Contemporary none-objective painting by Maxim Grunin

Sunset Memory, 30"X40", oil on canvas, 2010

Even though my work has the unique qualities that belong to my personal method of painting, I am inclined to look at it's similarities with the works of the famous artists. Knowing about the origins of my work helps to understand it's relationship to art History and art practice. My paintings are reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionism that originated in the late 1940s in America. Mark Rothko's color field painting is evident at the base of my work. The soft blending of the tinted colors in my paintings is not a direct borrowing of the images of the master. It has a lot more of my intention to create moody atmospheric appearing surface in the background. I am not concerned with the bold color statement but rather with the viewer's eyes reading the transition of quiet colors. Wilhelm de Kooning's dynamic action painting is visible in my work as well. The unavoidable lively marks on top of the smooth ground in my paintings result from the vigorous strokes of a palette knife and a brush. Jackson Pollock's drip painting emerges when the paint is thrown and splattered across the canvas. I achieve a composite of several modes pioneered by the great masters of the past.


Abstract In Pink, 40"X30", oil on canvas, 2010, Maxim Grunin

Abstract In Pink, 40"X30", oil on canvas, 2010, Maxim Grunin


Making Of An Abstract Painting In Pink by Maxim Grunin. Step 1

I've already primed and stretched the canvas. Now I need to mix a variety of colors for my new abstract pink painting and cut the paint with linseed oil in order to make it blend smoother. I do the blending with a soft wide brush. It allows for exquisite mist like looking paint surface. The mixing and some of the painting  is done with a palette knife. The best way to quickly and efficiently mix paint is to move the knife in a round motion, clockwise or counter clockwise. That's why the batches of paint of my palette look like swirls.

Once I mix all of the grades of pinks that are in fact red and yellow tints, I begin to apply the paint onto my canvas. There is a warm, subtle orange that I used as an under-painting for this piece. The medium, especially oil paint, is translucent. The warmth of the orange layer will add even more subtle depth from underneath the pink layer. The color of the under-painting will also share it's properties with what is painted on top of it. Remember how hard it is to paint white over black, it will not get white until several coats of white are applied. That's because black keeps showing through. This time my work will have an increased overall warm color scheme. I have a goal in mind and it is to create a "pink" painting. I want to have a gradient of lighter and darker pink tones. I begin to apply the background coat onto a primed sanded canvas.


Making Of An Abstract Painting In Pink by Maxim Grunin. Step 2

Color value at the top is lighter. I painted that first because I want the almost white pink to be very clean, without the darker grades showing in it. Painting light areas is always done with a fresh brush otherwise the old left over colors at the top of the bristles would get into the pure one. I block the entire canvas in before starting to blend the tones together. Having the entire painting under control oppose to just working on small bits until they are done is more productive. This way I can compose and build my work as a whole. Stepping back to evaluate my progress is a must.

Background is done and now I put in the marks that introduce movement. The paint strokes are brushed at different angles with a general vertical direction. I want to feel like I am "lifting up" looking at this new painting. It seems a bit boring if the strokes would just move up and down or if they were too controlled by me. I give in to impulses to make odd gestures that produce more spontaneous strokes. Anything that comes out from underneath my brush is still governed by the physicality of the artist's body. The marks are just more or less conscious under different circumstances. In the end, I have to somehow like what I'm making. I keep an open mind and look for these wonderful discoveries about my own work as I create it.


Making Of An Abstract Painting In Pink by Maxim Grunin. Step 3

I use that soft wider brush to gently blur the entire surface of the artwork together. I really like the way the oil paint looks when it is blended this way. Gerhard Richter is my influential source for using this and other methods of moving paint. Looking at the medium blurred  in a soft misty way can be exquisitely enchanting. There is oil like fines to it. The painting I am making is largely intended as an object of decor, something to have around a living space. I want it to be pleasurable and subtle rather then a statement of artistic expression

The next task is to build up some textural, even more expressive marks. This is a job for the palette knife. I am adding new elements and colors to the smooth first layers of paint. Having life long studio experience I know, that I will always for sure understand it when my painting is complete. I am waiting for the balance the conditions of which are only known to me. Take a breather. Put the piece away. Forget all about it. Then the next day see it with the fresh eyes and voila - it either feels done or it shows me exactly what is missing.

