by Armando Alemdar Ara, at the Zari Gallery, Fitzrovia, London.
From realism to surrealism to abstract and back to realism. This is Armando Alemdar Ara's description of his artistic journey so far. Introspection, his latest exhibition, celebrates the journey with artwork from a range of styles, demonstrating extensive breadth of talent and depth of vision, both internal and external. The reflective process is both powerful and sensitive. The results are vibrant and delicate. I see in Armando an artist of beautiful contrasts, and he presents us here with an especially rich and varied collection.
The exhibition includes a series of highly detailed studies in archival ink on watercolour paper, with the marks so fine they are only really noticeable when the eyes are just a few inches away. The images are perfectly crafted, and frequently in monochrome. Eros and Psyche is a wonderful example of the way in which Armando stirs the soul, evoking the height of passion but with extreme gentleness of touch and precise technique.
Eros and Psyche
I’m more familiar with Armando’s semi-abstract figures in soft tones and olive-based colour schemes, though his palette seems to have expanded, to me, in the latest works. I’m particularly enchanted by the soft pale yellow highlighting the figure of Aurora, a Greco-Roman personification of the dawn. Cadmium yellow extra light, perhaps. Armando assures me - with a glint in his eye - that this is a very expensive paint. Armando delights also in the manipulation of the primary colours, and how they are all present in his painting, in variations and combinations, all either perfectly blended or maintaining their essence but complimenting each other.
Once again, a contrast arises in the way Armando's paintings convey both subtlety in the depiction of the human form and intensity of movement suggesting great struggle with both the physical and inner self. This is not surprising given that many of his works are connected with the classical world and heroic mythology. Eros and Psyche adorn the wall adjacent to Ulysses, who in turn is opposite Aurora. Gaia, Goddess of the Earth, appears just around the corner, with her own pride of place. A second depiction of Gaia is not far away. A timely presence as we celebrate Earth Day in April.
The highlight of the collection for me is the largest and most imposing of the paintings. The Dream is a deeply personal piece, a self-portrait in which the artist has set himself and his alter-ego in conflict, as experienced in a night-time dreamscape which simply had to be explored and revealed through art. The subject appears vulnerable, revealing the self and his fragility. But the portrait also demonstrates boldness in the artist exposing himself and challenging his inner turmoil. Armando explained how he felt a sense of release, giving cause for celebration and freedom to develop his thoughts and his art in previously unimagined ways. This, for the artist, was a rebirth, a transformation, an ascendance. Armando indicated that he would be reluctant to sell this piece! We can but view this one, then; a remarkable, stunning, visionary painting. The experience may be fleeting in the gallery, but this is a moment of extraordinary engagement and beauty.
The whole collection is presented with generosity of spirit as well as great artistic flair and physicality. Each painting is edged with gold leaf, adorning the frame in a way that is both extravagant and tasteful. This again exemplifies a contrast in an artist who is modest and humble, but also a man for the big occasion, a creative wizard. I say this with great admiration on both counts. Armando loves to excite with his artistry, with richness and intensity, but also to invite us quietly to appreciate his moments of contemplation. This exhibition will both gladden the heart and set it racing, and will also leave you with a sense of calm and wonder.
Eddie (L) with Armando (R)
Introspection will be at the Zari Gallery until 6th May 2022.
All photos of the paintings (c) Armando Alemdar Ara
© Eddie Hewitt 2022