Peeking Through – Balaklav & Velazquez
article by Matar Engel
Leonid Balaklav has always identified himself with classical and modern masters like Rembrandt, Serov & Levitan. He calls them his teachers, who taught him how to use a critical eye and light in order to create colors and tones into reality on the canvas.
In 1990 Leonid Balakav immigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union (Moldovia), where he had a promising art career. Like many European artists arriving in Israel, Balaklav was “illuminated” by this new light, he began studying it thoroughly, mostly using a constant subject always at hand – his own face. Those early self portraits are up-close and personal, and rather flat in their colors but still contrasted with light. as time moved on and Balaklav’s deep study continued, the light itself became more and more the real subject of the paintings.
Zooming out from the close-ups and still painting self-portraits, Balaklav would often use a mirror and paint his reflection in it, as well as the mirror itself “floating” in the studio like an interdimensional portal. Usually, Balaklav would capture himself peeking into the mirror between brush strokes on the canvas, looking intently at the viewer (and himself) half his face and body concealed beyond the edges of the mirror.