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ARTS: A SURREAL WORLD UNFOLDS AT THE BACKDOOR GALLERY
Upon first glance, the life-size canvas depicts a musician playing the flute for an indistinct audience, but then another image appears: It is the moon, a bird and a joyous man, floating above the orange clouds.
According to the Bulgarian-born American artists Konstantina and Ignat Konstantinov—better known as the KonKons—varied interpretation is just one part of “Allegorikon,” the husband-and-wife team’s latest exhibit at Backdoor Gallery.
The exhibit, on display through Sept. 6, at the gallery off State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County, includes several mixed-media pieces the Tappahannock couple said were inspired by myth, legend and religious texts “placed between two Eternities—the ancient theme and the contemporary expression.”
Speaking as part of the “collective of creative energies” that the KonKons represent, Ignat Konstantinov said the exhibit had taken two years to complete, and that it had originated in a dream during the couple’s last exhibit at Backdoor, “Arbor Vitae.”
The KonKons, who teach a growing number of art classes at St. Margaret’s School in Tappahannock, work in tandem to create each exhibit work and constantly have a revolving door of in-progress pieces in their possession. At times, Konstantina Konstantinov said, individual works will remain stalled until they can come to an agreement about the next step.
Many of the exhibit’s pieces were completed on canvas, but “Allegorikon” also utilizes the artists’ signature material—sailcloth—in works like the gallery’s linchpin piece. “Sonata” depicts triptych-style wooden boards, a painted violin and a painted sail complete with its original rungs and wrinkles.
The three-dimensional nature was designed to provide a variety of ways to view the work.
“When the exhibit opened, we even had a CD player beneath the sailcloth,” Ignat Konstantinov said, “so people would hear music and think it was coming from the art.”
The consistent use of sailcloth in their work, he said, was not only because he and his wife felt the souls of old sailcloths that had seen travel, salt and rust, but also because it provided a crackled effect like elephant skin that they could appreciate.
Konstantina Konstantinov said the couple also worked to incorporate discarded, recycled and natural materials in their works, both as a personal preference and to preserve the environment.
The works in their newest exhibit relate to the couple’s earlier pieces, both in their subjects and techniques, her husband said. Their conscious efforts to straddle the line between fantasy and reality, as well as a penchant for re-imagining religious scenes or figures, have led to the couple’s labeling as religious or abstract artists, one that they find disingenuous.
“We believe in things, and we believe in miracles,” he said, “but that doesn’t make us religious artists.”
She said said their ability to weave these images and materials together was much more like providing balance.
“It is like we are swimming in two rivers, two streams,” she said.
Though the KonKons said there are specific things they hope viewers will see in their works, Ignat Konstantinov said that one of the primary purposes of “Allegorikon” is to provoke or encourage a variety of interpretations by presenting items and ideals out of their original contexts to “resemble dreams rather than real life.”
“You never know what someone will see,” Konstantina Konstantinov said. “Sometimes, it can even surprise us, what others come up with.”
Dawnthea Price: 540/374-5403
Where: Backdoor Gallery, 4500 Plank Road Ste. 1012, Spotsylvania
When: Through Sept. 6; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday
Info: 540/786-4455; backdoorgallery.org