Here are some details of the painting. The interaction between the smoothly blended ground and the more coarse raised marks enhances the depth of the painting's surface. The addition of blue-gray removes the monochromatic feel from the piece. Suddenly this painting seems more colorful. I get a precious luster of a pearl from some of the areas in the artwork. I throw some paint to produce the more accidental spills and drips. It would be ideal if this painting was quiet and poetic so that the viewer could relax around it. Being reserved when painting a piece like this is important so I don't overload it with visual information.


None Objective Works by Maxim Grunin

 Untitled #1, 30" X 30", oil on canvas, 2010, Maxim Grunin

My work's transition from representational to none objective began after my graduation from the masters program at The University of Waterloo, Ontario. I came to Canada as an immigrant from Russia where I was classically trained. Art education in the West was quite different from what I have experienced as an art student back home. Russian artists were taught in the rigorous tradition of the old masters such as Rembrandt or Michelangelo. They had to exhibit formal excellence in studio arts approach. The mastery of the realism with it's naturalistic representation were regarded as necessary professional traits for artists.

 Untitled #2, 30" X 30", oil on canvas, 2010, Maxim Grunin

The art education here had significantly less focus on the formal skills in drawing, painting and sculpting. Instead of the unified standard for polished excellence of craftsmanship we had the multitude of narrow specializations. Students were given the freedom to try many subjects in the realm of visual arts without having to perfect their ability as painters or drawers in a classical sense. For example, someone who entered the undergraduate program with a portfolio of drawings and paintings could end up majoring in photography or design four years down the road. Students were graded based on their individual progress. It seemed funny to me when a student who could not complete a simple exercise in realistic drawing would get a high mark for creating a conceptually potent none objective piece in a studio course. This never would have happened back in Russia because any candidate who could not exhibit a formal training and a fine ability in all studio disciplines would not even be permitted to enroll in a university art program.

Untitled #3, 30" X 30", oil on canvas, 2010, Maxim Grunin

I had to adopt to the new system where pupils of very different educational backgrounds gathered within the institutions to discover many new approaches and technologies used in contemporary art. We were compelled to develop our own modes of production in visual art while having no concrete example of excellence. Students would naturally gravitate to the disciplines they liked and had the potential for. My advanced knowledge in studio art foundation lead me to a teaching career. The demand in skilled and qualified art instructors was always there. There were community art programs for children and students of different ages. For nearly eight years I was teaching classes in drawing and painting. Being bilingual and having classical background in art education made me an asset for private art schools in Canadian-Russian community.

My studio practice evolves. I strive to achieve higher merits as a painter and continuously develop new symbolism as well as new modes for creating. Expressive qualities of the medium: surface, paint application, color and contrast become more interesting then naturalistic subject portrayal. In this body of my work the realism disappears all together.


Summer Park, Landscape painting by Maxim Grunin

Summer Park, 24" X 36", acrylic on canvas, 2010 Maxim Grunin sold


A Look Inside My Studio. Maxim Grunin

I work in a large ground floor studio. There are several office light fixtures In addition to the sunlight coming from the windows. My work hours can be quite irregular. I often end up working at night.

Studio floor is covered with carpet that is both the insulation and the protective tarp. There is a computer station in the room.

Table with art supplies is on the right side of the room. Staple gun, paint jars, brushes, palette knives, paper towel, water containers and other necessary tools are conveniently placed here. My paintings are wrapped in protective plastic and stacked. I don’t want the pieces to accidentally  stick together. Acrylic can be sticky.

I prime the raw canvas and stretch it. Buying an entire roll of unprimed canvas can help save money. A small brush and a sponge are useful when I want to get the paint from underneath my finger nails.  


Landscape Painting by Canadian Artist

Park Sunlight, 40"X60" diptych, acrylic on canvas, Maxim Grunin, 2010





Fresh Air At The Park - Landscape Painting In Acrylic

Fresh Air At The Park, 40" X 60" diptych, 2010

Two 40 inches by 30 inches canvases are used in this diptych. The work is painted with acrylics broadly applied by the palette knife. "Fresh Air At The Park" is a scene of a walk trail emerging out of the park on a sunny Summer day.


