Anastasia Pelias


Contemplative Color Field: Anastasia Pelias’ “Ritual Devotion”

Contemplative Color Field: Anastasia Pelias’ “Ritual Devotion” at Zoya Tommy Contemporary, Houston, April 26 – May 25, 2013
To view installation views, click here.

Exhibition Review by Anna Tahinci, PhD

Anastasia Pelias, in her exhibition Ritual Devotion, held at Zoya Tommy Contemporary in Houston from April 26 to May 25, 2013, explores the most essential contrasts: representation and abstraction, surface and depth, light and shadow, joy and torment, life and death. Through large-scale oil paintings on canvas that investigate the contemplative power of color, the artist brings abstract painting into the 21st century.

Pelias’ paintings are made at a human scale, mostly in squares of 72 x 72 inches and occasionally in diptychs (72 x 144 inches) or triptychs (72 x 180 inches). Her creative process is based on freedom and multiple layers of paint application, revealing elements of the artistic process and conveying human presence.

Born in New Orleans to Greek parents who originated from the Aegean Island, Skopelos and the Peloponnese, Pelias combines elements from both cultures. Her paintings dissolve barriers between representation and abstraction. Influenced by the non-intellectual approach to life of the Mediterranean culture, Pelias expresses the most unbearable but also the most joyful aspects of life. Just like the central character in the 1946 novel Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis, Pelias expresses in her paintings the Apollonian and Dionysian dichotomy, Zorba being the sensualist Dionysian figure, the narrator being one who shows Apollonian traits of reserve and restraint. “How simple a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart.”

Pelias’ paintings are always titled after she has finished them and are a way for the viewer to enter the work rather than a literal description of the painting. She is drawn to seductive titles that might have multiple meanings for the viewer to connect with so that they can engage with the painting.

Paraskevi (Paraskevi means Friday in Greek and St. Paraskevi is the female patron saint for the health of the eyes) explores the tonalities of green through a combination of phthalo green warm, translucent golden green, helio green light.

In her diptych Elaine, for Elaine she explores shades of gray, through a combination of shade gray, translucent yellow and Payne’s gray. The difference with the painting Elaine, for Elaine is that the intent from the start was to make a painting honoring her cousin Elaine, who died in January 2013. She knew that the title would reference her — she just wasn't sure how literal it would be. She considers the painting to be of her and for her. The darkness of the subject contrasts powerfully with the joy of creating the artwork and preserving Elaine’s memory, in a combination of restless fervor and intense beauty.

The diptych Something Eternal explores the spirituality of blue by combining translucent turquoise and ultramarine blue light, whereas her triptych Love, Pleasure, Water is made in cobalt blue, lemon yellow, and Prussian blue. Pelias’ art is dynamic and powerful, full of insightfulness and perceptiveness.

Dr. Anna Tahinci is an art critic and curator based in Houston. She teaches Art History at the University of Houston and at the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Anastasia Pelias