Sonja Rychkova

Blessed 2, 2023
Oil on canvas
380 x 280 cm

Views, 2023
Oil on canvas
260 x 280 cm

Courtesy the artist

Sonja Rychkova portrays people from her surroundings, friends, also youngsters from the neighbourhood where she grew up. Her gaze is not that of a stranger, it is intimate and familiar. Since she began working as an artist, she has placed her friends at the heart of her chosen motifs. She describes them as central to what captivates her, what drives her artistic zeal, what she obsessively and repeatedly endeavours to capture in her motifs. Young people in search of their identity and belonging. Clothes, accessories, poses, gestures are at once self-presentation and provocation.

The artist draws the picture of her closest companions and her time, creating monumental paintings in which the bodies of these young people seem to burst out of the pictorial space. She makes her human studies based on video recordings. She looks and searches for the essential pose, from which she makes sketches as a basis for the composition. She aims to depict the intimacy of closeness and yet stage each person as they would like to be seen. The subjects always recognise themselves in the pictures, they know that they are meant. Rychkova searches for the single, unique gesture that characterises the portrayed individual and at the same time turns him or her into an icon. Bigger than life and as protagonists, these bodies dominate the space, that of the canvas first and through that the institutional exhibition space too.

Sonja Rychkova masters her material. On raw cotton fabric, primed with rabbit skin glue, she applies a first, transparent layer of oil, the broad, rapidly applied brushstrokes of which remain clearly visible. The rusty brown colour is the central element she employs to put all her figures on the canvas. Actually intended as a base coat, in classical painting as a primer for further layers of paint, this colour Rychkova uses as a stylistic device, a primary feature of her painting. She thins the oil paint with turpentine in order to skilfully create transparency and pastosity, which in turn lends her figures greater plasticity and three-dimensionality.

In her new works developed for the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Sonja Rychkova works for the first time with compositional references from classical painting. She is fascinated by the figures of the Mannerist period: elongated and frozen in movement, their bodies strikingly slender and exposed. On both picture surfaces, the artist divides the figures according to a classical composition.

Two monumental paintings have been created for the exhibition at the Frankfurter Kunstverein. The painter has conceived of the two pictures as a site-specific ensemble. The lower picture shows two figures lying on the floor and leaing against each other. Their postures ad gaze are turned away from the viewers, so we look at their backs. In the upper picture two figures stand out monumentally on the canvas. They hold each other by the shoulders and spread their arms. The gesture remains open and suspended, like the figures themselves. What is omitted in most of Sonja Rychkova’s paintings is the depiction of what represented the central vanishing point in classical portrait painting: the eyes and the gaze of a recognisable face. In these new works, too, the faces remain averted, or dimly hidden in shadow. After all, individual portraiture is not her theme. In her works, the painter looks for poses, for attitudes that embody a mood and programmatically stand for a circle of friends’ attitude to life. Belonging, cohesion and unconditional friendship as an anchor in a time when many people feel excluded.

Sonja Rychkova (*1998 in Darmstadt, DE) studies painting at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach with Prof. Heiner Blum and Mike Bouchet since 2020. In 2022 she received a scholarship from the Frankfurter Künstlerhilfe and in 2021 she won the Rundgang Prize of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach. In 2022, her first solo exhibition took place in the Bürohaus an der Alten Oper in Frankfurt am Main (DE).