REVIEW – DUETTO EXHIBIT FILLED WITH UNHEARD MUSIC

Posted on September 25, 2016

St. Albert Gazette, Saturday, October 24, 2009

When you hear the title of the new show at Art Beat Gallery, two ideas should immediately come to mind: it involves two people and they make some beautiful music together.

Duetto is an exhibit of abstract art by Shirley Elias and Alexus, two painters who owe as much to violins and pianos and they do brushes and palettes.  When you look at their wild works, you can almost hear the melody in the background.

This is especially true of Elias, the former concert pianist who has three CDs on her discography and has been shown at Art Beat previously.  Like many artists, she listens to music while she paints.  Unlike the others, however, the music becomes as integral to the image as the acrylic she applies to the canvas.  Take any example from this selection like Bellissimo or Cacophony.  You can already tell the musical role just from the titles.  Some are like geometric space trips through wormholes, shades of metallic reds and yellows spiralling towards the universe.  Other works feature straight out near representations of different instruments, the cello strings made obvious amid the telltale shapes of baby grand lids, the grain of the wood finely detailed.  Still others, like Oceano profondo, are landscapes unlike any I’ve seen before.  The rolling waves have no rhyme or reason, but the crests look vaguely familiar, like the bouffant curl on the head of a cello.

In her artist statement, she explained her two loves – music and art- are not dissimilar and marrying them in her work is especially fulfilling.  “Just as one’s ear is constantly stimulated in a concert setting, I now strive to keep the viewer’s eyes engaged and moving across the painting.”  She accomplishes this easily.  It’s tough to pull your eyes away from the images and imagery.

Her artistic partner is Alexus, the 50-year-old Russian-born man who only needs one name to make an impact.  He, like Elias, has studied both audible and visual art and professes to listen to music while he paints.  “If I am successful in capturing the soul of a musical composition in colours, it is then possible to surround one’s self with the energies of that music,” he writes.

Together they operate out of Winnipeg, running a studio and preparing new works for travelling shows like this one.  While this is an abstract exhibit per se, his style is decidedly different from hers.  It’s softer, more subtle but definitely not smaller.

As soon as you walk into the gallery, you’ll catch one of his splashy, splattered creations out of more than the corner of your eye.  Speranza is over two metres by two metres, enough to occupy a good-sized wall.  The others are less sustantial but only in size.  They still have the same depth and dimension, the rich layers and textures, as the granddaddy.

Sandra Outram, the gallery’s co-owner, said, “When you think of a 79-inch painting, you think it’s massive.  When you put it on a very normal-sized wall, in terms of what a lot of people’s homes have, it’s not that huge, but it certainly makes a big impact.”

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