Illuminated Architecture, The work of Elena Borstein

My fascination with architecture began during my college days, when I spent many hours photographing Victorian houses in Saratoga Springs, New York. Later in my post-graduate years at the University of Pennsylvania, it was architect, Louis Kahn who gave me further inspiration with his poetic musings on architecture. These experiences combined with my love of travel led me to see myself as an “architectural flaneuse” whose subject matter would be found in the vernacular dwellings of the Mediterranean, the crumbling facades of Cuba, and later the sculptural forms of wind-filled sails.

In a catalogue for a 2011 retrospective, critic Janet Koplos says, “If one were to attempt an interpretation of this body of work, enclosure and protection are surely among the possible motives, Borstein stands in these places; she experiences them as geometry and color, the useful elements of art. But here interest in light as well as color, in space as well as plane gives each setting breathing room. I’m reminded of Tadao Ando’s early architecture, with its empty concrete courtyards in which sun, rain and wind mark the presence of nature. Borstein captures the same clarity and heightening of the senses in her paintings.”

In 2007 on an extended trip to Japan, I had the opportunity to experience Ando’s architecture firsthand on the island of Naoshima where I both lived and worked in buildings he designed. In the paintings I made after this trip I presented iconic spaces in two dimensions showing them independent of their function. They became visual metaphors for the actual spaces. I was not a recorder of the world, yet I still dealt with the intrinsic elements of architecture, space, form, light and color.

More recent paintings were sourced from appropriated images, architectural models, renderings and images captured from video. In my first exhibit of these works in 2013, entitled “Built/ Unbuilt”, I moved from the experiential to the more abstract and conceptual issues of architecture, imagining several of Kahn’s ideas which were never built. I also offered composites of other buildings such as “Frank Gehry Mashup” and “Two Museums” which included views of more than one building or viewpoint.

In the paintings completed this year I have moved further still from the reality of the actual buildings by subjecting their images to more layers of manipulation on the computer, giving greater freedom to my own imagination and employing the serendipity of digital color. In these ways I continue to extend my longstanding practice of revealing the space between reality and abstraction and with these recent works feel still closer to that much sought after ground.