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The aesthetic sensibility of Roland Levin is best
described as the hybridization of the art of fashion and the world of fine art.
His most eloquent means of expression is photography, as it is a heritage and simultaneously homage to his many forms of inspiration: poetry, literature, performing arts, moving image, and the visual arts. Levin’s creative voice is therefore best characterized by its diversity of breath and depth, both of which are inherently linked to his belief and method of existence, that “art is life and life is art”.
Fashion and Art
For Levin, the interrelationship between art and fashion is the product of history, which means that their interaction in his oeuvre is not coincidental, in fact, inevitably intentional. Deriving from the aesthetic sensibility of a fashion photographer, Levin considers the tailorship of 19th century fashion as an equally respectable and creative profession as the fine arts of the times. He therefore aligns the literal and metaphorical function of the salon with that of the artist’s studio. At the turn of the 20th century, prominent designers such as Coco Chanel established fashion houses for the elite, much like an artist’s reputation was subject to the practice of a particular gallery owner (for example, Pablo Picasso and his art dealer/gallery owner Guillome Vuillard). After World War Two, however, marketing penetrated the creative sphere, making previously exclusive fashion lines accessible to millions (the Chanel logo is no longer a symbol of refined affluence), much like Dali prints and Warhol lithographs have penetrated the sphere of contemporary interior design. In short, Levin understands that the selling of the “idea” is based on the persona of the artist or the portfolio of the brand, which consequently make marketing an essential constituent of success in this day and age. In this sense, Levin is right in foreseeing the fate of “high art” to follow the path of the “gentrification” of fashion”. It is this relationship and the many ironies that prescribe these worlds that prescribe the core of Levin’s creative vocabulary.
Process, not Product
For Levin, it is the state of creation not the final product that bares most significance. His painting “The Death of Space (1979)”, argues that once the creative force is fully exhausted, space and its infinite possibilities become extinct. It is in the same spirit that once the camera shutter expires, an image imposes itself on the negative. In the case of the title-bearing photograph in Levin’s forthcoming exhibition, “Circus”, Levin indisputably knew in the moment of conception that this was the image. Savoring every detail of the composition for the perfect moment, he rendered the image by sacrificing all but one possibility of the given space and time. It is such moments that comprise the exhibition “Circus”: images without initial intentions, but with inherent “second lives” based on Levin’s unique method of composition. Whilst this suggests that the potential viewer does not play a significant role in the creative process, any reaction (supportive or dismissive, as long as it is not indifferent) remains fundamental to the reception and representation of his art.
Circus of Life
In the exhibition “Circus”, Levin aligns two seemingly unrelated images to create a new composition (the seamless visual effect is achieved by digital printing). The pairings are based on their inherent symbolism in reflecting the ironies of life that personify the beauty and richness of human existence. With respect yet in opposition to the 19th century Russian satirist, Kuzma Prudkov’s belief that “one cannot embrace the unembraceable”, Levin’s diptychs attempt to define the indefinable. They encourage new ways of seeing the sublime in a broader and deeper sense, and argue for the immortality of the artwork after its completion in the mind of the viewer. For example, the photograph “Eternity” may be considered a “stolen image” from the protagonists (sculptors working in a private studio in Jaipur) as well as a documentation of the photographer’s reality in that given moment. On a deeper level, however, it is a commentary about man’s obsession with immortality, and his search for it through physical and metaphysical means. In this sense, the photographer is an “observer of life” and his subject matter is the very essence of life. Levin’s self-defined style of “abstract photography” therefore suggests that meaning rests beyond the surface quality of the image, and therefore a successful image should be rendered as an ‘abstract reality’.
The group of Levin photographs dedicated to the beauty and its relation to everyday life is a serene contemplation.
Romanticized women forms juxtaposed against everyday places that are common but yet surreal once inhabited by the beautiful creatures with its own almost alien aesthetics. It is the perception of beauty and its influence on physical and mental arousal of the viewer that interest artist the most. Levin photographs without too much explicitness and provocation inspire mental attitudes and explore sublime humanity of the form-splendid and its relation to the mores of the society. Once more for Levin beauty-love-life-death is the relationship opened for questioning and presented to the viewer to form his own opinion and question norms.