Passion for Music Inspires Bold Visual Work

Posted on September 25, 2016

Passion for music inspires bold visual work

By Janice Ryan, Edmonton Journal

October 30, 2009


Duetto – New works by Shirley Elias and Alexus

“Duetto,” an Italian word referring to a short musical composition for two voices, is the title of Art Beat Gallery’s exhibit of new works by painters Shirley Elias and Alexus. The show is a visual celebration of colour and gesture inspired by music.

The commonality between the two Winnipeg painters strikes a chord, quite literally. Both accomplished musicians, it is their strong passion for music that drives their artistic vision; paint colour and brush stokes are powered by the sound.

Alexus, born in Siberia and raised in Kazakhstan, spent 25 years studying music and art in Europe. “My goal is to transfer the spirit of music to a painting,” he shares over the phone from his 4,000-square-foot studio complete with a grand piano, “to make the music a visual experience.”

Using high-quality oils from Europe and linen from Belgium, Alexus applies his parade of colours using a wide putty knife. He savours the surprise of seeing how the oils mix on the canvas as he drags them across the surface.

Speranza is a grand harmony of cobalt, amethyst, acid yellow and emerald tones and long sweeps of colour interrupted with staccato strokes. Splatters of paint diluted with thinner punctuate the work exposing the underlying tint. Musically speaking, Speranza is “con brio”–with liveliness or spirit.

Italian for “hope,” Speranza refers to the story of a young Russian composer whose modern-style pop music was banned in 1978. When Alexus learned last year that his record had been re-released in Russia, he listened to the music and dedicated a painting to the composer: “I let my emotions, dreaming and swimming, create the experience of the recording.”

“The music colours the painting,” adds Art Beat Gallery owner Eric Outram, “and that’s what makes it interesting.”
Music is also at the heart of Elias’s paintings. After 15 years as a concert pianist, Elias switched to painting full time, shifting from an interpreter of music scores to a creator, a role she likens to being a “composer on canvas.”

“My art is all about colour and movement,” Elias says, “communication and connection to the viewer. Being a performer my whole life, I need to connect to someone. I want to create a private ‘concert experience’ for people to enjoy every day in their home.”

Elias works with a vivid palette of colours. Fusing elements of pop art, modern and cubism, marigold-coloured swirls trumpet off the canvas, as one could imagine sound resonating from an orchestra. Black and cobalt details anchor the paintings, while glints of metallic paint add light and interest.

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