Painting, Maxim Grunin

Untitled, 16"X20", acrylic on canvas, 2010


Evening Sun, painting in Acrylic, 2010, Maxim Grunin

Evening Sun, 18" X 20", acrylic on canvas, 2010

I find rectangular stretcher sufficient. The rectangle is a common shape that inhabits contemporary space. Like an old fashioned window it is suitable for containing an image. The innovation in my work lies within the subjective properties of the picture. Combination of realistic and abstract approaches contributes to a diverse viewing experience. The painting simultaneously evokes the impression of a landscape, a portrait and an associative abstraction.


The Imagined Thoughts

Live Here Now, 48" X 48", acrylic on canvas, 2010

Drawing, painting, making stuff out of paper,  plasticine, wood and every kind of material found around the house are some of my favorite activities. My parents noticed my strong interest in visual arts. They influenced me to take steps towards professional training. Art became my inseparable companion. As a student I was attracted to the realism in art. 

My work reflects everyday life. Images are nostalgic, romantic and sentimental. They contain vague expressions of real and imaginary persons, scenes, objects, events from the past and the present. Abstraction is used to bind figurative elements within a picture. Broadly applied poured and splattered paint integrates several representational depictions in a painting. Varied medium application and spontaneity that governs it, enable expressive visual qualities within the work. I look for somewhat intuitive arrangement of images within a picture plane. Places, scenes, objects, persons, animals and words appear in my work. Together they form a kind of a new whole.

detail 1 - Live Here Now

detail 2 - Live Here Now

detail 3 - Live Here Now

detail 4 - Live Here Now


Figurative Paintings 2012 set1

    Fear Pain And War, 30"X40", acrylic on canvas, 2012

    World Of War, 30"X40", acrylic on canvas, 2012

    In A System Controlled by violence, 30"X40", acrylic on canvas, 2012

    Without Compassion, 30"X30", acrylic on canvas, 2012

    No Happy Ever Afters, 40"X30", acrylic on canvas, 2012

    Stop Homicidal Force, 40"X30", acrylic on canvas, 2012

    Sadness, acrylic on paper (study), 2012

    War And Suffering, acrylic on paper (head study), 2012

    Back When I Was, 16"X20", oil on canvas, 2009

    Dream Games, 16"X20", oil on canvas, 2009

   When Are We, 16"X20", oil on canvas, 2009

    Untitled, 20"X20", acrylic on canvas, 2009

    Way Back When We Were Happy, 18"X18", oil on canvas, 2009


In Spring, 30" X 40", acrylic on canvas, Maxim Grunin, 2010


I like how acrylics dry in the matter of minutes allowing me to go back into the painting and change things right away. Working on a piece is a building up process. I apply layers of paint marks and these layers often overlap. Some areas of a painting change many times before a piece is finished. The surface of a work can get pretty heavy.

The appearance or the style of my work reflects the medium used to create it and also, it has something to do with my personality. I can start out with a clear idea in mind and even back myself up with a reference. Usually I would have a thumbnail sketch and a photo reference to keep track of what I wanted to appear in my image. No matter how organized I try to be, I still run into my impulsive urge to further experiment with paint as I go along.

In my latest landscape paintings I apply acrylic paint using brushes, palette knives, cut pieces of cardboard and household containers. I mix up batches of color I want to use and dilute them with water. I use a spray bottle and a palette knife to quickly whip up the right viscosity for each paint batch on my palette. This is it, my next goal is to fill an entire canvas not leaving almost any ground showing.

The landscape I am after has a horizon that determines the spatial depth perceived by the viewer. I want anyone who’s looking at my finished piece to feel that there is a sense of distance in the painting. That is why I build that distance into the work right away. I place my paint marks in such way that they appear to recede and become smaller as they move closer to the horizon. The colors I use in the foreground are also much darker and more saturated then the ones further away. Now that I have an illusion of space I can start placing other elements into the picture.

Making a painting is a big job. I need to take breaks and often my work will have to stay on the esil for more then one day before it’s done. At times I would be working on several pieces at once, switching from canvas to canvas without completing any one of them. Working on a body of work together makes me spot good parts of freshly emerging paintings and transfer these better bits onto the pieces that don’t yet seem to work.

I can’t tell if my painting is finished or not the same instant I put down my brushes. Even though I feel I wouldn’t want to add anything to a piece, I can’t be sure it is done. The new painting has to have a chance to grow on me. I put it aside in my studio and take a glance at it every time I turn around or enter the room. This is how I can spot things I don’t like in the piece and rework them. Or I could keep noting how harmonious and together the painting is and learn from it.