prof. Frank Badur
2005 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA, USA
2009 Work stay in studio Kura, Fukuoka, Japan
Lives and works in Berlin

Grants / Scholarships

2005 NICA Scholarship at the Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
2008 Project funding by Stella Art Fundation, Moskau
2009 Artist in Residence in Studio Kura, Fukuoka, Japan
2010 Tempelhof-Schöneberger art prize 2010
2017 Artist in Residence in Tulum, Mexiko
2022 Artist-in-Residence Mark Rothko Art Centre, Daugavpils, Latvia

Solo exhibitions

2023 Jazz, ArteA Gallery, Milan, Italy  
  Lab/Redundancy, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg  
2022 Le Voyage dans la Lune (Duo), Galerie Smudajescheck, Munich  
  No Statement Required (Duo), Till Richter Museum, Buggenhagen  
2021 Genesis, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg  
Lichter (Duo), Villa Heike, Berlin  
2020 Die Welt Als Hologram, Galerie Smudajescheck, Munich  
2019 Luce E Materia, Galerie Artea, Milan, Italy  
Inner Forest, Westend Artspace, Melbourne  
2018 In Focus // Out Of Focus, Galerie Smudajescheck, Munich  
Morphologie, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg  
2017 Apeiron, Smudajescheck Galerie, Munich  
2016 Neon Black, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg  
2014 Dark Matter, Galerie Läkemäker, Berlin  
Permutation, Galerie Smudajescheck, Ulm  
Aquacone - Liquid Boundaries, Till Richter Museum, Buggenhagen  
2013 Klärt Sich Das Wasser, Werden Fische Sichtbar, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg  
Klärt Sich Das Wasser, Werden Fische Sichtbar, Kunstverein Bamberg, Bamberg  
Aquacone / Liquid Boundaries, Till Richter Museum, Schloss Buggenhagen  
Stoffwechsel, Galerie Im Rathaus Tempelhof, Berlin  
2012 Holy Hologram, Läkemäker Johannes Zielke, Berlin  
Oxymora, Galerie Smudajescheck, Ulm  
Elastic Pinioning, Java Haus, Hamburg  
2011 Chromophobia, Galerie Smudajescheck, Ulm  
2010 Onomatopoeia, Läkemäker Johannes Zielke, Berlin  

