Gideon Rubin's paintings are replete with dichotomy. Their subject matter, taken from found early twentieth-century photos, is unapologetically nostalgic - yet the work is not saccharine.
Austere and elemental, the palate is subdued, subtle, seemingly faded. Forms are reduced to a few sure brushstrokes that suggest rather than describe a figure or landscape. Identifying facial features are lost, rendered in a swirl or smudge of paint. Areas of the picture have had the paint scraped away or have never had pigment applied to the raw, natural-colored linen. Yet for paintings of such compositional economy, they luxuriate in the sensuality of oil paint. Rubin's brushwork - energetic, thick and three-dimensional - is frankly joyful.
Figures of children, parents, a glimpse of landscape - with their lovingly rendered subjects, these paintings feel intimate. Viewing them might be a voyeuristic experience, but instead there's a sense of familiarity. It's like the memory of something that's at the point of fading completely, or remembering a history that you were told about but never actually experienced first hand. Though these are another family's pictures, they might have been your own. The insignificant moments represented are the stuff of collective memory - the minutiae that make up the meaningful part of our lives.
About Gideon Rubin
Gideon Rubin is a painter who has confessed that he has trouble painting from life; instead he has become known for basing his pieces on anonymous photographs in vintage photo albums, which he gathers from around the world. Rubin gravitates towards these sources because he “paint[s] from objects that have life and layers—things that tell a story.” His paintings borrow the figures, subjects, and compositions from these sources, but altered in ways that have become characteristic of Rubin’s style. Most noticeably, none of the figures have faces painted in; Rubin also uses a palette that relies more on tone than color, and applies paint thickly in broad strokes. It is not uncommon for him to build up certain areas of a painting while leaving other parts of the canvas entirely untouched.
Israeli-British, b. 1973, Tel Aviv, Israel, based in London, United Kingdom