One ancient Chinese treatise on landscape painting suggests the following procedure. The surface of an old wall is to be covered with a silk cloth; whereupon the painter is to sit in front of it in the lotus position and to contemplate it until all of the wall’s textural details–crevices, spots, convexities and concavities – form a unified picture. This remembered relief, mentally transferred onto the silk, shall form the basis of a monumental landscape scroll.


Between 1844 and 1846, the father of British photography, William Henry Fox Talbot, published an album entitled The Pencil of Nature. It contains, among other things, the following sentences: “The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone, without any aid whatever from the artist’s pencil. They are the sun-pictures themselves, and not, as some persons have imagined, engravings in imitation.”


Alexandra Paperno’s Walls portrays walls “portraying” things. A wall is a sensitive surface, one upon which the combination of light and time imprints the outline of an object – its photogram, if you will. In depicting walls, Paperno simply transfers that photogram onto the canvas.

This “simply,” however, contains a sum of concordances between the repetition and the form, the reality and the perceived picture, the entire discipline of the primal and minimal artistic gesture. The surface of the painting fills out the same way a wall fills out and ages; in other words, the depiction, while remaining itself, also assumes the qualities of the depicted. These paintings thus take, and embody, a long view – not only in terms of the time it took to produce them, but in their very density, compressed into weightlessness. The long view embodied in the organization of the painterly mass, which coaxes the eye past the surface and backwards in time, until the very notion of time is negated and only the distance is left.

As it recedes, that which is technically a still life becomes something more like a landscape. An object becomes space, matter becomes abstraction. But this transformation stops on the brink – where the balanced opposites reveal new perspectives of contemplation.

Vladimir Levashov

Translated by Carleton Copeland