Group exhibitions

2023 RIPENSARE LO SPAZIO E IL TEMPO, Palazzo dei Principi, Bozzolo
  From Berlin to Seoul: Crossing Horizons, CHOI&CHOI Gallery, Hori Artspace, Seoul, South korea
  Palais Oppenheim, Sotheby's Auction, Cologne
  ON AIR, Schloss Düneck, Moorrege
  Mixed Media #2, Projektraum studio., Hamburg
  Nature, Sebastian Fath Contemporary, Mannheim
  Expoarte Montichiari, ArteA Gallery, Milan, Italy
2022 Five, Westend Art Space, Melbourne, Australia
  Super*, Bermel von Luxburg Gallery, Berlin
  Accrochage, Sebastian Fath Contemporary, Mannheim
  Biennale d'arte di Alessandria Palazzo del Monferrato, Alessandria, Italy
  Elb/Hängung #1, Villa am Elbhang, Hamburg
  Micrologies, Irenic Projects, Los Angeles, USA
  Going For Baroque, LAProject, Landshut
  LICHT, Sebastian Fath Contemporary, Mannheim
  OOO [Out of Office], Berlin
  The Abstract View, Museum Modern Art, Altes Gaswerk Hünfeld
  Coexistence, Atatürk Cultural Center, Istanbul, Turkey
2021 Das schönste Bild bei mir zuhause, Museum Ulm
Lichter, Torsten Ruehle und Lev Khesin, Villa Heike, Berlin
Roter Kunstsalon, Museum Villa Rot, Galerie Smudajeschek
Painting Now: Thai Mainhard & Lev Khesin, Sebastian Fath Contemporary, Mannheim
Orbit, Poimena Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania
2020 Nachts Allein Im Atelier #7, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg
Kunst-Stoff Plastik, Hans Erni Museum, Luzern, Swiss
salondergegenwart, Hamburg
If :: Then Chris Tille + Lev Khesin, Galerie Smudajescheck, Munich
Grand Opening, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg
Materia, Bermel Von Luxburg, Berlin
Mona Foma, Museum Of Old And New Art, Berriedale, Tasmania
Arthouse, Tulum, Mexico
Image_Object (The Visual And The Physical), Poimena Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania
Par Surprise, Galerie Corona Unger, Bremen
2019 Roter Kunstsalon, Museum Villa Rot, Burgrieden
  Nachts Allein Im Atelier #6, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg
Sam Griforian, Helmut Zielke, Lev Khesin, Galerie Läkemäker
2018 Vis à Vis, Barlach Halle K, Mit Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg
Roter Kunstsalon / Museum Villa Rot, Galerie Smudajescheck, Burgrieden
Künstler Der Galerie, Kunstraum Darß, Born am Darß
2017 Nacht Allein Im Atelier Iv, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg
Berlin-Based, Till Richter Museum, Schloss Buggenhagen
2016 Nachts Allein Im Atelier Iii, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg
Abstract Worlds - 21St Century International Abstract Art From The Museum Collection, Till Richter Museum, Buggenhagen
2015 Nachts Allein Im Atelier, Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Hamburg
2014 Seen Unseen, Bycr Gallery, Milan, Italy
Art From Germany: Between Man And Nature, Till Richter Museum, Schloss Buggenhagen
2013 Junge Kunst, Sparkasse Karlsruhe Ettlingen, Karlsruhe
Junge Positionen, Mit Evelyn Drewes | Galerie, Offenbach
Duett, Galerie Läkemäker, Berlin
2012 Layers - Gabriele Evertz, Lev Khesin And Julia Steiner, Sonja Roesch, Houston, USA
Match / Piet Tyutel, Lev Khesin, Nouvelles Images, Den Haag, Denmark
Retraho, Betahaus, Berlin
Dripping Color Amazement, Oqbo, Berlin
2011 Deux Générations, Deux Visions, Château De Saint-Auvent, France
Chromofobia, Galerie Smudajescheck, Ulm
Winterausstellung, Galerie Irrgang, Leipzig
2010 Friede Freude Eierkuchen?, Galerie Hans Tepe, Damme
Läkemäker / Johannes Zielke, Berlin

The path to substance

The transition from one period of an artist's life to another, whilst never plain sailing is nevertheless as subtle as those age lines that have gradually appeared on an old friend's face. One senses a difference and indeed, each new creation seems to confirm that a departure from one era has taken place even if the destination to another has yet to be announced. In truth, no announcement needs to be made. No good can come from disturbing this transition. Instead, one waits cautiously, letting the way forward strengthen with resolve. Art Theorists should refrain from analysing during this transition and with a simple, benign observance will discover the changes in Lev Khesin's work over the past seven years. This is a relatively short time span. Therefore the earlier works, not yet old, continue a significant existence together with his recent output. But as one looks at these works side by side, the difference between old and new becomes clear to the keen eye of an imaginative viewer.

Khesin's technique remains the same: a drawn out process where a multitude of colours are applied in layers of silicone. A viscous mass bends to the artist's will before rebelling and singing to its own tune. The artist humbly accepts this natural process that thwarts his power. 

With good reason Lev Khesin compares painting with the art of archery or other Zen rituals. As a layer of silicone is applied Khesin focuses solely on this one action. It is a controlled exercise of mental presence and the resulting image is lasting evidence of an accomplished yet long gone meditation.

