|Yoga studio goes "Biomorphic" in Dover
By SHAWN MACOMBER
Showcase Art Reviewer
|La Femme et les Filles by Kittery, Maine artist Russell Aharonian.
With a title like The Biomorphic Abstract Expressionism of Russell Aharonian, I had no idea what to expect walking into the Dover Yoga Studio. One of the first pieces posted as you walk along the spacious and naturally bright studio is a painting of two strange forms like an amoeba and a transmutated hedgehog entitled, "Henry and June." While this piece is a bit more sparse than the rest of the exhibit in thickness and color, the possible Henry Miller allusion in its title speaks volumes about the work of Kittery, Maine resident Aharonian. Looking at these paintings sometimes seemed like a visual tour of the novel "Tropic of Cancer," or "Nexus." I mean this strictly in the sense of spirit, not content. (The content of "Tropic of Cancer" caused it to be banned through most of the '30s.) Miller was interested in letting the flow of words take control, creating a whole that often combined 1,000 ideas and scenes piled on top of one another building a theme out of the gulf.
Miller said, "We raise everything to apotheosis," and that could be said about Aharonian, too. As far as my encounters with art, he seems willing to go further and challenge perception more than most. The result is an honestly unique and intriguing body of work that will probably produce a new reaction with every subsequent viewing.
"I like people to find their own things in the work," Aharonian said. "It may be completely different from my view, but that's really the point: inviting people in."
Aharonian stretches the boundaries to the limits and these sketches often come off as a signal from another dimension, which Aharonian prefers to explain as a "universal consciousness."
Among the list of surrealist and expressionist painters Aharonian reels off as influences he includes ancient primitive paintings of, for example, the Chinese, and even cave painters. The current exhibit is a testament to those influences. Many of the paintings have the feel of cave paintings from a forgotten past or a unforeseeable future. This can be seen most clearly in "Alle- Mythical," a large ornate work which contains characters that if they exist in this world, are stretched and squished into new forms. These characters are positioned as if to tell a story, but I won't bother to tell you my interpretation, because no two perceptions are likely to cross paths. In truth, though, isn't that what makes seeing an exhibit fun?
It was this combination of fun and intrigue that made Aharonian a perfect candidate for the studio art series according to Dover Yoga Studio Co-Director Carrie Tyler.
"I've been a fan for a couple years," Tyler said. "Russell's work is bright, and has its own energy about it. Art and yoga are not the same, but the energy that fuels an artist to create is the same that fuels yoga, a kind of life force. It's great to have people practice yoga and then get a chance to walk around and look at energetic work."
Aharonian's exhibit is the Dover Yoga Studio's second. The studio has been open for about a year, first sharing space with a martial arts studio, and then in January moving into the impressively large studio it currently has in the Franklin Plaza across from Janeto's in downtown Dover.
There is also diversity within these works. "Lay Lady Lay," was painted after the release of the Bob Dylan song, and effectively carries the serenity of the idea in broad swaths of peaceful colors. The same kind of color scheme and flowing shapes make "Garden Party" an example of a good artist capturing the essence of a subject without necessarily capturing all the lines and details.
My favorites of this exhibit were the odder pieces that seemed to be one step to the left of sanity. In "The Spectators" we see long tentacled creatures surrounded by what looks like portraits of other creature's families. Aharonian later explained that this painting was inspired by his mother hanging up laundry, but somewhere between the vision and the Dover Yoga Studio wall, the idea went through a significant transformation. "Room With and In" has a similar scene with a long wood paneled passageway at the end of which are loads of shifting shapes and bizarre forms. One can't help but think these may be the images in Aharonian's head trying to make their way out to the paper. Aharonian contends that it follows a logical progression.
"This is like the branch of a tree," Aharonian says, motioning to his work. "You study other artists whose work you admire, and grow out of that. Hopefully you grow beyond and keep going. The continuity in my work is the imagery, and the language IÕve developed through study and practice."
Often, Aharonian says, like the jazz he listens to sometimes when he paints, he improvises on the canvas, creating whatever comes to mind. Music of all kinds is a big influence and a constant companion to Aharonian when he works.
When viewing the exhibit, Aharonian's explanation rings true. The work represents a long span of time and several different topics and forms, yet it is still connected in a real way. After seeing this exhibit you could definitely pick Aharonian's work out of a line-up. This exhibit is an invitation to that skewed reality, and one I recommend you take up.
The Biomorphic Abstract Expressionism of Russell Aharonian runs through June 27 at the Dover Yoga Studio 10 Franklin Plaza, Dover. Call 740-9700 for details or visit www.doveryoga.com. Preview Russell's work at www.russaha-art.com.
Shawn Macomber is a local writer and reviewer whose love affair with the arts has kept him broke, but happy, for most of his life. His reviews should give you all an excuse should you need one to go look at cool things. Shawn can be reached via email at email@example.com.