Growing up in the Ukraine, Asya Livshits was inspired by the school of painters known as the Peredvizhiniki (“The Wanderers”). They chronicled life in late 19th century Russia with landscapes and portraits depicting people in ordinary scenes with political undertones. Like them, Livshits uses traditional oil painting techniques, but she achieves far less traditional results. “I like my paintings to look raw and unfinished” she explains. “I am painting one particular moment, but that moment is full of endless beginnings. Time moves way too quickly unless you are at the dentist. And yet, life is long and we get to be many different people along the way. We find ourselves in all kinds of places and situations. Sometimes we are amazed and amused, and sometimes we are cringing with pain, but it all goes away and the next thing comes in. I am not always a joyful person. Sometimes my family and friends relate to me as an Eeyore type character, but sometimes I feel so much joy and hope that I feel a strong need to capture it and share it with other people."
Best known for her figurative oil paintings, Livshits captures moments suspended in time using a delicate combination of light and shadow. The subjects, often people depicted within ordinary scenes, are inspired by time, music, and memory, each marking a singular impression caught before the moment has come to its end. Livshits creates a trace of how she felt about something before it sinks to the bottom of the endless pit of other semi-memories. When she chooses subject matter, Livshits asks herself if it's important enough for her to sustain many hours of working with it. "Is it interesting enough, sexy enough, horrible enough, average enough?" She will be in a very close relationship with the painting and it will become a part of her.
Often inspired by photographs, Livshit's paintings look almost as if they have been submerged in water, illusory and dream-like, as if she is outside looking in with a methodical balance between realism and abstraction. This dance between light and dark creates drama and movement, whether a rainy street at night or acrobats suspended in midair. While painting, she slowly abandons the photo in order to let the developing painting inform her. Once the painting has enough moments that are not in the original photograph, almost accidents that become the event, Livshits paints more carefully around them. Not that these moments have to stay a part of the painting, but it’s important for her to really see them and listen to their messages. A typical theme might focus on the performative — people dancing, lively circuses, and interactions between audience and stage performers with an interest in folk art, as well as pastorals and beach scenes. The hallmark of each composition tends to be the loosely defined brush strokes that suggest both fluidity and movement, and a richness that slides effortlessly between points of light and darkness.
Born in Kharkov Ukraine, Livshits moved to Tbilisi, Georgia with her family in 1981. She first studied painting with Mikhail Dementiev and graduated from Georgian State Polytechnic University, after majoring in Computer Science, in 1984. In 1989 she immigrated to the United States. Before beginning her MFA at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, PA, Livshits studied drawing, painting, and sculpture at the University of Pennsylvania, landscape painting with Alex Kanevsky at the Manayank Art Center, and painting and ceramics with Liudmila Makarova. She received her MFA in 2003. Over the years, Livshits also studied with well-known artists and instructors, including Frank Hyder, Christine Blair, Murray Dessner, Iving Petlin, Sidney Goodman, Dan Miller, Michael Moore, and Bruce Samuelson. She attended the Artists Residency Palazzo Rinaldi Via Rinaldi N. 5 85035 Noèpoli (PZ) Italy in 2009. She also illustrated “Square Black Bear”, a children’s book, by Marc Kallman, and “Всего не расскажешь”, Yiddish songs and poems translated to Russian, by Psoy Korolenko and Vicky Feldman. She exhibits her paintings regionally and nationally.
Asya's artwork is in our exhibit, The World at Our Feet, from November 16th, 2022 through February 10th, 2022.