The pieces in Portal of Enigma reflect the mysteries of life, each work possessing a number of layers which the discerning viewer can identify and analyze. Yet these creations also possess an emotive power, encouraging us to immerse ourselves in the aspects of the world which are often less understood and enjoy rather than fear the unknown.
Petra Aichholz’s intriguing mixed media paintings flirt with minimalism, abstraction, and sign interpretation to achieve a new way of reading the world. Aichholz works primarily with two subjects: constrained abstraction, and the simple geographic map, which people know the world over. Her abstract paintings are streamlined down to basics, with only minimal forms, entirely flattened planes, and one or two colors. Within a few outlines Aichholz creates patterns with freely-flowing lines and wild, clashing brushstrokes that both create visual depth and call attention to the painting’s physical dimensionality. Her maps are still more contradictory and fascinating. She takes the universally familiar form of the seven continents and recreates it in different materials, such as acrylic and sand, and colors like garish pink or blaring yellow, all the while infusing it with her characteristic dynamic brushstrokes. With each iteration, Aichholz folds in new associations and implications, and asks us if what we see is really the whole story.
Aichholz was born in Stuttgart, Germany and currently works as a full time artist. Among the materials she works with are gold, sand and copper.
Lawrence R. Armstrong
The paintings and sculptures of artist Lawrence R. Armstrong represent an ongoing exploration of the concept of layers: both how they interact and intersect with one another, and also the meanings contained within. For Armstrong, layers are to be found anywhere: in space and time, in intellect, in emotion, and in the synthesis and interpretation of form. Whether two- or three-dimensional in scope, the artwork that results is almost multisensory in nature, eliciting from the viewer a multifaceted experience and opening our eyes to the wondrous complexity that ultimately composes our world. A piece of artwork is often precipitated by flashes of light and inspiration derived from anything from written text to music to a particular event. Regardless of its origins, through his art Armstrong explores the natural tension inherent in opposing forces, whether it’s the natural world versus built environments, or other paradigms such as chaos/order, free form/precision, random/planned action, and solid/void.
Lawrence R. Armstrong currently lives and works in Irvine, California, where he is also an accomplished architect, designer, and CEO of a dynamic international architecture firm.
The colorful, playful work of American sculptor Danny Campbell seeks to mimic nature through the use of recycled and repurposed objects that he gathers from roadways and byways as part of his artistic process. His work is composed of pieces and shreds of rubber tires that have been arranged into expressive compositions and then covered with bright hues, a process that transforms them into hybrid forms. Much of his work focuses on the proliferation of space and form, how this comes to intersect with elements such as space and color, and the dramatic sense of movement that in the end seems to underscore each work. After nearly being killed on the highway from a flying tire tread, Campbell now dedicates a portion of his time to removing these dangerous treads from roadways in an effort to save people’s lives. He in turn repurposes those objects as the central focus of his sculptures.
Danny Campbell currently lives and works in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he is currently an art professor at the University of Arkansas.
Emotional, intimate, and open-ended, Mona Hoel’s paintings are a dreamlike portrayal of our inner lives. Hoel works primarily in oil, sometimes mixed with acrylic, ink, or charcoal, and often applied experimentally in the search for new textures. She explores new surfaces, including wood and paper. This is all in service of Hoel’s particular, beautifully wrought atmosphere: gauzy washes, delicate flowing colors, and swaths of light. The palette is bright but can run to translucency, and frequently appears to be infused with sunlight. Her works show mysterious figures caught in half-finished landscapes. Hoel often seems to be painting memories or ideas. In each work, she celebrates the light touch of coherence and encompassing ambiguity inherent in every story – offering the viewer a fruitful journey into an infinitely unfolding narrative.
Hoel was born in Tromsø, Norway and today lives in Helsinki, Finland. She practiced law for several years before leaving the profession to attend art school.
“My work is a spontaneous adventure with textures and color,” says the artist Methec, speaking of her images. “The goal is movement, depth and raw energy.” These vibrant oil on canvas paintings combine those aspects into a body of work with a varied palette, distinctive style and dynamic sense of composition. Drips and swirls of colors that have a psychedelic intensity move across the surfaces of her paintings, creating powerful visual rhythms. And while her work is abstract, Methec’s ability to create the effects of light, air and water give her works an immediate physicality. “I’ve never accepted ordinary surroundings as the only view to perceive,” she says, and the world her paintings depict is far from ordinary.
