APRIL 28 to MAY 26, 2012
Teodora Art Gallery is pleased to showcase an exhibition of landscapes by gallery artist Ali Basiedji. A fascinating collection of oil paintings created in plein air depicting the fields of Northern Ontario will be displayed at the gallery until May 26. The artist presents large scale vistas of plowed fields as well as spontaneous oil sketches of details of nature. Small paintings will be displayed in a friendly Salon des Artistes type setting.
You are cordially invited to meet the artist and participate at the following events:
Opening reception - Saturday April 28 from 4 to 7 pm
Exhibition and opening pictures
Art Talk and Coffee - Thursday May 17, 6 to 9 pm
Exhibition and Catalog Essay:
As Ali Basiedji’s exhibition title indicates, "Pulsating and Feral: Plowed Fields" comprises expressionistic oil paintings of fields, which are paradoxically cultivated yet untamed, potentially bountiful yet empty.
Come springtime Ali Basiedji eagerly anticipates painting because he only works en plein air. First-hand observation is paramount; nothing is reworked or copied in the studio, meaning he will return for as many as four to five daylong sessions. His paintings bespeak the immediacy of experiencing subjects he is passionate about, and they assert that painting, as Jackson Pollock demonstrated, should reflect the actions of the moment. Similarly, Basiedji likens painting to “thinking aloud, with the process continuing until I hit something.”
Driving around in the Ontario countryside to locate a painting site, Basiedji stops when he witnesses “the right feel, energy and mystery.” Interestingly, his portraits, which aren’t included in this exhibition, involve a comparable quest for subject: he chooses his sitters, none who are professional models, by confidently approaching strangers he wishes to pose for him.
Portraits or landscapes, Basiedji paints with a consistent muscular physicality, either solely with a palette knife or with brush and knife combined. Canvas would succumb to the palette knife’s slashes. Accordingly, he paints on board covered with nine sanded layers of gesso and other primers, exposed at points in his paintings, thus adding a certain visceral grittiness and defining his paintings by what he leaves out as well as by what he includes. In fact, he will scratch into the board. At times, he will paint with implements found where he paints landscapes: twigs, leaves, grass, wood, or stones. Though most importantly, he paints with proudly conspicuous, dance-animated brush and knife strokes.
Basiedji’s painting maintains insightful sensitivity to the particular energy a site emanates; in some works, 49-0896 pf. (Cat. 34), for example, a wind-like motion traverses it via the magnetic pull of well-placed strokes. Here and elsewhere, Basiedji paints in skewed perspectives - angular, wonky compositions showing the right amount of action to capture the fields’ “feral” essence. After all, Basiedji stresses that painting to him is about “instability;” that is to say, life is about constant movement, and painting embodies that state of flux.
To dramatically stress expanses of “feral” fields, Basiedji often paints from a worm’s eye view, as in 8-0855 pf. Brown, Pink (Cat. 32), which depicts a sweeping, left-tilted field. Such a view makes the fields appear sublimely vast. Forceful curved and then linear strokes draw viewers to the centre of the treeline in the far background.
Depending on his response to a site, Basiedji may abstract imagery, applying thicker colour and looser strokes, as he does in 53-0900 pf. E.B. (Cat. 6), in which he loosely weaves a field of rapidfire brown, green, and lavender marks into an abstract quilt of a composition that he backs with a just vaguely discernible structure – a house or some other kind of building. Wittily summing up what this abstraction and his more representational paintings hold in common, he remarks, “While I don’t aspire to paint highly realistically, I do want a realistic indication of how it felt to me.”
Some paintings are comparatively pastoral, for instance, 46-0892 pf. rah. (Cat. 21) with a horse proudly staring front and centre as if posing. Yet these calmer works do involve some bold artistic chance taking with colour and texture. Basiedji risks committing the so-called faux pas of clashing purple with green; he succeeds to great effect, both here and elsewhere. Equally risky is his quick switch from the animated paint handling in the foreground and middle ground to quieter patches of lightly clouded sky.
Along with juxtaposing the peaceful with the exuberant, Basiedji exhibits works implying celebration beside those evoking sadness. 46-0892 pf. rah. (Cat.21) is ultimately a joyous work: He renders the leaves and branches of three prominent trees in snappy zig zags of light greens, oranges and purples that float away from their arbor anchor like parade confetti. On the other hand, in 41-0888 Melancholic Fallow (Cat. 2), five dark, bare trees form a stark compositional focal point. They stand guard before a shadowy forest and the pathetic fallacy of a wintry grey Canadian sky.
Ali Basiedji’s definition of his subjects undoubtedly “changes with the day and setting.” However, what remains steady is his passion for them, which is conspicuous in every mark he makes. His “feral” farmer’s fields pulsate – they come alive. Looking at his paintings, one can smell the fresh cut hay and feel the gentle tickle of wild grass on the cheek.
Earl Miller, March 2012