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After accruing a dedicated following from some of the biggest players in the contemporary art world - including Anita Zubludowicz – Ella Kruglyanskaya looks set to occupy a place at the zenith of contemporary painting.  

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Exhibition view: Ella Kruglyanskaya, This is a Robbery, Thomas Dane Gallery, London, 2020.

 

Ella Kruglyanskaya was born in 1978 in Latvia, and now lives and works in Los Angeles.

Kruglyanskaya’s work is often seen in relation to her unusual early life. She grew up in Soviet era Latvia before it gained independence as a country, where she was singled-out and taught art from a young age, discovering a variety of inspiring source material such as German expressionism, film and the popular culture of the 1950s and 1960s. After leaving Latvia in the early 1990s to move to the United States, Kruglyanskaya enrolled at the Cooper Union School of Art and subsequently the Yale School of Art. This education allowed her to bridge academicised art history with the interest in popular culture she already had. 

 

Ella Kruglyanskaya, Swordfish Picnic, 201, oil on shaped canvas, 230 by 336 cm.

 

Her work centres around the female experience and investigates the representation of women in art and society. Typically working in a relatively large format in canvas and on paper, her style is both graphic and painterly and her finished paintings often include a dialogue with her preparatory and general drawings. The sparing use of line in Kruglyanskaya’s work, seen in her gestural drawings, has been interpreted to alluding to her early professional life in New York where she was designing junk mail content as an advertising art director. 

Characterized formally by bright and sharply defined areas of colour, the subject of her work is most often cartoonish women in figure hugging clothes, engaged in ambiguous leisure activities. Kruglyanskaya has commented: ‘I’m interested in pictorial events that are not narrative but visual and sometimes aspire to an unspoken punch line’. These often-buxom women engage their audience, exaggerating both voyeurism and exhibitionism and confronting cultural tropes with bawdy humour.

 

Exhibition view: Ella Kruglyanskaya, How to Work Together, Studio Voltaire, London, 2014.

 

In 2014, Studio Voltaire, London, presented Ella Kruglyanskaya’s first solo show in a public gallery outside of the United Sates. The exhibition included a commission and was important - along with the Tate Liverpool exhibition two years later - for introducing her work to Europe. 

Her recent show at Thomas Dane Gallery, London continues Kruglyanskaya focus on the histories of female representation within painting, this time with a more personal angle. The exhibition is formed from essentially a continuous collage in two parts across both gallery spaces. Each includes a profusion of works on canvas, egg tempera panels and works on paper, unpacking the traditions of portraiture, still-life, trompe l’oeil and the memento mori.

Ella Kruglyanskaya’s market has also steadily increased over the last decade, with her work only appearing at auction for the first time in 2015. 2015 was indeed an important year for her, as her work had been introduced to Europe through the Studio Voltaire show the previous year, and it was announced she was going to have a solo exhibition at Tate Liverpool the next year. Her market responded accordingly, and there was a marked acceleration in growth. Her auction record is now around 130,000 USD. Kruglyanskaya is represented by Thomas Dane Gallery in London and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York.

 

Ella Kruglyanskaya, Fruit Picnic, 2011, Oil paint on linen, 198 x 142 cm.

 

Cover image: Ella Kruglyanskaya, Swordfish Picnic, 201, oil on shaped canvas, 230 by 336 cm.

Written by Max Lunn

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