A self-taught artist, Methec says her tools of choice include rags, pieces of paper and “Earth’s own gravity.” Such unconventional tools result in paintings that have the rough-hewn edges of outsider art, but also possess a sharply defined clarity and focus. Overall, they have what the artist herself calls “a satisfying balance of beauty, emotion, energy and depth.”
Reija Karjalainen’s highly stylized paintings manage to be both whimsical and mysterious. The artist depicts figures in a variety of groupings and activities almost as a cartoonist would, with bold lines, simple shapes, and the use of a “type” rather than individualized portraits. She uses charcoal in combination with oil paint to underscore her graphic lines. An airy palette and leisurely setting come together to make the overall atmosphere feel light. But though Karjalainen’s scenes are often pleasant ones of socializing and relaxing, the works are absorbing in their visual complexity. The flat planes and expressive patterns are reminiscent of Matisse, and Karjalainen’s distinctive portrait method — a three-quarter profile, one eye omitted, the mouth shunted to the edge of the face — recalls both Cubism and ancient Egyptian carvings. Since these characters have no defining features of their own, their true stories are obscured. The viewer is left to wonder, underneath the humor, exactly what is happening.
Karjalainen was born in Finland and grew up in Sweden, where she continues to live and work today.
“Zen philosophy lives in me,” says Rieko Karrer, “and influences my artwork.” The clear focus of Zen makes itself vividly apparent in her work, which is based in the arts of calligraphy and Japanese ink painting, but moves those styles forward into a texturally varied and subtly provocative realm. Working in ink, paint and other media, the artist employs her sharp eye for color and composition to create works that have a vibrant sense of space and movement while preserving a contemplative feeling.
Rieko Karrer says that she strives to communicate a “natural luminosity,” and because of that the color white is fundamental to her images. However, her ability to manipulate a range of greys and earth tones, while punctuating those tones with short, exactly placed bursts of reds and yellows, gives a dynamic flow to each painting, adding drama and depth to their peaceful tone. As a result, her paintings exude what she calls a “quiet energy,” one that places the viewer in a meditative state while also creating a constant sense of active visual interest.
For Nadine Levin, photography is a way of letting nature speak for itself. She does not distort or manipulate any of her images, relying instead on light, filters and lenses to transform nature into a world that expresses her personal vision. “I try to capture simple images from everyday life, that we so often overlook,” she says, “and present them as art.” While Levin’s images, which she prints on canvas, do have an air of simplicity, her elegant sense of composition, as well as her eye for texture and detail, give them a subtlety and complexity that reward multiple viewings.
Levin is particularly good at working in infrared photography, using that part of the light spectrum to heighten shapes, forms and contrasts. The delicacy of leaves and the surfaces of tree bark or stone walls are brought vividly alive for the viewer while also exhibiting a formal precision and clarity that lift them out of their immediate surroundings. That combination of traditional photography with what Levin calls her “more contemporary and thought-provoking approach” makes her work unique.
The surrealistic works of American artist Jim Otis celebrate the creative process, both experimenting with and exploring familiar concepts and images in new and different ways. Places he has been, people he has known, experiences he has undergone are all translated through art and infused with new layers of meaning. Otis’s compositions are edgy and unexpected, and he uses color effectively to draw the viewer’s eye into his world. Here, they are invited to become immersed in the sensual elements of the painting, which help the viewer to feel what the artist has seen and captured. Above all, Otis hopes that his paintings evoke a new perception and perspective in the viewer, to aid them in looking beyond the familiar to see “what is always there.” As Otis explains: “My work is not merely to decorate a wall; rather to absorb the viewer in visual phenomena, and [the ability to] view with a gaze of vernal openness, to look with new eyes.”
Jim Otis currently lives and works in Aptos, California, on Monterey Bay.
Nancy St-Onge’s abstract paintings are the result of what she calls a “unique recipe,” one that combines a grounded sense of structure with a wide variety of textures, a distinctive feeling for movement and space, and a striking use of color. In her works, geometrical precision faces off against freely executed drips, thickly applied areas of pigment and a range of materials that includes minerals, plants and glass. As adept at depicting a delicate pattern of leaves as she is at orchestrating broad strokes of color, the artist creates a world in which those oppositions harmonize beautifully with each other.
The color combinations in St-Onge’s paintings are also a source of their appeal. Balancing black-and-white grids and subtly modulated backgrounds with bright, intense shades, she uses her colors to underline the depth and physicality of her images. “The colors which inhabit my canvases,” she says, “reflect an interior dynamism which I try to incorporate into all of my works.” That interior dynamism gives the artist’s work a unique energy that powerfully draws the viewer in.