And has the process brought enlightenment? If one is to explore the term quite literally within Khesin's work, then yes, the light penetrates through the transparent material and coloured layers shine out. They merge and oscillate. A multitude of shades depend on where the viewer is standing or on the time of day. A single ray of light on the painting can cause a deeper colour to glow from within it. That or any other colour may find itself shimmering, diffusing or mysteriously dispersing. Boundaries or rules between the colour fields are never clear for they originate not from space but from depth.

Only on the frayed edges of the canvas can one see evidence of the whole multi layered colour scheme. Only here can one understand the artist's toil and how he envisaged his materials into a form whilst simultaneously permitting his wards to exist within their natural energy of resistance. 

It's not the art of performance but rather a deeper knowledge of what is being expressed that confirms an image as art. This knowledge breathes life into the artist's technique and as with anything that lives, change occurs. The paintings pass through stages: they leave something behind yet become something new. Artistic development can be calculated from these sequences of change. One sees that something new is developing in Khesin's work but on top of this there is a sense that something more than technical skill is being revealed.

Those who know the earlier works of Lev Khesin will recall the moment of standing in front of these objects for the first time and experiencing a sense of wonder at how much can be seen in these works. A smooth, cool, even repellent surface emotionally confounds the artificial surface: it's as if a series of snap shots has caught this synthetic material’s eruptions. Simultaneously it enables the artist to work his technique into the creation in such a way that we firmly believe in the organic origins of his paintings. They live with him, oscillating within a tense field of repulsion and desire.

This paradoxical tension remains in Khesin's later output but now, in the wake of contemplation, it becomes inescapable. It moves through and past silicone surfaces and if only for a moment it floats into the territory of the sublime. Supported by ostensive dimensions, the paintings will the viewer to regard them spiritually: dark but never gloomy, shimmering like a golden vessel from an ancient liturgy they seem to cross any denominational divide with a destined and spiritual truth.

Lev Khesin weaves his own magic, bringing a new twist to the colours and materials of his choice, resulting in a series of new paintings where a vibrant character speaks out from the depths. Unlike the previous techno-organic pre-figurations and unlike the later contemplative Icons, recent works now exude the rusty heat of earth, clay and silt. These substances aren’t apparent in their original form but they have left a trail of the presence. Now more than ever, a painting by Lev Khesin is a landscape that can also lend itself to the environs of the portrait or the holy.

The eyes and hands of the artist created these new illusions from silicone and colour but what happened in the process? Did he conquer his materials? Did he infuse them with life? Let's forget this word 'abstract'. Taking something definite, a water lily for example, it is genuinely surprising, when one really looks, at how abstract it is.

Irena Akopjan

The perception of Space in Front of the Picture as Perception of Space in the Picture

An eternal gaze
to the drifting sight
embraces the amber

the painting vision

streams to edges
the pressed depth

A variegated glow

Among the works at the National Gallery in Berlin is a painting by Barnett Newman entitled “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue, IV”. This painting, which deals with the presence of both the spectator and colour, offers an interesting comparison to recent works by Lev Khesin. Newman’s painting demands that we find a place or, more precisely, a position from which we can perceive the painting in its comprehensive effect. While looking at the painting, the spectator soon positions himself in the middle vis-à-vis the blue surface, which for good reason has human dimensions, and here he is immediately surrounded by the red and yellow colours. This effect is enhanced by the fact that the eye never stands still; otherwise the receptors would lose their colour-perception. The eye wanders hither and thither, experiencing strong stimuli on the edges of the blue middle field. Such continuously reactivated stimuli create afterimages that shift subtly, and thus, by means of the three dominants, generate still other values of varying intensity.

Despite the fact that the spectator takes a position in front of the painting, it is the movement of his eyes that allows him to consciously note the colour and the space, and thus the content of the image. Through this consciousness—through the continuous stimulation of the receptors—the spectator ultimately grows aware of himself.

