Serhiy Kolyada Kiev, Ukraine
Conflict and corruption feed commentary; key ingredients for intriguing art, in the hands of the proper artist. Awareness may be the ultimate goal, but one must first actually care enough to spread the word. Serhiy Kolyada cares. His key ingredient is ink, and his "Lifescapes" serve up a spicy blend of commentary and criticism peppered by politicians, prostitutes, folk heroes and pop stars. Brothels, back rooms and consumer brands form his artistic broth, but Kolyada's compositional stew is where his strengths lay, each ingredient added to help get his point across. Art as something to chew on.
The Theory for Origins 2012, ballpoint pen on panel, 56 x 41 cm (shown cropped). © Serhiy Kolyada
Essentially confined to his homeland of Eastern Ukraine, no thanks to powers-that-be battling powers-that-wish-to-be, Andrey Poletaev can luckily travel vast distances without ever having to leave his home. Ballpoint pen in hand he can set off in any direction, as he pleases. No passport. No security checkpoints. No borders. Call it the luck of The Draw. The ability to use art as an escape to lands known-or-unknown proves how drawing skills and "vision" are a magic combination. No formal art education or diploma necessary. Imagination plays a part for many artists, but Poletaev's travels are decidedly more terrestrial. He could be logging frequent flyer mileage. And if his visual documentations thus far don't merit a "diploma", he can simply draw one.
Poletaev's path to ballpoint art has familiar origins; doodling his way through classroom boredom. But during what he calls his "transitional years" he abandoned ballpoint pens altogether, trying out oil and watercolor painting instead. Jobs in construction and interior design kept bills paid while Poletaev perfected his artistic skills. "The region in which I live has a low cultural development. Art can not generate income in the region." Regardless, the desire to draw using ballpoint pens returned. "During this time, the 'Cityscape' drawings came to life and grew into a series." Explains Poletaev, "The cityscape offers not only artistic value but the historical value as well. Every city has its own history and rhythm of life. A portrait of its own, of society inhabiting a specific region. You commute to work on the same road, thousands of times, passing the street signs, store signs, cars and pedestrians around you. You get used to it so much that you stop noticing. In my work I display to the viewers what they may have stopped noticing." Poletaev's point is illustrated in blank expressions pictured on the faces of locals.
As Poletaev sees it, "The life of a city happens not in its main attractions, but on the most common streets and alleys." With that in mind he opts for no-frills representations of less-traveled, often unremarkable locations. Even when he allows cameos to iconic structures as the Eiffel Tower or minarets of Istanbul's Yeni Camii mosque (pictured), they are kept at a distance. Poletaev's view of Venice depicts not the Piazza San Marco or Grand Canal but a back waterway crowded with parked gondolas (pictured).
PENNAME ARCHIVE by R. Bell originally posted June 1, 2015
The World at His Fingertips Andrey Poletaev・Lugansk, Ukraine
PENNAME Feature Article ARCHIVES
Poletaev considers this travelogue a "long term project ", but time is an issue; in ballpoint-speak, the time-consuming process of conjuring a picture out of a million lines, "50 to 200 hours per drawing." That these are reproductions of photographs, "intuitively chosen," doesn't detract from their impressiveness. Expressiveness also accounts for much here. Poletaev shows great care in rendering the kind of complex shadows and reflected light which add 3D vibrancy to 2D portrayals of cities like Paris or New York (pictured), and his delicate handling of sunlight piercing through a break in the clouds (pictured) are as painterly as one can get with a pen; PEN ting, to further a well-coined phrase. This brand of photorealism is often bypassed by the avante garde these days, ballpoint or not, but viewers with no preconceptions as to what is or isn't "art" respond to works such as these. For now, the internet is King. "At the moment I am confined by civil circumstances. Lugansk is in a state of blockade. Not working state institution, banking system, mail system." Poletaev is not at all involved in the war, nor does his artwork reflect it, but the war impacts him directly. Living in a militarized zone blocked off from urban centers such as Kiev and beyond limits his prospects to exhibit. "The region at the moment has no legal authorities, which creates a number of issues with acquiring paperwork to transport art abroad." Meanwhile he stockpiles artwork toward future exhibitions. Consider this the preview・
