Post by Lisa Hanson
When I hear the phrase “Heaven’s Gate,” I immediately think of St. Peter amongst clouds and the grandeur of a pearly white entrance into bliss. Yuri Makoveychuk clearly has a different image in his mind. His exhibition at Cerulean Arts depicts eerily quiet scenes in which a sense of pandemonium tries to break through a monochromatic palette. In his artistic statement, he acknowledges that Heaven’s Gate may also allude to the religious cult of the same name. This group is notorious for their 1997 mass suicide that coincided with the appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet.
Cerulean Arts gallery is a small space that intensifies the muted nature of the five large oil paintings on display. The images lack distinct titles and are all named Heaven’s Gate. While this plays into their collectivity, it also proves to be a challenge when referring to one individually so I’ll improvise my own title for citation purposes. All of the paintings maintain a blank, dull, gray-purple background that offsets the frantic animations of the subjects. The vastness and the ambiguity of the environment further convey an odd limbo-like state which juxtaposes the painstaking detail in the figures. Although each form maintains its own identity, whether in facial expression or in clothing, they all have the same complexion which is dominated by muddy undertones.
Heaven’s Gate with rock formation (above) portrays a vertical rock structure from which people are either climbing or falling. The rock seems to blend well with the hazy bruise-colored backdrop while the figures are so crisply detailed that they appear to be paper cut-outs. Every fabric wrinkle, every finger and toe as well as under-eye bags are accounted for with what I imagine to be the world’s smallest paintbrush. Some of the figures are clothed in vintage power-suits while others are half-naked or completely nude. Makoveychuk showcases his ability to draw both the human figure and structured forms in various and complex positions. If the viewer starts at the top of the rock and follows the downward path of figures, this painting can almost serve as a comprehensive study of falling.
Heaven’s Gate with crowd along bottom edge (above) is another example of the artist’s ability to pack realistic drama into an infinite space. This 54 inch painting is about 90% vacant while the remaining 10% is inundated with 19 different figures. As if the horrified facial expressions and frantically waving arms weren’t sufficient indicators of chaos, the cramming and overlapping of the forms exclusively to the lower portion of the painting adds to its claustrophobic nature. Again the detail that Makoveychuk is able to manipulate within each face is incredible. The modulation of individual facial contortions heightens the stark comparison of the hovering emptiness.
Makoveychuk’s exhibit definitely stretched my mind in both a visual sense as well as a psychological sense. It retained a mysterious quality with its vague settings while it also preserved a very real quality with its lifelike figures. I felt restricted in the congestion of the crowds while feeling the lightness of open backgrounds. Most impressive was that each painting had the same quality of imminence, as if the artist had hit the pause button and tempted the viewer to press play.
Heaven’s Gate — Yuri Makoveychuk
to Nov. 28, 2008
Cerulean Arts 1355 Ridge Avenue
–Lisa Hanson is a senior fine arts major at St. Joe’s University. She last wrote for artblog about R. Crumb’s show at the ICA.