An Artist's Voice

 

 

 

Aesthetic Commentary

Embarking with Timur Akhriev
by Michael Newberry

Timur Akhriev is 24 years old. His landscapes, still lifes, and portraits from the last few years have the consistent vitality of master artists twice his age. An amazing feat, since, with rare exceptions, visual artists begin hitting their stride around 30 years old. A few of the gifted exceptions that created powerful works in their late teens and early 20's are da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Picasso.

Another thing that Timur has in common with the above mentioned artists is that he started serious art training at 12 years old. When we add that his father, Daud Akhriev, and step-mother, Melissa Hefferlin, are accomplished, professional artists we have the ideal soil for the development of an important talent.

Timur grew up in Vladikavkaz, near the war torn area where south Russia meets Chechnya. He then moved to St. Petersburg, where he began art school at 12. After he graduated, he followed his father to Chattanooga, Tennessee. There he lived with his father and step mother in their stunning gallery/home/studio compound, and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Fine Arts program. After that he studied at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy for one and half years, he polished off his education with a stint with Charlie Cecil, also in Florence.

An early education in the arts cannot be underestimated. It shares with sports the phenomenon that the earlier a child starts, the easier it is to automatize hundreds of complex skills that can result in a technical freedom of breathtaking scope. And this freedom of scope is exactly what Timur is beginning his art career with.


Timur Akhriev, Summer Florence, 2007

The most surprising thing for me about Timur's work is the consistently high level of the overall execution. In each painting he integrates a balance of light, form, detail, composition, and color. Summer Florence has it all: from the stucco lights, to violet darks; from the buildings' big shapes, to their shutters' details; and from the background blues, to the rooftop reds. With all of the stuff going on, we could get lost in the space of the painting. But, notice how Brunelleschi's famous Duomo (dome) "sits" in the hazy, purplish mid-ground, contrasting with the sharpness of the foreground buildings. Exquisite details such as these guide our eyes comfortably through the space of the painting.

 


Daud Akhriev (Timur's dad), Tennessee Barn

Undoubtedly, Timur's biggest art influence is work of his father, Daud Akhriev. A quick overview of Daud's Tennessee Barn reveals the thick textured, bright white light on the metal corrugated roof, and the lace-like, wooden slates of the barn's canopy, through which we can see silvers of sky and blue mountains. Timur has used those two effects in his painting Nets. Notice the bright, textured reflection of the of the light on the water, and how the light, sky, and coastline wink through the nets.

 


Timur Akhriev, Nets, 2008


Timur Akhriev, Neighbors, 2007

In Neighbors, I like the bold abstract design of the composition. The roof lines and walls unfold towards us, like a lady's fan tapping open on the bottom of the canvas. Another thing I like is the subtle tones of cream, tan, gray, and blue colors that make up the stucco walls.


Timur Akhriev, Street of Siena, 2007

A fun thing to do while looking at Timur's Street of Siena is to check out all the variations of colors he uses in the brick walls, especially on the left side. Timur learned early in his career to constantly vary each nuance of color. I recall hearing his dad mention how important it is to always mix up new color for each brush stroke. The viewers' eyes are rewarded by this forever changing nuanced color; each time their eyes focus on a specific area, it feels fresh and new--like seeing an undiscovered landscape.

 


Timur Akhriev, French Corner, 2007

The composition of French Corner is unexpected and bold. Placing the covered table top up high on the canvas is a fascinating change from the more classical forms of still life, in which the table top is lower down near the bottom edge of the canvas. There is also striking contrast between the large, muted carpet, and the tiny tea pot, with it's flaming pink detailing.

Perhaps the most challenging subject matter for an artist is the human being. After all, we spend our lives interacting with them on many levels: psychologically, physically, and professionally. We simply do not react the same way to bricks and carpets; at least, for your sake, I hope not! Painting a healthy, natural looking human is riddled with problems. For example, if the artist is off a little bit with the mouth, then the subject can take on a completely unwanted expression. If the color of the flesh tone is off just by the tiniest margin, then it can look like gangrene. Attempting to get everything right about the human often makes the artist cut back on such things as color. If you compare Timur's portraits, Isabel and Joseph, to his landscapes you can see that the portraits lack the landscapes' colorful brilliance.

That said, notice the exquisite hands of Isabel--they have form, softness, femininity, and convey an elegant kind of patience.


Timur Akhriev, Isabel, 2007

In Joseph, notice the bony structure of the forehead and the nose--really well done.


Timur Akhriev, Joseph, 2007

 


Melissa Hefferlin (Timur's step mother), Spring Infusion, 2008

For almost two decades I have had the pleasure to see the artistic development of Timur's father and his step mother, Melissa. Melissa has always explored color in her work, and I recall that with each year of living in America, her husband Daud would lift the levels of his color choices, now to the point of an amazing range of color seamlessly integrated with his realistic technique. Living for some years in this close knit and creative environment, it would be natural for Timur to pick up their sense of color.

We can see Timur's exceptional use of color in my favorite painting of his, At the Dock. Notice the subtle colors of the dock's planks of wood, the saturated purple sky, spots of brilliant reds, and bright green wood moldings and nets. The composition is also bold with the winding "S" curve of the dock, which recedes behind the shacks on the left from near foreground on the right.  The more time I spend looking at this painting the more I get the sense that I can feel the boats' gentle rocking in the lapping water, and hear the groan of the wood dock and pinging sound of wire rigging.


Timur Akhriev, At the Dock, 2008

It has given me great pleasure to introduce you to such a talented young artist. I hope I have given you a sense that when young talent meets up with viable knowledge, we will can see great things happen right before our "I's".

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Michael Newberry
Published in The New Individualist 2008


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