"Recently I became attracted to drawing in its pure form and mainly work with monochrome images. Monochrome allows to completely concentrate on the essence of the subject." Concerns of ballpoint ink quality also keeps him from using colors with questionable lifespans, he admits, adding, "I use the most generic ballpoint pens that can be purchased at any store." Poletaev describes his technique in words familiar to anyone who's spent time behind a ballpoint pen. "Strokes of various lengths applied in a variety of angles, frequency and pressure " allowing for "startling contrast, saturation and density ". Confidence is evident in Poletaev's handling of the pen, as it should be. With the white of the page acting as the whitest highlights of the images — another hallmark of the medium — he expertly applies his blacks and all shades of gray (or blue) between and around them. In a wintery scene showing the BelinskyBridge in St. Petersburg (pictured) it's as much what the artist doesn't draw as what he does draw. A few simple, strategically placed lines form identifiable shadows of architectural elements in a row of white buildings, adding atmospheric depth.
Artwork, from top:
St. Petersburg Apr, 2015; ballpoint pen on paper, 77 x 58cm (31 x 23''). New York Nov, 2013; ballpoint pen on paper, 82 x 46m (33 x 19'').
Istanbul Feb, 2015; ballpoint pen on paper, 59 x 44cm (23 x 18'').
All artwork © Andrey Poletaev
Shirish Deshpande Belgaum, India
In a land of over a billion people rich with artisans and craftspeople, it should come as no surprise that ballpoint pen artwork can be found in India, and, in the atmospheric landscapes, decorative still lives and other stylish compositions of Shirish Deshpande, ballpoint art is also well-represented.
First Ferry 2014, ballpoint pen on handmade paper, 10 x 14''
artwork © Shirish Deshpande
Lennie Mace Tokyo, Japan
This must be the wrong exhibition. Lennie Mace is, after all, known for colorfully detailed, elaborately composed ballpoint artwork, but no such artwork is on display here;
only blank sheets of paper,
Goat Gal (Goat 1 of 4) 2014,
ballpoint pen & ''dry'' ballpoint pen
on paper, shown cropped. An example of ''colorfully detailed'' Mace,
showing usage of ''dry pen'' patterns.
artwork © Lennie Mace/THE LAB
Since 2014・Volume 7
Allan Barbeau Dublin, Ireland
For every artist out on the front lines gunning for art world credibility, there are another hundred going about their business in quiet satisfaction. Overzealous art school grads and masochistic spotlight junkies willingly place themselves in the line of fire for the kind of rejection which comes with that territory. Those with more modest needs and their own barometer of what constitutes "success" could care less. Among them is Allan Barbeau.
Bouche Bisous 2011, ballpoint pen on paper, 23 x 21cm (10 x 8''), shown cropped. artwork © Allan Barbeau
James Mylne London, England
Britain's premier ballpointer James Mylne has undergone as conspicuous and ambitious a developmental arc as one artist could experience within such a relatively short span of time. Mylne readily admits the "shift"; conscious steps beyond earlier, straightforward photorealism.
Natalia 2014, Torn series
ballpoint pen, spray paint, marker, ripped Giclee prints and Krink on paper, 75 x 93cm (29 x 36''),
artwork © James Mylne
Shane McAdams Brooklyn, New York
Ballpoint pen art without the ballpoint pen? That and more from Shane McAdams, artist and closet alchemist, who literally removes the ball point from the equation by "blowing", milking or otherwise extracting ink from ballpoints and magic markers toward artistic ends. Material "deconstruction" distinguishes McAdams from most of his ballpoint peers.
Cloudslinger 2014, ballpoint pen,
oil & resin on panel, 48 x 48'' (shown cropped).
artwork © Shane McAdams