A growing number of artists are finding inspiration in the art of Alex Kanevsky, a Russian-born Philadelphia painter who doesn’t just cross but smears the lines between figure and landscape, plein air and studio, representational and abstract, contemporary and traditional. This audio interview was recently posted, prompting many shares on social media. Some of his ideas were decidedly bracing and fresh.

Lead Image: “June 5, Rainy, No Wind,” by Alex Kanevsky, oil on Mylar mounted on wood, 14 1/2 x 48 in.

In the interview, which was conducted by an artist named Yoshino for www.artistdecoded.com, Kanevsky gives a ringing endorsement for the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and he asserts that while most artists tend to grow more conservative over the years, he is growing more radical. “I kind of lost interest in complacency,” he says. “This leads nowhere.” Still, he says he is not trying to be revolutionary. “Rebellion is against someone or something. I’m not against anything,” says Kanevsky.

The painter argues that artists need to continually be honest with themselves about what they are doing, and that this will ensure that the vision presented is unique, because we are all unique. He warns against pride and becoming satisfied with achieved goals. “I have to paint on the edge of what’s capable for me,” he explains.

“Backyard,” by Alex Kanevsky, oil on linen, 66 x 66 in.
“Backyard,” by Alex Kanevsky, oil on linen, 66 x 66 in.

Kanevsky pushes against the idea that success in the art world means having your work valued by the investing class of collectors. “I’m in a very lucky situation,” he says. “I don’t think many people buy my paintings as an investment. They buy them because they want to put it over their sofa and look at it. To me that is a very honest reward. When I hear from the gallery and they say look, here’s someone who wants to buy your painting, but it’s going to take them several months to pay for it, I consider it a huge compliment. They can’t afford it, but want it badly enough. It’s very honest, that commercial aspect.”

Several pieces on his website suggest that Kanevsky works en plein air on occasion — and he certainly works from life with his figurative work — but it’s unlikely he’ll be thought of as a plein air painter, unless it’s someday in the vein of Antonio Garcia Lopez, returning repeatedly to a scene to get it just right. Kanevsky prefers extended problems, the kind that changing light conditions would complicate to an almost impossible degree. “If I could just roll up and do the painting in three or four hours and put it in a frame, I don’t know if I would be interested in that,” he says.

Hear the above in context, plus more, here.


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