Elemental Realms looks to discuss the world that we live in through both realist and surrealist points of view. The exhibition features an array of subjects from ghostly spectres, to classic New York City iconography, to more traditional abstract compositions, all of which manage to push the viewer to reconsider what they think and believe of the world around them.
Laura Carina Azcue
A great deal of emotion is infused into the expressionistic oil paintings of Argentine-Canadian Laura Carina Azcue. With a strong emphasis on color and figurative form, Azcue uses both brush and spatula to create stunning vistas and landscapes, meant to remind the viewer of the beauty and wonder of the natural world and also to awaken spiritual feelings and emotions triggered by such wild spaces.
An important element used throughout Azcue’s work is the symbol of water, a powerful reminder of life and the fluid, constant changes that help make up our human experience. It’s this element that helps to bridge natural world images and human emotions in her work. As Azcue explains: “My paintings have a magical quality: they invite you to live your own adventure, to experiment with your own feelings, to be seduced by the shapes, amused by the rhythms, impressed by the colors . . . leaving you to be stunned by the incredible beauty and force of nature.”
Laura Carina Azcue currently lives, paints, and works as a scenographer in Montreal, Canada.
In her experimental abstract expressionist paintings, French artist Véronique Coen combines various styles and modes of expression to create a totally unique art form. Working primarily with acrylics and oils on canvas, Coen masterfully leverages elements such as color, composition, and abstract form to execute stunning forays into the complexity and depth of human emotion. It is this exploration that truly makes Coen’s work so fascinating: visual emotive expressions lead the viewer into familiar worlds of the inner self, where the rawness and intensity of human emotion is always dominant and ever compelling.
Coen draws on anything and everything for her inspiration. Elements from her personal life, culture, and the history of art can be found scattered throughout her paintings. Images of daily life can either compose the subject matter of a painting or just set the mood for the work. As Coen explains, “It’s a form of expression. Everything I learn, what I feel, has to shine through my paintings.”
Véronique Coen currently lives and works in Etang-la-ville, in the suburbs of Paris, France.
Lawrence D. Johnson
Soft, subtle, and open-ended, Lawrence D. Johnson’s oil abstracts call out for contemplation. Johnson covers entire canvases with dabs of paint in gently shifting colors. The marks resolve themselves into one or two large geometric shapes, cut off by extreme close-up framing and meant, in a dreamlike way, to resemble shadows on a wall. The forms are depthless and airy like shadows, but the subject is the least important part of Johnson’s work. This flat field, he says, is “used as a basis for color exploration.” In its repeating, careful brushstrokes, the work is insistently rhythmic. This steadiness is then tempered and made more complex by the artist’s sophisticated experiments in color theory. Johnson lays out tones in gradients and complements, creating pauses and tunnels, build-ups and explosions. The paintings move constantly. Colors collide in one corner and undulate in harmony in another.
Lawrence D. Johnson was born in Dayton, Ohio, where he continues to live today. In addition to creating his own work, he has taught painting and drawing at several universities around the United States.
French artist Galý revels in the tactility and creaminess of oil paint. Interested in communicating the universal symptoms of the human condition in schematic vignettes of sorts, Galý takes bare hands and palette knife to canvas to make the painting come alive. Figuration factors prominently into the works, particularly a lonesome, anonymous male character Galý created to express the pain and struggle one goes through while trying to find one’s place in a hostile world. The artist also creates mixed media works in acrylic, incorporating a mix of Carrara marble powder, white pigments and rabbit skin glue as well as bits of newspaper, fiber, and wood for texture, all coated with natural pigment. Having grown up in the forest, Galý’s mixed media works recall early years working with organic materials such as earth mineral, vegetation and subtle energy.
Galý was born in the French Alps and has been painting since the age of 15. The artist studied law, economics and French literature at university level and worked as a banker before committing to painting full time.
Luis Guerrero turns papier-mâché into a surprisingly versatile medium. From capturing the folds in a coat, to the texture of human skin, to the strands of a woman’s hair, these sculptures bend the medium to the artist’s purposes in a strikingly original way. The variety of textures is combined with an overall sense of flexibility and movement to give each figure a physical presence and immediacy that makes it come alive. Devising what he calls an “evolution of the papier-mâché technique” that lets him work directly with the sculpture, Guerrero transmits that directness into every aspect of his work.
Guerrero says that he aims to construct a visual language from the body positions and facial gestures of his subjects, and his control over his materials gives that language its power. His subjects, whether they bend and twist, or are shown in contemplative poses, exhibit a varied and subtle range of expressions. Feelings or sensations aroused by some action in one situation are what I try to capture in my art," says Guerrero, and his sculptures compellingly transmit that attempt to the viewer.
