Polina Pak, Warmest wishes

Having lived in Russia, Spain and now England, Polina’s surroundings have been ever-changing. Her paintings, many featuring self-portraits or animals made to resemble her family, divulge the contradicting environments she became accustomed to growing up. Throughout all the yo-yoing from country to country, painting and her fascination with the natural world have been the only calming mainstays in her life – and painting is an unchangeable force she returns to at all hours of the day. 

The desperation Polina felt for her father's recent death has left an inescapable weight over her life and her work. She harnesses her yearning by painting him as a strident tiger like those she saw as a child. Animals are often depicted grappling onto her with a tight protective grip. As with most of her favourite artists, notably or , animals are symbolically painted to represent facets of human psyche. You’ll notice in Nesting a pigeon clutched inside the palm of an unclothed woman, Polina noting the bird’s vulnerability and youthfulness, or in the self-portrait, Dragonfly, the insect hovers in her eye line, denoting protection of a higher being, as its anatomy suggests a crucifix. 

In the spirit of spiralling night scene paintings, for Polina, animals and people roam as one, too, engaging in pockets of drama that dispel from one painting to the next. She often reminisces on an animated film from 1975 titled, ‘Hedgehog in the Fog’ tracing an anthropomorphic hedgehog venturing into a dark underworld while having epiphanies along the way. 

Inspired by painters from the magical realism movement of the 1920s, in which scenes appear with a dream-like suspension, she posits a deftness of detail that is entirely her own, but which chimes with another of Polina’s most revered paintings  by Odilon Redon – a portrait of the artist's wife’s skin conceived in pastel layers of diaphanous paint. Polina's brushstrokes are almost always concealed, their matte appearance akin to the effect of studies on paper. She initially begins by sketching in gauzy brown paint, setting the scene before quick layers on top begin to forge more refined windows of drama. A hazy glow beams from behind, as if every scene is teetering on the fringes of day and night. The exhibition's title, ‘Warmest wishes’ is a nod to this sense of an imminent conclusion, its association most commonly used as a sign off to loved ones. For Polina, her paintings are both a valediction and an inauguration, each painted scene ladened with curiosities and memories which continue to surprise her. 


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Polina Pak, Warmest wishes

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