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Alex Kanevsky ‘Twins’ bath’ –

analysis

Overview
This painting ‘Twins’ bath’ is oil on canvas measuring 66 x 66 inches. It
depicts nude figures in a bathroom interior which is a recurring theme in
Kenevsky’s work.

Technique
The observer is firstly aware of the bold colours of the painting: black,
white, red and blue. We then become aware that the painting is made up
of different shades and tones of these colours. It is clear that Kanevsky
has painted in layers, one picture on top of the other leaving gaps where
we can see a previous layer coming through. This is a recurring technique
in his work.

I am working from a photograph, but it appears that paint has been thickly
applied in layers, one painting on top of another, in a combination of
vibrant and sombre tones. There are blocks of black and red. The paint
strokes are directional; for example the strokes on the bodies follow the
contours of the body but also the directional lines of the painting.
The mood seems to be one of concentration; it is a simple activity, yet
there is complexity. It is a painting of initial simplicity yet depth of
complexity. I will explain this in more detail below. The title and content
initially suggest that things can appear the same, but on closer inspection
everything is individual.

Content
The painting is highly symmetrical reflecting the concept of identical
twins. In the foreground there are two baths on either side of the painting
converging away from the viewer, each being the same colour and shape.
There is one twin in each bath and they are reflecting each other’s
position and posture. Each is squatting in a position that looks
uncomfortable and we expect them to move at any minute. There is
tension in these subjects and this is highlighted by the blocks of red
splashed with white in chaotic fashion above. Perhaps there is an element
of discomfort in being observed in such a position. There is often an
element of voyeurism in Kanevsky’s work. Each figure has her face turned
towards the other. Their colouring is the same with brown hair and pale
skin. Each grasps the rim of the bath across from the other at almost the
same angle. Each is washing her hair under a tap which we imagine but
cannot see. The water glances off their heads as a pale parabola.

Foreground
On first sight the figures appear identical, but as the observer looks more
closely we notice that the figure on the left has more detail: for example,
we can make out the eye, the nose, the mouth – the ear has a deeper
tone with more reds being used. The figure on the left appears smaller – is
our viewpoint closer to the bath on the right or is one figure naturally
larger than the other? There is more definition to the figure on the left; we
can see the spine and the outlines of the buttock and the hand. As I look
at the painting and explore more it now occurs to me that the reason for
the figure on the right having less detail could be because the light is
coming into the room through the window towards the right half of the
painting, making the figure on the right look brighter. This gives less
contrast in the planes of her body, therefore less detail, but more contrast
and darker shadows beneath the body.

Background
The light at the centre top of the picture appears to be diffused, perhaps
suggesting a net curtain. It is not possible to see detail out of the window.
There are barely visible vertical lines which again suggest folds in fabric
with a glimpse of the window frame at the side. This makes the eye travel
back into the room. The blocks of red could be interpreted as curtains as
we can see where the light is capturing the folds of the fabric.

The doors on either side of the painting look the same but on closer
scrutiny are not identical. They are inverted: the door on the right is a
rectangle with a rounded doorway inside; the door on the left is a rounded
shape with a rectangle suggested inside. Again we have symmetry that is
not identical.

We can see reflections of the flesh tones from the bodies in the cylindrical
objects which we start to assume are sinks. The blue shadows between
the sinks are the centre of the painting where there is no reflection. This
spot is the apex of the triangle formed by leading lines down the insides of
the baths.

Leading lines and composition


There are many leading lines in the painting. There is a vertical line down
the centre of the painting which divides it into the two halves creating the
reflection. There is also a horizontal line through the centre of the painting
separating the foreground and the background. Our eye starts at the base
of the painting and works up through the inner triangle to the rectangle of
the window then down to the left or right and across from left to right.

The dark area in the immediate foreground is used to bring the subjects of
the painting into relief. The eye travels from the dark area up to the apex
of the triangle to the light source in the window and back down and out to
the figures where we start to flick back and forth making comparisons.

The background is composed of rectangular parallels and cylinders. The


window at the back centre creates the line of symmetry down the middle
of the painting. The blocks of red make the eye travel up and down the
painting.

Commentary
This painting appears to be a discourse on the nature of things that may
appear to be the same, but on closer scrutiny are different. The most
prominent feature of the painting is symmetry and reflections.

This was the first painting I saw by Kanevsky when doing research into
artists I could study for my investigation. I immediately loved his style,
focusing on expression and atmosphere rather than great depth of detail.
‘Twins’ bath’ really gripped me because there was so much to discover
after the first glance; every time I look at it new features become
apparent. Kanevsky’s composition in this picture is phenomenal as all the
leading lines interconnect and seem to drag your eyes across it. I found
the painting exciting as I started to understand its composition; it
unfolded before me. I

I found this record of the painting process some time after writing the
initial analysis.