Alejandra Gutierrez's haunting photography takes the viewer deep into rural Argentina. As an anthropologist and self-described "artist outsider," Gutierrez gives the impression of taking her camera to places where few people have been before. She photographs the countryside's flat, open roads and overgrown fields. Her style is stark and unrelentingly realistic; she is unafraid of washed-out skies or unromantic vistas. Figures are few and far between, though often humanity's presence is visible in a rusted billboard by the side of the road or even a bleached grave marker. If anyone populates the images, it is animals.
The photographs highlight an eeriness in the rural landscape, but also a gentleness and sense of possibility. Gutierrez frames her images to reflect the vastness of space, both in the sky and on the ground. The air is crisp, the sun is raw, and the horizon stretches out ahead.
Gutierrez was born in Argentina and lived in the Netherlands and England before settling in her present home outside of Buenos Aires. She is a respected member of the academic community on agricultural and social development in Latin America.
Irina Kassabova uses pastel and charcoal to create darkly charged studies of musical instruments. Kassabova’s lines, frenetic but minimalist, capture the artist’s assertion that “the human soul is hurt sometimes.” However, the turmoil represented in her work is fleeting and ultimately conquerable. To Kassabova, art is where people go to find “soothing answers” to unanswerable questions. In this sense her drawings serve as icons in a sacred place. The viewers, she hopes, will be able to “touch something sacred with their souls.”
Kassabova’s lines call to mind the paintings of Franz Kline, an influence of hers, but the abstract elements of her own work often cradle tangible objects such as violins, bows, and pianos. These instruments, folded into the greater abstraction of her work, allow further contemplation for Kassabova, to whom music is an essential companion. The act of “recreating” an object offers much time to contemplate, bringing forth a host of thoughts and emotions. Kassabova studies the musical object until she is able to represent it with minimal gestures. This, she believes, is a proper tribute.
The prints, drawings, and paintings of James LaVigne demonstrate technical mastery and a lively, persuasive imagination. The works fascinate with their complexity and sense of nostalgia. At once familiar and demanding, these pieces depict both inner and outer worlds, with clever plays on visual language and use of line.
After suffering a stroke eight years ago, LaVigne has taken his painting and drawing style in a new direction. His work is now much more abstract and his mode of execution much more expressive than it was before, a trend which gives his creations a feeling of energy and relevance. The artist says that his current pieces address the wonders and questions of the universe. When he paints, he loses all sense of time, sometimes feeling as if he has traveled to another century, and drifts in a world of sensation where all objects are in harmony. That same sense of mysticism, timelessness and otherworldliness is evident and beguiling in many of LaVigne’s recent prints and paintings, which successfully combine realism with an evocation of the universal human experience.
Chantal Le Brun
Photographer Chantal Le Brun takes inspiration from her travels, seeking to capture the unsuspecting landscapes as they reveal themselves, as well as shifting cultural identities. Le Brun describes traveling as a positive reaction to the trials and tribulations of life, a way to put things in perspective as well as escape from personal troubles. Subtly, these photographs reflect this: they are full of the meandering lines of a traveler forging new paths, the details of daily life that carry an exotic air for the weary traveler, and the indistinct reflections of what one has left behind.
Trained in numerous classical and modern languages such as Greek, Latin, German and Russian, Le Brun worked as a translator for a time and compares her photographic work to translating languages — a balance between form and interpretation. Le Brun sees photographic interpretation in the capturing of light. To that end, she’s been known to visit a specific spot numerous times during the course of a day in order to discover the perfect illumination for the photograph she wants to create.
Mando, also known as Amanda Wand, imbues her abstract, acrylic paintings with emotion. At the start of each painting, Mando allows herself to be guided by what she’s feeling, creating palettes that reflect her current mood. This empathetic approach allows her to get to the heart of each piece. Once the foundation is laid, Mando returns to her work with a critical eye, considering the negative space and which colors to add. The shapes she employs are derived from nature, from disparate landscapes blended seamlessly together.
Mando’s paintings offer a diverse sensory output ranging in representative themes. A selection of her works are often created as a response to social inequality, and these works feature some of the the most intense colors, hurtling past one another and crashing, acting as surrogates for the ideologies that spawned them. Impressively, Mando is able to depict culture clash without compromising the artistic and aesthetic quality of her work. Her warring colors unify from a distance, stripped of animus and imbued with a beauty that is seen most clearly from another perspective.
For Italian painter Stefania Nesi, the bond between color and the unconscious is the guiding principle behind the creation of artwork. Nesi points to J.W. Goethe’s Theory of Colours as an integral text for her as she explores the psychological impact of color on emotion with her paintings. For Nesi, art is the tool that allows for spiritual contemplation. This philosophy is reflected in her work, as moody combinations of colors in both figurative and abstract forms generate intriguing emotional textures. Hard and soft brushstrokes fill her canvases with rich, primary colors, serving as a backdrop for bright gold figures and flecks, the resulting contrast lending each piece a sense of almost medieval, religious, or monarchical authority. In her own words, she aims to paint, “the invisible mystic that lies inside us.”
