Sunday, January 8, 2017


"Abstract art... is a universal language, and dwells in the realm of music with equivalent emotion. Its melody is attuned to the receptive eye as music is to the ear." This quote attributed to the painter Abraham Walkowitz, defines the course taken by the abstract artist Anastasia Pelias. Following her collaboration with the Jazz musician Nicholas Payton, her latest compositions are inspired by her favorite female vocalists. For the exhibition "Sisters", fourteen of her paintings are filling the entire space at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, immersing the visitor into her new body of works.

There is a  feeling of drama when first surrounded by the large square paintings made of black drawings and drippings on a white background. Variations for each work are brought up by touches of vibrant colors. Meandering along the creases of the textured Arches paper, the drips, like a thin veil, give fluidity and lightness to the paintings while thick drawings made with oil sticks provide focal points, subjects and action. Some evoke silhouettes, like in "Laura" or "Nina", but the paintings stay abstract. Each projects a distinct aura generated by emotions triggered by the music. The titles, first name of the singers, allude to the closeness built over time while listening to our preferred musicians. "Sisters" suggests lasting, unbreakable bonds.

While most of the artist's past compositions have been about color, this time, she chooses achromatic black on white and grey, as a common language. In Pelias's Mediterranean culture, black is about death and mourning, but in her latest paintings, black becomes a tool for expression through drips or drawings, suggesting an East Asian influence. Pelias has mastered the technique of drip painting and like Jazz musicians improvise freely after years of practice, she allows herself to be spontaneous in her gesture, letting the emotions flow. A gallery visit is essential to view "Sisters". Size, texture, adventure of the drips, vigor of the lines, nuances of the colors, are missed when looking at the paintings on a screen. While the show can be overwhelming at first, one can choose to discover a singer at a time.
These works are a chapter in the artist's experimentation with automatism and music. They are not portraits, but translate raw emotions through abstract representation.
Where could Anastasia Pelias's voyage be more suitable than in New Orleans?

photographs courtesy of the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery

"Nina", 2016
"Stevie", 2016
"Chaka Khan", 2016

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