In five recent works Angela Beloian explores the kimono beauty of temporality.
This she sets up with a small scale that suggests intimacy and delicacy. With colors - butterscotch, peach, lavender - that are whimsical and lyrical. With shapes that allude to flowers and vines. And a space that is flat, the better to experience the immediate flavor of each piece. They look like flowers pressed in a breviary. And with titles – Dolly, Lickety-Split, Zissou, Trumpet, and Kilauea – that are not just onomatopoeia-singsong in themselves but also suggest, variously, volcanoes, marine scenes, a kid’s informal expression for being in a hurry, and a young girl’s toy.
The work has an oriental, ukiyo-e feel to it. It's cherry blossom gossamer. It hovers as if about to float off the wall. It's the stuff of which sap-filled trees dream in springtime: new growth, blue skies, small white flowers that look like stars.
Beloian’s work contradicts a visual culture that reflects (alas, respects) size, seriality, and speed. It’s calm and purposeful; it is a vehicle for meditation. It’s a small slice of a huge, roiling world. If it went no further than this, no further than putting the viewer into a hammock of luxe, calme, et volupte, then it would be a splendid achievement.
But this represents only half the story. In each of the five pieces a jagged black branch line screeches across the surface of the canvas. It deliberately jars. It looks as out of place in the otherwise Edenic landscapes as a mustache on the Mona Lisa. The lines suggest talons, a fissure rent in the surface of each piece, prehensile Wizard of Oz tree branches that grasp unsuspecting, wayward pilgrims. Think Aubrey Beardsley.
Most of all, these lines are so out of place. They don’t outline or otherwise enhance the colored forms because they’re so ponderous and conspicuous. Discretely demonic, they upset the delicate color balances. The more you look at each piece the more you realize the effect is of looking first at the lovely scene that unfolds and then literally being grabbed by the shoulders and reminded this doesn’t last forever!
Beloian’s theme is mortal time. Time in which things blossom and then fade. Her take? A moment’s beauty poised on the verge of being snatched away. All those floral shapes so carefully rendered? Gone in but a moment. It’s not a sad message, just a true one, one overlooked in heydays and gravy years. She has created an oriental version of Day of the Dead images. Even the cleverly chosen titles can be interpreted as reminders of our brief interlude: killer volcanoes, cloned sheep, the trumpet at the last judgment, the short expanse of one’s life, the perilous ocean.
For such small pieces they pack a huge wallop. Formally exquisite, philosophically profound, and relevant to a helter-skelter society, they suggest that small is better; that simple is better; that focus, relaxation, and close-to-nature are not only better, they’re more genuine, more in tune with life’s cycles and rhythms.