In Reverie of Form brings together a group of artists who relish in the details and personality of the figure – whether human's or nature's. Although the pieces featured in this exhibition vary in style, medium, and palette, each piece confronts the viewer with a moment of intimacy that leaves them feeling lost in a daydream. Once the dream is over, reality becomes ever more vibrant and clear.
The paintings of Canadian artist Annamaria Cignola are bold, colorful and emotive. Citing her family, Italian heritage, and her travels as sources of inspiration, Cignola excels at striking a balance between the spontaneity of modern art and the concern for form and technique that characterizes classical art. Utilizing traditional linseed oil to mix her own colors, Cignola remains true to the methods of the artists she admires, such as Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt. At the same time, Cignola’s process varies from painting to painting: in some, she sketches and then paints directly onto the canvas, and at other times she will paint from photographs. Both methods allow Cignola to explore deeply the emotions of the moment, producing a profoundly sentimental effect in her audience.
Cignola studied fine arts at Concordia University, although she considers herself mostly self-taught. Her subjects vary from landscapes to still lifes to portraiture, though she prefers painting the human figure as it captures feelings of “sensibility, innocence, honesty, and integrity.” She often uses her daughter as her model and muse.
Filipino artist Joe Datuin is taking his work to the global stage with sculptures and mixed media pieces inspired by his childhood in Manila. As an artist, Datuin utilizes simple forms, such as circles and lines that intersect, to reflect what he sees as a culture of tenacity and collaboration inherent among Filipinos. The interweaving of these forms is a personal interpretation of traditional Filipino weaving, which he uses as a template to form symbolic patterns that represent the strength of family in the face of adversity.
A former graphic designer, Datuin favors clean, immaculate lines and seeks to create a purity of form. This is also the reason that he prefers working with stainless steel, which he describes as an “honest” material that tells a story through its form alone, accentuated by its unique luster and clarity. The artist also recently began working with mosaics, inspired by murals he encountered in Italy. Whatever he creates, Datuin hopes his artwork will serve as an emblem of hope and inspiration for people struggling to achieve their dreams.
The flower portraits of Australian painter Michelle Endersby are inspired by a vision the artist experienced upon awakening from a coma following emergency brain surgery. Each image is far more than a figurative representation of a flower – in truth, these works explore the varying personalities and forms of roses throughout each phase of their natural lifecycle. Endersby’s masterful use of light and shadow not only helps define the overall composition but also adds a depth of meaning and an emotive element to the overall effect.
Each of her paintings is created on a round canvas, meant to symbolize wholeness, the cycle of life, and the mystery of eternity. However, Endersby’s roses go beyond a representation of love, beauty, and sacred divinity; they serve as an invitation to the viewer to take a moment and contemplate the sacred. As Endersby explains, “I hope my paintings will inspire an awakening in others, as I feel I have been entrusted with a mission to share a vision of beauty, hope, and inspiration with the world.”
For painter David George, the canvas is a platform for exploring themes of freedom and social injustice. George feels a deep connection for the struggling and less fortunate among us, and his paintings demonstrate this empathy. George expertly conveys his subjects’ expressive body language: hands on shoulders suggest comforting reassurance, and outstretched palms reach into the air for answers. The individual titles of his paintings point to their narratives, while a combination of light, color, and textural contrast also allow George to set the mood for each piece.
David George aims to express both conscious and unconscious emotions, while exploring the psychological relationship between man and nature. In many of his paintings, George’s subjects foreground lush, compelling backdrops of green and blue pastels. Despite their struggles, these subjects are never far from nature and the freedom that lies beyond society’s confines.
David George was born in Newark, New Jersey. He graduated from the Newark School of Fine Arts and continued studying painting under Austrian artist Samuel Brecher. His artwork is on permanent display at Ramapo College.
Irina L. Johnson
Irina L. Johnson paints with one eye toward the 19th-century landscape masters and another toward human whimsy. Johnson’s acrylic paintings are filled with majestic skies, fleeting clouds, and robust wildlife. The formal skill of Johnson’s brushstrokes manages to remain lighthearted in a hallowed art tradition. Her subjects include rich landscapes, dignified farm animals, and regal birds. Johnson's animal subjects are occasionally dressed in high fashion, such as in the pieces Helen in Escada and Boris in Gucci. Despite their exquisite garb, they are not posed with any awareness of the wealth on their backs.
Johnson’s fine renderings of the variations in color and texture of her subjects are paired with an elegant appreciation for natural landscapes. Viewers are inclined to fall in love with the animals, aptly given very human and personal names, as well as the exquisite textiles and serene views. Her unique works confront viewers with their preconceptions of fashion, luxury, and animal life.
Irina L. Johnson was born in Moscow and currently lives in Washington. She graduated from UC Davis with a BS in Environmental Design with a focus on Interior Design.
Serbian sculptor Branko Miskovic conveys emotional stories through his artwork. His pieces reflect the traps that people fall into in pursuit of love and money. They speak to the breaking apart of one’s illusions when the snares of self-deception reveal themselves. As a result of these themes, many of Miskovic’s pieces have a sense of fragility and temporality, even when they are made of sturdy materials like wood and metal. Miskovic draws heavily from his own life and experiences when creating these works. He does not sketch plans or build maquettes beforehand, but rather forms each sculpture on the fly as his instinct in the moment dictates. As intensely personal as each piece is, the elegance and simplicity with which Miskovic executes his work gives his sculptures a sense of universality that speaks directly to his viewers.
A graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade, Miskovic has participated in many group exhibitions in Serbia and abroad. He is greatly influenced by classical Greece and the Italian Renaissance.
Alana O’Hern’s large-scale oil and mixed media paintings bring the electricity of color to careful realism. Working often with a palette knife on canvases several feet high, O’Hern creates incredibly close-up images that are both intimate and confrontational in their nearness. Each sitter is lost in a unique, delicately shaded emotion. However, they all meet the viewer’s gaze head-on, unafraid to share either themselves or the present moment with their audience. O’Hern paints both global icons and her own anonymous acquaintances, without making any visual distinction between the two. Despite the assertive composition, she depicts expression and detail with gentleness and attentiveness. The colors seem especially sensitive to emotional nuance. They dip in and out of exaggeration and fancy to pick out the inner life of the portrait’s subject. The canvases are usually square, suggesting the self-sufficient, stable world that every one of us creates around ourselves.
Alana O’Hern was born in Perth, Australia and today lives in Orlando, Florida. Among her greatest artistic influences are Sebastian Kruger and Lucien Freud, and her own two children.
Spending a quarter of a century away from her native Guatemala taught Amalia Padilla-Gregg a new, reinvigorated appreciation for the extraordinary botanical life of her homeland. Her latest works focus on this vegetation: particularly on mango and coffee plants. The tropical greens, burnt umber oranges, and dusky purple-gold gradients of her oil paints pop out among the subdued pencil drawings that share her canvases. In this very unique method, Padilla-Gregg presents two realities: the often inconspicuous world of the spiritual, and the immediate, palpable world of the physical. The interactions between the two on her canvas show just how interconnected the artist believes spirituality to be with life.
The natural subjects of Padilla-Gregg's speak largely to the deep connection the artist has with her home country. Beyond that, one can see a distinctively Latin American influence in her colors and line work. Padilla-Gregg finds inspiration in not only her Guatemalan surroundings, but also from Spanish and Latin-American writers like Mario Vargas Llosa, Paulo Coelho, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, and Isabel Allende. She takes up after the traditions of Dali, Chagall, Rousseau, Cezanne, and Botero.
Lin Sun's mixed media paintings evoke artistic traditions as well as historic rituals. Sun's process is informed by an education in stage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy. Woven canvas and aluminum often participate as background and texture for Sun’s compositions, and the diverse materials used on Sun's canvases express his attention to folk handicraft. His eye toward the past does not distract Sun’s ability to enliven a still life or cultural relic; instead, the resulting compositions open a view of Chinese culture and actively contemplate modern painting techniques.
With his particular application of mixed media, Sun’s work often embraces a three-dimensional surface. The terrain of the paintings adds subtle, natural shading to Sun’s subjects. Indeed, raised outlines on the canvas place precious materials into new contexts. Aluminum flakes, gold leaf, and silver leaf, along with oil and water based paint, invite the artist’s earth tone palette to join the beautiful scenery of the works’ subjects. This technique conveys the sense of touch through sight. Sun’s strong contrast in form allows his works to behave as tactile spectacles.
Anastasia Voltchok was born into a world of music. Her maternal grandfather, Sergei Kozak, was a famous Ukrainian baritone as well as the director of the Kiev Philharmonic. It was natural, then, that Voltchok went on to study music, first at the Basel Music Academy in Switzerland, then at the University of Maryland where she became a Doctor of Musical Arts. Voltchok often paints while on tour, exhibiting work in galleries as she performs with famous orchestras around Europe and the wider world. For Voltchok, art is an essential means of expression, because it expands her sensorial connection with the audience. Unlike music, Voltchok notes that art can be “seen by the eye or touched.”
Voltchok paints with acrylics, oils, and pastels on canvas. She applies a wide variety of colors and prefers smooth textures. Her subjects are simple but expressive, drawn from her many travels and personal experiences. For Voltchok, it is essential to “express the energy and the emotion of the moment.” It is a goal both noble and consistently met.
Charles Weiss paints with a Pop Art sensibility that tends toward realism or, occasionally, Abstract Expressionism. His work not only evokes nostalgia for decades past, but also speaks to a contemporary audience. Weiss’ brushstrokes tend to be thick, creating texture, and he frequently adorns his pieces with vibrant and energetic flourishes. It is not surprising to learn that Weiss cites Warhol and Pollock as his main influences. In fact, his work is a fusion of the two, an energetic union he terms “industrial/commercial expressionism.”
Pop Art’s refutation of a hierarchy of art and culture has been immensely freeing to Weiss, who says that it has allowed him to explore and push his boundaries. Weiss paints with acrylics, creating richly colored works on wood panels. He continues to push himself and to explore new mediums, which recently led him to incorporate neon into a series of paintings titled Neon on 90. As for his figurative paintings, Weiss is careful to draw a distinction between transforming his subjects and exposing them. “I seek to capture vitality beyond a mere likeness,” he says.