Anatomical Correctness by Mark Amery The Dominion Post, Friday June 24 2005.

Marked. Victor Berezovsky Mary Newton Gallery, till July 1

Anyone who has visited Holbein to Hockney, Te Papa's exhibition of drawings from the Queen's collection have noticed the interest throughout history in the workings of the human body in all its miraculous twists and high-keyed emotional turns.
The ideal, beautiful body, cast in the fashionable measurements of its particular time, was an artistic concern for several centuries, at first at the expense of interest in our psychological makeup.

Later, faces and figures began to suggest the contradictions that lie beneath our masks and gestures (Holbein being the best example in that exhibition), yet it was only in the last century that artists began to express more directly our internal landscapes, liberating art from its focus on the figure and appearances.
Today, art through an amalgam of varied source material and styles powerfully taps into the multiplicity of our complexion under the skin. Wellington artist Victor Berezovsky's works on paper, Marked, showing at Mary Newton Gallery, are a superb example.
As a base for these works, Berezovsky has appropriated a drawing of the male figure from the 1900 book Artistic Anatomy by Dr Paul Richer.
A 19th-century anatomist, Richer's drawings have long been a guide for artists wanting to achieve precise shapes for the forms of the human body. Yet how much can we learn from anatomical correctness?
Berezovsky undermines Richer's work with his markings. Across the surface of each are tattooed in Indian ink a collision of designs, emblems and vignettes that speak across time and cultures.
Berezovsky's drawings move from suggestions of Asian and Pacific designs to medieval European folk art. More crucially, they delve dream-like in the abstract into an examination of blemishes on the skin as marks of what is breaking out from inside.
These figures are chameleon-like, changing their camouflage every time you go back to them. Their spots and splotches can transform into small domestic scenes (a woman washing the dishes, a couple in conversation) on the legs or torso, or shapes curling into objects like a bowl or a funnel emphasising the body as a vessel for a transmutation of fluids and thoughts into different functions
The figure itself faces us squarely, perfectly proportioned, palms outstretched, handsome to a fault and ambiguous in racial characteristics - like some kind of future genetically modified super-male. It seems to say: "I am all here."
Yet Berezovsky contradicts the figure's open stance with every stroke he makes, like an acupuncturist selectively pricking the body to let wounds weep and build up textures on the skin as abscesses.
Different shades of skin and feeling pass across these figures as if they were a landscape to project our own personal impressions upon.
The immediate impression is old-worldly, a composite of symbolism and design tracing our attempts in history to explain the workings of the world through botanical, astrological and mechanical studies. The brown and white ink gives the work an old, animal parchment feel, dull and portentous of human horror, as if this were a medieval folk catalogue warning of the fantastical signs of the great plague that may appear on a victim's body.
Yet, look closer, and nesting within the warmth of the body's interior, cogs and wheels turn, ferns and flowers bud and blossom, and dim stars begin to twinkle. There's also a freeness of play, lightness of touch and humour that engages your imagination, as if the artist were presenting one of those cardboard dress-up figures you hook clothes on to.
In this way, some figures were far more effective than others for me, leaving me wondering if the exhibition would have been more effective edited down to a smaller selection.
The works in their freeness are at their most powerful when they engage as fully in sensation in the abstract as the figurative in design.
Berezovsky sometimes very effectively builds up surfaces as skins themselves scraping away at them in a way that, in their rough tactility, connects strongly to our sense of touch.



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