Surrounded by Colour 

Lev Khesin’s works seem to run contrary to Newman’s painting. Whereas Newman uses acryl in his work, which he has applied with a paint roller in several stages, Lev Khesin mixes silicone with pigments that he applies, expressively or contemplatively, with a squeegee onto the substrate. The paint produces various reactions. In some of the works it appears increasingly object-like, almost sculptural; in others, thanks to the way it appears, the paint counteracts its own corporeal presence. In those works where Khesin achieves an almost homogeneous application of paint through countless layers of glaze, a similarity with Newman is nevertheless apparent. The spectator is actively called upon to move in space, thus activating the space itself. The continuous repositioning of one’s body in space, and the simultaneous loss of a fixed position therein, results in the fact that the various colour layers and the various colour spaces can be perceived as such in the first place. The lower levels interchange with the layers higher up. The light penetrates this body of colours in various ways.

Thus there are areas where the surface almost appears opaque, although in other places it seems to dissolve in the changing rays of light as it emits colours. A stable pictorial status is never attained. It never results in a solid unchanging picture. Just a slight tilt of the head is enough to obtain a new impression. To turn things around. This activation of colour by seeing it in space increases the impression of disembodied colour that at times seems to stand in complete contradiction to itself as a material.

There’s nothing rushed or hasty about this continual search for a position, which never leads to a conclusive place. Rather, it is a movement in which the peacefulness of seeing becomes possible.

The colour-space is triggered by ambulation.

Dennis Meier

Interview Aesthetic Magazine

How and when did you find the inspiration to be an artist?

I grew up in an artistic family: both of my parents are icon painters and my sister is an illustrator. My father's mother and my mothers's father were artists too. Most of my parents' friends are artists, and so on. There were tons of art books and magazines around the house. Last but not least, important was my other grandfather's influence, who was a main engineer of the diesel plant in Penza, my city of birth in Russia. I was more into reading about tech stuff rather than Art. As a teenager I dreamed of becoming an aircraft construction engineer. When I think about it now, I see why my current creative process is a mixture of painters traditional approach and engineers technical approach. I use a lot of materials and tools that are rather "industrial". I cannot even remember when the last time I bought something from an artist supply store for my work.

Did your style changed over the years?

I've began to develop the technique of painting with silicone years ago. I was intrigued and fascinated by the number of different approached and possibilities it offers. I continuously test new ideas, but from time to time I also pick up some technical or visual approaches from years ago because I think it's something worth to be developed further. In most cases, it takes me several months or even years to complete one painting (for instance, I just finished a painting started in 2006!), and so I work on several pieces simultaneously. Therefore, it's hard to talk about one particular strait vector along which my work is heading. It's more kind of a spiral rather than a line. Then there are my other projects - a series of drawings from 2006 - 2012 made by an electric drawing machine I constructed from toys and a continuing series of photographs that deals with light refraction and reflection in water. Currently, I'm developing a video installation for technically manipulated LCD screens that deals with the light and its interaction with the solid, mundane matter, much like the photo series and, of course, my transparent silicone paintings.

What is your creative process like?

The investigative trial-and-error process is also important, mixing all possible materials, pigments, tools, and surfaces without knowing in advance what the final result will look like.

Which are the artists that inspired you most?

There are many artists whose work I highly appreciate, like Turner, Klein, Fischli & Weiss to name a few. Yet my inspiration doesn't mainly come frome visual artists, but rather from nature, industry and also music. Right now I'm very much into Miles Davis and his "Bitches Brew" album. Davis once described the recording process: "What we did on Bitches Brew you couldn't ever write down for an orchestra to play. That's why I didn't write it all out, not because I didn't know what I wanted; I knew that what I wanted would come out of a process and not some prerranged shit."
This could be a short description of my attitude, too.

What are you trying to communicate through your art? Is there a special meaning?

I've already mentioned my technique that includes silicone paint and a number of different industrial or self-made tools in different variations. As for the color, for me it's a kind of an alternative language. More than that, it's an opposition to the language as a system of definitions. It's an opposition to the logical mind, which prefers line to color. My goal is to tell "stories" with colors, ligh, and shapes; something that can be read but cannot be verbalized.