Stefania Nesi was born and still resides in Italy. In addition to her career as an exhibiting artist, she is a practicing lawyer in Florence.
Alexine O'Fiel Stevens
Contemporary mixed-media artist Alexine O’Fiel Stevens wields abstraction and figuration to capture unique moments in time. The artist’s bold oil and acrylic paintings are simultaneously bright and pensive, nestling together rich reds and oranges with muted blues and greens. In the spirit of magical realism, the works often feature figurative subjects who interact with an abstract element which either shatters or completes the scene. Telling stories of exploration, adventure and escape, Stevens’ paintings prioritize stillness in a world of perpetual movement.
Experimenting with color, texture, and medium, Stevens finds as much adventure in the creative process as she does in the final product. Her line work shows a commitment to alteration, revision and revisiting – a layered approach that implies frequent returns to the canvas. Stevens is a Texas native, who grew up by the Texas-Louisiana border. The rich combination of culture and nature in the area continues to influence and inspire her artwork.
Native Minnesotan Sandi Pillsbury paints magnificent scenes of nature, focusing on the landmarks and flora around Lake Superior, where she spends much of her time. She describes her style as “realistic impressionism,” meaning that she seeks to capture the feeling and atmosphere of a moment, while representing objects, particularly flowers, in a more realistic way. In addition to a scene or landscape, each painting has a personal, deeper meaning for Pillsbury, which gives her work a tangible emotional resonance. Pillsbury's typical technique is to work en plein air, or occasionally from photographs or memory, priming her canvases with acrylic before filling in each composition's details using oil pigments in complementary colors. This lends Pillsbury's work a unique sense of depth and movement.
A professional artist for over forty years, Pillsbury says her passion is to capture the beauty of creation and give her viewers a sense of the immensity and unfathomable splendor of the natural world, inspiring future generations to respect and preserve the world’s natural places. She hopes her pieces will draw her viewers in and give them a feeling of peace and serenity.
Marianne Quénéhervé’s canvas of choice is often not much larger than a postcard or a standard paperback. Quénéhervé’s mixed media on paper works develop an archive of the artist’s fluency in creative disciplines. The graphic motion of her colors build a puzzle-like composition, baring the signature of a scholar.
The language of music is an influence for the artist and complements the abstract geometry of Quénéhervé’s compositions. Her discerning admiration for music and literature appears with each charcoal smudge, graphite line, and stroke of acrylic paint. Quénéhervé’s method of integrating graphite, ink, and oil pastels harkens to the rich detail of baroque arts. Every marbled orb and snaking dash of color leaps from the dense surface, courting the viewer’s intrigue. Her lush patchwork of colors is minimal but filled with the tension of change. Her amorphous blacks appear as notes from sheet music or pegs on a violin.
The monumental, multimedia pieces of Swedish artist Fredrik Wicklund have the imperturbable aspect of stone while maintaining a sense of modernity, reflecting our contemporary lives. This is what Wicklund is looking to achieve in his work: a sense of presence, time, and continuity with the past, along with an appreciation for visual harmony. Working with acrylics, gouache, ink and pastels, combined with sand and lacquer, Wicklund applies his mediums with a brush, spatula, knife or with his fingers. With these materials he creates layers on the canvas, reflecting the subconscious and invisible forces that move through our lives and shape our understanding of who we are. Balance is also of primary concern to Wicklund — not necessarily balance through geometric symmetry, but a balance of color and fading.
As a well-traveled artist, Wicklund incorporates various art and design elements from the Maldives, Nigeria, Kuwait, Finland, Malta and Romania into his pieces. Above all, he wants his work to reflect his own outlook on living in the flow and to alchemically capture the enigmatic processes that permeate through the universal human experience.
Calling her paintings “inner landscapes,” Elke Wree creates images that use abstract forms to conjure up a world filled with life and energy. In her images, nature often serves as an inspiration, but the artist takes that inspiration and makes something entirely personal from it. Working in oils on canvas as well as ink and pencil on paper, Wree makes patterns that are both bold graphic statements and subtly constructed pieces of an intricately conceived whole.
“The development of my works,” says Wree, “is mainly characterized by intuition and spontaneity.” That spontaneity can be seen in the free-flowing lines that she uses to build her paintings. Intersecting in multi-layered arrangements, those lines come together in densely textured compositions with a three-dimensional sense of space. The artist’s handling of color heightens that three-dimensionality. Reds or yellows will animate a network of black and white lines, or transparent ribbons of color will be layered to form a complex web. The resulting images inexorably pull the viewer in, making the act of looking at her paintings an active and involving experience.