Recent Oil Paintings by
Constantine Gedal

September 1 - October 15


Constantine Gedal is from Magorsk, Russia. In his paintings, we are confronted with colorful canvases filled with content and inhabited by human and animal figures, imaginary landscapes or abstract planes, in bizarre settings and sometimes in eccentric poses. The figures do not belong to any historical period, and the sense of inertia is pronounced. Movement is frozen for eternity. But this stillness is rarely peaceful, and often charged with unsolvable and sometimes inconsolable tension. The artist creates a world which is too conscious for a dream yet too tangible for a fantasy.

Gedal consciously employs the illusionism of Flemish and Renaissance painting. He is interested in Surrealism and its breathtaking rendering of atmospheric effects and miniature details. His work is full of symbols, ideas, and suggestions, provoking a stream of interpretations about Time, and Man in Time.

Constantine Gedal's work has been exhibited in New York City, Washington, Pennsylvania, Brussels, Copenhagen,
and Montreal. He teaches Fine Arts/Graphic Design at Hudson County Community College in Jersey City, and
formerly at Boston Computer School, and Les ateliers "Le Bateau" in Brussels.


  Paint and Self in Gedal

By Katerina Romanenko
Art History Department
Graduate Center, CUNY, New York

In Constantine Gedal's figures are timeless, nude or dressed; they do not belong to any period of history. Inertia is a queen of Gedal's paintings. Movement is frozen for eternity. However, this stillness is rarely peaceful, and the whole is charged with unsolvable, sometimes inconsolable, tension. The artist creates a world that is too conscious for a dream and too tangible for a fantasy; it is a reality, our reality with our pain, joy, worries, decisions. It is a reality presented in a visual language of art, where form is never less important than content.

While consciously employing the illusionism and technical advantages of Flemish and Renaissance painting. Yet he is free from the Old Masters' commitment to Nature and from the Surrealists' obsession with the unconscious. In his paintings reality and imagination are equally employed and manipulated.

His technique is meticulously thin, the brushstroke is scrupulously invisible, and the composition is carefully considered. His figures are highly individualized, yet they definitely do not function as portraits. The visual richness of these paintings, the powerful presence of the figures, their unreal but naturalistic placement unavoidably invites a flow of interpretations. Gedal's works are by no means disconnected from reality, from the history and from the history of art. By no means are these paintings limited to unusual juxtapositions, strange figures or non-existent landscapes; they are not only about visual interest or visual satisfaction, but also about disturbance, tension, sometimes anguish. Gedal's works are full of symbols, ideas, and suggestions. However, in spite of the figurative content of these paintings, his art is not representational in the traditional sense of the word. There is no narrative, no references to familiar objects or subjects, no metaphors but mere metonymy. These paintings create a meditative, spiritual mood aiming to put the viewers against their own association, without obligation to find the answers. They are about Time and Man in Time. This man is lonely, for the most part helpless, but able and willing to think, refusing to live his life submissively. The artist creates a new world. This world is far from being lucid or logical. On the contrary, the union of the painstaking clarity of form and the disturbingly unclear content often gives birth to absurdity.

The focal point of the painting, rather provocatively titled Lame Angel, is a mysteriously illuminated human figure stretched across the canvas in a powerful diagonal, juxtaposed to the dark setting of the natural forms, tree trunk behind the figure and the angular contours of the cave-like space at the corners. He is enclosed by them: protected or imprisoned? ... Is he really lame because of a defected foot? The artist so carefully positioned the figure and composed the environment that we cannot clearly define it. Is it really important? This isolated figure evokes a stream of interpretations. Is he a prophet, a philosopher, a saint? Is he an angel at all? Could he be a fallen angel? His lameness reminds us of the Old Testament story of Jacob's fight with an angel, which Jacob won but became lame. There is nothing angelic, in the traditional meaning of the word, in this strong, lonely man. With those noble features and dignity of the posture this man could indeed be the old patriarch, yet his nudity denies this assumption. Do we have to know who this man is? His bald head and long gray beard make him look like a man of considerable age, yet his muscular body, tense posture, but most importantly his eyes reveal the energy of manhood. He is looking at us with an uneasy, penetrating look from the depth of his world into our world… His strange eyes make us uncomfortable, and suddenly we realize that it is he who is questioning us, not the opposite.

Arrangement of three paintings and two miniature sculptural pieces create a peculiar visual composition. The title of the central painting-Long Day Trophy-puzzlingly interplays with the elongated proportions of the canvas and lengthy form of represented objects - the disembodied fish head with a grain stock in its mouth. Village Wedding surprises the viewer by seeming to be irrelevant to the represented subject. The painting shows an elderly man turned away from the beholder towards the backplane of the painting and a young woman at the lower right corner. Facing the picture plane she is looking away, submerged in her thoughts, completely disconnected from the viewer and from the rest of the painting. In the middle is the absolutely uncanny representation of a goose with a neck tied in a knot. The artist employed a very limited number of figures. Yet positioning them in a sharp diagonal, he created an uncomfortable tension. The painting generates a strange mood of uncertainty and wonder. The third work in this triptych is Susan. Canonization of the Forced Memory. The title immediately takes us back to the biblical story and to the numerous examples from the history of art. This theme attracted artists of all ages. Gedal treated this theme in an unusual way. The portrait of a beautiful young woman with inward expression on her face is placed in the picture frame, creating a form en abyme-a picture within a picture. On the right side it is accompanied with a face of an old man at the top corner and a crouched young man at the bottom. The whole composition is extremely provocative. It generates the thought about passion, lust, carnal and spiritual love, the physical age of men, their quest and suffering. It also makes us think about art, creative agony, inspiration and aspiration. The right side of the painting is strikingly dense with the imagery. The artist's ambition to balance that is indeed surprising. At the left side of the painting forming an articulated triangular composition he placed a tiny couple moving away from the picture plane. This small element is charged with such a powerful presence that it does succeed to balance the whole.
The ability to render miniature details is elevated to another level of complexity in the small sculptures. There is a fish head and a human head. Made from plaster, these pieces introduce an additional three-dimensional element to the atmosphere generated by three paintings. Yet being skillfully painted, they stay connected to them. Very often on Gedal's paintings, the figures move or look away towards the horizon or back plane of the painting. These sculptures are projected from the wall through long wire rods. They break the boundary of the flat wall. Self-sufficient, they interact with the paintings in a strange mute dialogue. The result is a highly pensive and evocative display in the gallery showcase of this educational institution.

October 2003
Globe Gallery, New York


New haven free public library Gallery
133 Elm street, New Haven, Connecticut

Inquiries : Please contact Gallery Curator:

Johnes Ruta, (203) 387- 4933