by: Justine McCullough, June 14 2014
This Thursday evening, artists, friends and enthusiasts gathered at Agora Gallery for the opening reception celebrating our current collective exhibitions Evolving Abstraction, Figurative Realms, and New York City 2014: Synchronicity.Â I had the opportunity to speak with five artists about their artwork and practice, and throughout our conversations, I was particularly interested to learn about their visions and what they hope to impart to viewers.
Navah Porat is a lifelong artist whose most recent work explores the theme of waiting. “We are always waiting,” Navah explained to me. “Whether for a drink, a doctor, a husband, we are always waiting.”Â SheÂ begins by photographing her subject and then reinterpreting it with oil on canvas, sometimes adding textual components and often altering the clothing, the scene, and even the identity of the subject. “What you see is the last step of the process,” she said as we discussed one of her paintings, which consists of two women seated on a bench. A bird rests atop one woman’s head, a whimsical addition to the painting that Navah explained was crucial to the overall composition. Numbers painted on the background of the painting suggest a clockface and time, and thus waiting. Born in Italy, raised in Argentina, and currently based in Israel, Navah recently completed her MA with a thesis focusing on the aesthetics of the female body. This is Navah’s second exhibition with Agora Gallery.
Nathan Plung creates dynamic portraits using the celebrated craft of cross-stitch. The artist’s portraits feature famous and historical figures who are “inspirational to everyone for all different reasons,” such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Albert Einstein. As Nathan’s work demonstrates, “cross-stitch is not just your typical decorative art. It is art, not craft.”Â Composed in tones of monochrome, Nathan’s portraits contain vibrant background colors that deliberately reference the subjects’ expression. The portrait of American musician Frank Zappa, for instance, features a deep red background to suggest the musician’s “intensity and anger.”Â The deep purple background of the portrait of Pablo Picasso references the pensive, sometimes lonely life of an artist. Speaking of another famous figure in art history, it is difficult not to think of Andy Warhol and his iconic portraits of celebrities when viewing Nathan’s work.Â Born with cerebral palsy, Nathan began working with cross-stitch initially as a motor skill exercise. As he refined his practice, he realized the artistic and expressive opportunities presented by the medium. “My art is about complete expression,” Nathan said.
Using vibrant colors and various textures and materials in her paintings, AnnaMaria Critelli captures the forces of nature inherent in the universe. “I am very excited about what is happening now,” she said. Her painting Russian Comet, she explained, memorializes a recent cosmic occurrence over Russia. Visually, the painting is a movement of light, with degrees of color suggesting the heat patterns of a comet.Â “I like to work in a three-dimensional form to engage the viewer,” AnnaMaria told me. Her painting Warp Speed, for instance, is sculptural in places where it has been built up with Plaster of Paris, resulting in a sense of depth that represents the atmosphere as it would appear to a viewer seeing an aircraft fly toward him or her. “Every time I paint I try to use a different surface,” sheÂ said.Â This is AnnaMaria’s second exhibition with the gallery. “Agora is so inspiring to artists,” she told me. “It is a venue for artists to be creative and true to who they are.”
Elisabeth Radomsky’s current exhibition is her first at Agora. An internationally renowned portraitist, Elisabeth explained to me that a good portrait “must show the soul of a person, and still-lifes and seascapes are the same.” Her paintings portrayÂ moments in time that reveal “the beauty and tragedy all around us.” When she shoots photographs, she sometimes thinks, “What a painting that would be!”Â Elisabeth’s classical and romantic landscapes begin with the camera, where she shoots what moves her and then translates the images into paintings with imaginative elements. “I capture what moves my heart,” Elisabeth told me. Indeed, her painting Bella Venezio was inspired by her honeymoon trip to Venice. Looking at the window that covers the composition of this painting, one can imagine life in the Italian city. She told me about a window in Venice where she could see a woman watering plants â€“ although the woman is not pictured in the painting, one can practically sense her.
Self-taught UK artist Neil Masterman has been painting professionally since the 1990s. During the reception at Agora Gallery, Neil was traveling by boat from England to New York, where he arrived the day following the reception. He sat down with me at the galleryÂ to discuss his work.Â His favorite among his paintings currently on display at Agora is Earth, Wind and Fire. “I thought about it quite a long time,” he explained. “I wanted to create space using color.” Indeed, the vibrant colors flow into each other, moving the eye and holding one’s attention.Â A FellowÂ of the Royal Chartered Institute of Building, Neil has extensive experience and technical skill in sketching and design. “I like to have fun and jolt the viewer,” he told me.Â Despite the artist’s obvious and infectious playfulness, some of his work exudes alternate qualities. Neil told me about another painting, Cypress Trees, inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s treatment of the same subject, and how a copy of which hangs in a dentist’s office. “The painting is restful,” Neil told me. For a painting hanging in a dentist’s office, this is a fine quality, indeed.
The current exhibitions, Evolving Abstraction, Figurative Realms, and New York City 2014: Synchronicity, are on view until July 1, 2014. Each offers a rich and diverse selection of some of the most exciting contemporary artists working today. All of these artists and more have their artwork for sale on ARTmine.com. To keep updated with happenings at the gallery, please subscribe to our blog and join our mailing list.