For this year’s Paris OAF viewing room Cavin-Morris Gallery is emphasizing the works of new artists to the gallery, including Mahmut Ozdemir, Carlos Javier Garcia Huergo, Loïc Lucas, Jamshid Aminfar, Nazanin Tayebeh, and Ali Azizi.
Turkey, 1949 – 2021
Mahmut Ozdemir was from a small town in Turkey near the sea of Marmara. Ozdemir had a grade school education. He loved to draw, he loved to talk about philosophical issues including religion, and world peace.
He wished to see a large Olympic village in Turkey that would bring people together.
For many years he had a small store in the living room of his home, until the Turkish economy crashed.
He spent the last days of his life interpreting dreams and telling fortunes, using coffee dregs as his medium, and picking figs.
Carlos Javier Garcia Huergo
b. 1969, Cuba
Carlos is a Summa Cum Laude graduate from Mathematics. In 1990, his mother suddenly died while he was in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) for undergraduate studies. Her provoked severe behavior dysfunctions with aggressive actions in Huergo, who directed his distress toward his school colleagues. His aggressive behavior became dangerous causing his return to Cuba, straitjacketed and sedated.
Once in Cuba, he was admitted in a psychiatric hospital and underwent to treatment with psychoactive drugs and electroshock sessions. He was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. From that moment on, he has lived in a state of permanent alienation and he had been confined in psychiatric institutions several times.
After the onset of his illness, Carlos began drawing. He likes to use pastel colors on pieces of recycled cardboards boxes, old covers of vinyl disks, pieces of wooden tables and worn out pages of newspapers and magazines. In his drawings, he harmonizes the reality of the mathematics with personal imageries. He recreates a hybrid world of fellows who are always in his conscience; like angels or devils who swarm in his mind speaking to him. The human figure, frequently placed in foreground, it has the highest place in his representations. He also employs his own numeric alphabet, algorithms and words games as parables about his life, creating drawings from his abstract thoughts. His work is currently on exhibit at Documenta 15 in Germany.
b. 1966, France
Lucas, who says that words are not his domain, explains his art very beautifully:
"It seems to me that I have always drawn since childhood, but I did not study for it. After two years at the university, where I was bored studying history, I looked for a job that would leave me time to create. For 15 years I was a letter carrier in the morning, so I could draw in the afternoon until late at night. Since 2008, I have devoted myself exclusively to drawing. From the morning, between 5 and 6 am until the evening.
It's my way to stay connected to the mystery of the world."
Gregory Van Maanen
American, b. 1947
In his essay “Gregory Van Maanen; The Wolf Survives,” Randall Morris writes: Self-taught artist Gregory Van Maanen began to paint and draw following his return from Vietnam and discharge from the Army. A bullet remains lodged in his chest from wounds suffered during the war. He was and continues to be tortured by memories of Vietnam and suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Driven to create, his body of work includes thousands of paintings, 2,400 small drawings, various objects and small sculptures.
It is through his art that Van Maanen attempts to exorcise his demons.
Van Maanen’s paintings rediscuss the amulet possessing powers of pure art. He finds and separates out the occult integrities of symbols long considered cliched and useless and raises them from their impotency. His outlook is tough. His is a feral forgiveness.
The veteran has survived his anger, gone through the questions with no answers, and has become old enough and wise enough to crack through the fear and loathing with answers of his own. The dead have become buried in the kinder shrouds of memories and the bitter mists they died in have begun to dissipate.
American, 1892 – 1987
The paintings and drawings of Minnie Evans depict scenes from the artist’s private dream world. But even to the artist herself, this visionary world was not entirely comprehensible. Evans was born in 1890, the only child of Joseph and Ella Kelley, farmers who lived in rural Pender County, North Carolina, near Wilmington. Evans’ parents moved to Wilmington during her early childhood, and she attended school there through the sixth grade. She married Julius Evans of Wilmington and had three sons.
Evans traced her background to a maternal ancestor who was brought to the United States from Trinidad as a slave. There are elements in Evans’ art that invite comparison to Caribbean spiritual ground symbols, though the artist only once traveled outside her native North Carolina. The bright colors and floral motifs that appear in her paintings were most likely inspired by trees and flowers, especially azaleas, at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, where Evans worked as the gatekeeper for many years and from the Chimese ceramics in the house where she worked.
