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Greg S. Flood


Art Writing

‘MAXIMALISM: UTOPIA’ – Ema Harris-Sintamarian at the Jack Fischer Gallery

The newest offering from gallerist Jack Fischer is ‘MAXIMALISM: UTOPIA,’ a solo show of works by Ema Harris-Sintamarian. What a show it is! Having seen Ms. Harris-Sintamarian’s work in her last show at the gallery, these stand as a mark of major growth over the last two years in terms of technique and a departure in the use of forms.

Ema Harris-Sintamarian, 'Centralized Division,' 2012 (gouache on paper, 50 x 130 inches) (Images courtesy of the artist and the Jack Fischer Gallery)

Almost every work is hand drawn in gouache on paper, and composed of varying densities of bright colors in stripes, layered patterns, spiraling vortices, and juxtaposed spatial forms. While a couple of works are calmer and more open in composition, the vast majority are at maximum density of intensity, without going too far. Standing in front of the largest work in the show, ‘Centralized Division,’ 2012 (50 x 130 inches), one can easily be enveloped by the dimensional space presented and feel completely overwhelmed by the feeling of needing to run from the mass hurdling towards you.

These works easily fit into the recent focus on abstraction by the greater art establishment, while being distinct in their compositional elements. While easy comparisons can be made to the works of Kandinsky on formal grounds, the technological revolution they were created in response to is different than the one he witnessed in his lifetime. With the exploding information sphere through the internet and the collecting of massive amounts of data points in order to bring about societal advancements, the amount of interaction and engagement with the average person in the west has never been greater. Harris-Sintamarian’s intense abstractions can be seen as an attempt to visualize the amount of informational noise with which we allow ourselves to be barraged by, and quite effectively so.

Ema Harris-Sintamarian, 'The Middle of Center,' 2012 (gouache and ink on paper, 22 x 30 inches) (Images courtesy of the artist and the Jack Fischer Gallery)

Like everyone, the artist also needs moments of respite in her works from the confusion. One work, ‘The Middle of Center,’ 2012 (22 x 30 inches) is a breath of fresh air and freedom. The composition is reminiscent of a small flying machine that is sailing thought the sky under wind power, though fairly abstract in its construction. The circular arrangement, while calm around the edges, still has a riotous core of dense forms. While it could be read as being symbolic of the journey the artist has made from her native Romania, I read it as more of a vessel carrying the seeds of information based culture to its next destination.

The information based culture we live with in the west is highly addictive and it spreads like a virus because of the increased power it gives a segment of society to have over another. Its spread across the globe will be used for both good reasons and ill intentions, but it is out of the box at this point so we cannot go backward. How we will defend ourselves and the cultural norms we value in the coming age will be the challenge we must all face. Ema Harris-Sintamarian’s work is the visual embodiment of the world we have entered into at this point and a harbinger of what is to come. The fact that the show’s title includes the word utopia in it reveals that the positive view she has on this shift.

Ema Harris-Sintamarian 'DisLodge the Sugar'Cube in C Minor, 2010 (gouache and ink on paper, 22 x 30 inches) (Images courtesy of the artist and the Jack Fischer Gallery)

Lastly, one other area of Harris-Sintamarian’s work should not be neglected. Near the back of the gallery are four small works where the artist has employed the technique of hand cutting her compositions into pieces of black paper. ‘Arcadia: Text Machinae #2,’ 2012 (9 x 12 inches) is indicative of this small group of works. The composition is pure abstraction, like in her other works, but her method of creating them is slightly different. Looking at the back of an unframed work, one can see that the artist draws lines across the paper in a loose manner to create an abstract composition. She then chooses the spaces between the lines to cut out. The result is the drawing is translated into the shape of the paper. Looking closely, one can see how meticulous the artist pays attention to detail and how steady her hand is. There are no mistakes anywhere in the cutting – no accidental cuts, no hanging chads, no evidence of choppy curves – and she does well in maintaining her line widths. This is some of the best hand cutting I have seen in quite some time.

‘MAXIMALISM: UTOPIA’ – Ema Harris-Sintamarian at the Jack Fischer Gallery will be on view until May 5, 2012. 49 Geary St., Suite 418, San Francisco; (415) 956-1178; Gallery Hours: Tues. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. To see more of Ema Harris-Sintamarian’s work click here.

Ema Harris-Sintamarian 'Watching and waiting: The story of the Last Lament,' 2012 (gouache and ink on paper, 22 x 30 inches) (Images courtesy of the artist and the Jack Fischer Gallery)

Ema Harris-Sintamarian 'Inside It's Just the Other Side,' 2010 (gouache and ink on paper, 22 x 30 inches) (Images courtesy of the artist and the Jack Fischer Gallery)

Ema Harris-Sintamarian, 'Here is where we meet,' 2012 (gouache and ink on paper 22 x 30 inches) (Images courtesy of the artist and the Jack Fischer Gallery)

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