Shadyside's Gallerie Chiz taking international approach
For the first time ever, Gallerie Chiz in Shadyside has expanded its changing monthly exhibitions to explore an international scope. Representing 18 countries, the “Crossing Borders” exhibit features dozens of fresh new works by artists from across the globe, many of whom live in the United States.
Like many of the artists whose works are on display, Romanian Manuela Holban's paintings reflects her origins and culture. Born and educated in Bucharest, Holban has lived and worked in the United States since 1987. In the gallery, 32 of her works are spread throughout the space, with 14 in the main display area.
Nearly all portraits, they are arranged like a chessboard where figures from the past — some real like “Duquesa (Duchess) of Alba,” “Marie Antoinette” or “Saskia” — are arranged among some imaginary, such as “Danae” and “Salomea.”
They are “coming and going in an endless voyage,” says the artist, who favors a rich palette and the build up of heavily textured surfaces, resulting in a veil-like, almost-ethereal feeling to the works.
In contrast, more-lighthearted works hang nearby, such as 17 smaller mixed-media drawings of vintage baby dolls by Carlos Sanchez Vegas of Caracas, Venezuela, and 20 bird paintings of similar size by Chiz Turnross of Liverpool, England.
Turnross completed 1,000 bird paintings like this in 2008. Having exhibited them widely since, he has replenished the lot with new paintings as they continue to sell.
“I think of each painting as an object, in a sense,” Turnross says. “The paintings are both a depiction of a bird and a painting of an idea of a bird.”
They are not lifelike depictions, but rather, semi-abstracted compositions painted with “household paints on materials I find in the street or in dumpsters,” he says. “The materials and colors my father used to fix up my childhood home.”
Designed to “say something universal,” Turnross says, “the work was conceived in order to paint without forethought, to bypass the crisis of subject matter, to paint for hours at a time without pause.”
And yet, each has, as the artist so aptly puts it, “a sense of birdness without concern for unnecessary detail.”
Some of the artists have local connections, but are living abroad. Such as Jason Schell, who is originally from Grove City, but lives and works in Mexico City, where he recently completed a mural for one of the metro stations there.
The majority of the pieces on display are from a series Schell just finished called “The Baroque Life.” It's a reference to the classic painting style because of the narrative quality of the artwork, as well as the compositions in which the figures in the foreground are brightly lit against darker backgrounds.
“Baroque paintings were religious,” Schell says. “These pieces aren't religious pieces per se, but the translucent nature of different people and objects in the compositions as well as the under drawings are a personal reference to city life, particularly Mexican city life, something I see as very rapid, yet nonetheless spiritual.”
With this work, Schell says, “the idea is to add substance to the speedy nature of urban living,” as in “La Vida Barroca I” in which a young woman on a subway is depicted in a moment of contemplation.
“It's a meditation on fast passing moments and their profoundness, and that we're all living out our stories,” Schell says, adding, “I work with models, by the way, so while the paintings have this vibe of a ‘street scene' or something, they're actually more orchestrated than they appear.”
Closer to home, Scott Griffin of Toronto, displays 18 pieces that are made of encaustic (wax) on found wood that he says, are based on “subject matter from my life's stories, and focus upon my muse and life partner, Rita.”
As a medium, the beeswax on found wood highlights Griffin's interesting, almost nostalgic, use of color, and the markings already existing on each of the pieces of wood he paints.
“I use wax for its subtleness,” Griffin says. “I try to collaborate with the found wood in a way that doesn't overpower the existing surface and appears like the image was found with the material.”
Griffin's images appear sometimes faint or ghost-like and seem to be from another era, such as the piece “On The River,” which depicts an old steamship as if passing through a murky void.
“For me, it is like postcard from my journey,” Griffin says of that particular piece. “My whole world and memories are on that delicate old boat.”
Like this piece, each of the remaining works on display exist as postcards unto themselves — each in their own way a simple hello from some far-flung place, making for a remarkable exhibit worth seeking out.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.