June 04, 2020
A Lithuanian-born and New York-based artist, Alex Shabatinas is known for a body of work that represents a synthesis of two opposite directions - surrealism and realism. Combining abstract and surreal elements, he creates a distinct fantastical world rich with meaning and deep feelings.
Starting his works as improvisations on an undefined theme, Shabatinas allows his imagination to take over as he randomly places paint on his canvas. He intentionally leaves his pieces untitled, allowing the viewers to get emotionally invested in them and find something truly their own. The artist describes this process as the "Initiation into Mystery".
Alex's latest body of work will soon be on view at Artios Gallery in New York. On the occasion of the show, we had a chat with the artist about the works on view, his distinct style, his working process, and much more.
The Exhibition at Artios Gallery
Widewalls: Could you tell us something about the concept of the show?
Alex Shabatinas: The concept is straightforward. When Artios Gallery offered me a representation a year ago, I gave them the majority of my available works. In previous years, I sold a lot of paintings from different cycles.
That is why the titles are not consecutive. This show is my first with Artios and represents a selection of works from various cycles. Since all of them are conceptually continuous, it really doesn’t matter what cycle they are from. The viewers can decide whatever one appeals to them most.
Widewalls: Your works combine surrealism and realism, creating a distinct fantastical world. How did you arrive at this style?
AS: Surrealism and realism complement each other, in my opinion. This intertwining is a subconscious desire to express my imagination, understanding of harmony, and my feelings.
In my works, I am trying to convey a sense of conciliation and calmness, to show the world free of brutality and aggression. Each work reflects some philosophical questions to which I seek an answer; it is a continuation of a dialogue with myself lasting a lifetime.
Alex Shabatinas - Beginning of tale II, 2003
Giving the Viewer's Imagination Free Rein
Widewalls: All of your works are intentionally untitled. What is the idea behind this decision?
AS: When a painting has a title, it inadvertently impacts a viewer’s perception of it, influencing the desire to confirm and justify it.
In the untitled work, the viewers are free to name it and interpret it according to their imagination, based on their spiritual world view and life experience.
Organizing my paintings into cycles of 12 and giving those cycles names, such as Time, Dream, etc., I still slightly push my viewers towards the philosophical concepts of my works, assigning them the numbers as the days in our calendar.
Widewalls: Has your Lithuanian background influenced your work in any way?
AS: I don’t think so. I don’t feel any particular impact of my Lithuanian background. My works don’t have a distinct marker that would define an artist’s nationality. However, I identify with the European cultural heritage.
Left: Alex Shabatinas - Tale XII, 2005 /Right: Alex Shabatinas - Time I, 2001
The Working Process
Widewalls: You describe your works as improvisations on an undefined theme. Could you tell us something about your working process?
AS: It's very simple - pure improvisation. The paint is applied randomly to the canvas, and the imagination turns on, varying with each new brushstroke. With the help of music, you enter into some kind of trance – this is the first phase of my creative process. The second phase is more deliberate.
The result could be defined as surrealism with realistic elements. However, I think that my paintings could be attributed to symbolism as well. It doesn't really matter to me.
Widewalls: You have been working in cycles, creating five bodies of work of twelve paintings. Could you tell us something about the current body of work you are working on?
AS: I am currently working on the cycle Narration. Nine paintings out of twelve have been completed. The remaining three are underway. I hope to finish them soon. I am curious to see how they come out.
Widewalls: What’s next for you?
AS: After I finish the Narration cycle, there will be another one... I hope. After all, the process of creating is fascinating; you immerse yourself in this atmosphere. You don't know what will come out. It is a different feeling and a different world.
Featured image: Alex Shabatinas - Tale XII (detail), 2005. All images courtesy of Artios Gallery.
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