The Dark And Bright Of The Soul
Kevork Mourad's paintings map the emotional landscape.
Thursday, June 6, 2002
Art: Wo-Wo-Wo Feelings-Kevork Mourad''s "Transparency" (acrylic on paper, 19" x 14.5") exemplifies the evocative body of work coming to Sasoontsi Gallery in Salinas.
If anyone was hogging the finger-paints in elementary school, it was Kevork Mourad. The Armenian-born artist isn''t afraid to get a little bit dirty for the sake of art. Mourad frequently finds himself spreading paint with his fingers and hands or squeezing it directly from the tube. Anyone watching his process might not guess that the outcome will be a powerful portrait of human emotion.
"I usually do composition works and improvisation figures," he says. "They''re a little bit abstract, figurative, expressionistic." The soft-spoken artist only hints at the emotionally charged lines and colors, the bold gestures, and myriad characters created from a boundless imagination.
Demonstrating expressionist ideals, Mourad uses line and color to depict the movement of the inner life. "Most of the time I try to focus on how a human travels from one place to another emotionally, always going, always traveling, trying to be somewhere," says the artist. "Humans are always going without stopping."
One captivating example, titled "On the Road," reveals a tapestry of feminine lineage. A woman with her child glances over her shoulder. The grand, sweeping gesture is followed by rich embroidery textures that swirl around her. Sculptural patterns overlapped by delicate strokes of gold seem to rival rich fabrics. The embroidery patterns create an atmosphere of tradition associated with mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers.
"There''s a language hidden through this tapestry," says Mourad. "It''s inspired by ancient times, and we''re still [observing tradition] in the family. The lines are flowing because it''s like going on a road.
"Every single painting has an atmosphere," he says. "I work in abstract color, then continue with line. Color is a big part of the emotional feeling. It transfers it from the artist to the person. The color is very important... but I can''t be without line."
Expressionist Egon Schiele felt the same way. The early-20th-century expressionist used line to depict the spiritual and psychological aspects of his evocative, tormented nudes, endowing line with more than just aesthetic meaning. Mourad has looked to the Austrian artist''s expressive line for inspiration since his student days at the Yerevan Institute of Fine Art. In his black and white paintings, Mourad invites the viewer to become more intimate with his process. The backbone of his art is his line, and the isolated linear sketches bring the viewer closer to the heart of his work. "I''m showing how it''s the base of the painting. It helps you imagine how everything was built."
While Mourad paints to reveal insight into the human psyche, he also uses his art for humanistic causes. "I believe art has to serve humanity," he says. His activities include the Art for AIDS Auction in San Francisco, the Coalition for Banning Landmines in Santa Cruz, and a recent painting in memory of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 for Saint Illuminator''s Cathedral in New York.
Having emigrated from Armenia only recently, in 1997, Mourad claims that living close to New York City''s cosmopolitan environment has helped him understand his objective as an artist. "I love New York," he says. "It''s like living in one city, but at the same time like living in a whole world. When I came I understood how my art fits here."
Mourad also keeps a second studio in Santa Cruz. His upcoming Salinas show at the Sasoontsi Gallery is his third exhibition since he opened the gallery with his work. Commenting on his most recent work to be exhibited, he says, "I''m not even thinking how it''s changing. I''m just keeping it flowing. The colors are getting more subtle, less contrasty. But I''m not thinking to do that."
Mourad also adds that being married and in love reflects the subtler style developing in his art. He readily admits to his wife''s important inspirational role in his work. "She is my muse," he sighs.
The 32-year-old painter, who works intimately with his paints to perfect his universal vision, says that he will probably feel somewhat removed from his art at his Sasoontsi Gallery opening. As he explains it, "I think every exhibit is someone else. When I finish the art, it''s not mine anymore."
Kevork Mourad''s recent paintings will be on display at the Sasoontsi Gallery, 40 Central Ave., Salinas, from June 7 to July 10. The artist will be present at the reception on Friday, June 7 from 5-8pm. 751-1777.