Rostislav Romanov creates artworks full of vibration. His dark and joyful colours leap at the viewer full of vigour, a key characteristic of abstract expressionism. Yet his works often Way of Life covers the working period of 2016-2018. Always in his signature thick impasto Rostislav’s oil paintings now jump off the canvas, powerful, sculptural, three-dimensional.
His pastels and prints become more and more abstract, and he talks of “tapping into a creativity that is not obvious, finding the shapes that are hiding in plain sight, between what one can and cannot see”. He prints every single one of his etchings himself in his studio, rejecting any external input and keeping this a deeply personal collection of work.
Predominantly a landscape artist, and one who has embraced plein air painting with enthusiasm, Rostislav returns to well-loved locations and paints them again and again. He also now ventures into the realm of the imagination, particularly through his etchings and prints like “Descent Into Madness”, or “Rye Bonfire Society Logo”. He discovers new subjects in his travels, and is particularly drawn to his Russian roots, which capture his interest and creativity. He chooses lengthy, evocative, sometimes surreal names for his works, often detailing his own feelings as well as his subject, and they too form part of his narrative and the way he chooses to converse with the viewer.
The different techniques he employs to form this body of work keep mirroring and fueling each other. The folk themes of his Russian fairytale studies are transcribed into the more and more primitive brushstrokes of his oils. The plasticity of his oils translate into abstract shapes in his relief printing and dry-point acid etchings that challenge the viewer to engage.
The sculptural feeling evoked by his oils grounds the work to reality in direct contrast with the unreal iconography that he uses in his landscapes and carpaccios. Rostislav lets the painting guide him to its completion, and this organic approach is often reflected back to the viewer with intensity and raw emotion. “The Last Leg of Light Before Darkness, From Hastings Studio 3 of 4 Triptych” invites the viewer to linger and rest his eyes, easygoing in its scale that minimises the sculptural effect of the artist’s marks. The fiery intensity of the dying light in its last throes as the darkness encroaches vibrates with lifeaffirming exultation, and fills the viewer with unexpected comfort. In contrast in “The Little Red Triangle On Camber Sands” Rostislav returns to an iconography often encountered in his work, but this time the canvas is burgeoning with virility, the tempestuous brushstrokes belying the ultimate tranquility of the seaside scene.
Rostislav’s work is full of contradiction: dark but joyful, tranquil but threatening, delicate but bursting with menace. “2 Salty Groynes, With The Added Saltiness Sunrise, Winchelsea Beach” is a perfect illustration of the mastery the artist holds over his medium, and his love affair with the ever-changing landscape.
Maria Migadi – Art Historian