The central motif in many of Evans’ paintings is a human face surrounded by curvilinear and spiral plant and animal forms and eyes merging with foliate patterns. She equated eyes with the omniscience of God and the concept of the eye as the window of the soul. The figures in her designs are sometimes portraits of ancient wise men and women who peopled her visions, ancestral visitors from some spiritual order, or angels, demons, and chimerical creatures. Evans’ paintings are essentially religious in inspiration, and represent a world in which God, man, and nature are synonymous; God is frequently represented as a winged figure with a wide multicolored collar and rainbow halo. He is surrounded by a proliferation of butterflies, eyes, trees, plants, and floral forms in a garden paradise of brilliant colors contained within a cartouche-like frame of curvilinear rhythms.
Jamaica, 1930 – 2006
Randall Morris writes in Redemption Songs, The Self-Taught Artists of Jamaica: "Leonard Daley is the trickster mystic of the Jamaican self-taught artists. Rastafarian by experience and inclination, at once naked and yet revealing nothing, his work is some of the most complex in Jamaica.
I think of Daley’s work in the same frame of reference as Dub music. The basis of Dub is the removal of the melody line (the obvious narrative) to reveal the intricate interplay of percussion and bass. . . . By removing the obvious narrative, he encourages us to see some of the deeper movements of the artworks and his fast-moving cagey mind. . .
Daley is laying out the situations, personal, spiritual, political, that are real and symbolic at the same time, involving the viewer’s participation in the outcome. He, in the African-Jamaican manner telescopes time and details. This is a trait of Rasta reasoning as well, a free-form forum where Rastas discuss events, prophecies and philosophy. For this reason, the paintings also have an accretional aspect as Daley may cover over and add elements at various times.
The rhythm of the painting continues; it is the perception of the viewer that changes and improvises.
Daley’s themes are hardships, striving, gossip, man’s inhumanity to man; the battle of Good versus evil in the common man’s daily life."
Iran, 1959 – 2022
Jamshid Aminfar went to London after receiving his art diploma in printmaking. After three years of living there, he returned to Iran and started working in a printing house where he remained for 20 years. Suffering from cyanosis, he lost his job in the early 2000’s, and began painting at the corners of Enqelab and Felestin Street in Tehran. He died in June of 2022 from cardiac arrest.
Jamshid weighed 4 kilos at birth. Born at home; the labor was long, and in the process almost he died. He suffered from cyanosis until the end of his life with severe addiction to codeine expectorant syrup which ultimately caused a heart attack during a fertile peak in his career.
b. 1993, Nowshahr, north of Iran
Nazanin was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth. Her speech and walking were delayed until she was five years old. Nazanin started painting seriously a few years ago and has participated in a number of group exhibitions in Tehran. Nazanin is only able to communicate with a limited vocabulary to the people around her.
She has an invisible friend she communicates with. He talks to her in a special language, fights, laughs, gets sad. In fact, Nazanin’s drawings are letters to that imaginary friend. Naanin’s letters progress very slowly. Sometimes taking a few days to a month to finish a painting.
These days, it seems that her relationship is tricky with her imaginary friend, and this is noticeable in her letters. They are nervous and frenetic, activated by emotion.
Sometimes she writes a letter of just one line.
Iran, b. 1947
Azizi owned a small fruit juice shop in the south of Tehran city and worked there until he was diagnosed with cancer. The pain and suffering from the disease and being confined to his home drove him to concentrate on painting, an interest of his since he was a child.
In his seclusion he was finally able to focus on creating. The source of inspiration for Azizi’s paintings are mostly magazines, photographs, and cartoon images that he collects and cuts out, archiving them in notebooks as albums, and when he paints, he uses them as inspiration. Those photographs and images finally have nothing to do with Azizi’s actual paintings as he transforms them into his own.
He is very happy that painting has calmed and healed his pain, and he now paints nonstop.
John Bunion (J.B.) Murray
American, 1908 – 1988
J. B. Murray was born in 1908 in a remote community in Glascock County in central Georgia. He worked as a tenant farmer in a small shack with his wife and eleven children. When he was in his fifties his wife left him, and with his children already grown and gone, he found himself alone in a very remote area. It wasn’t until years later in the late 1970s, that Murray began his artistic career.
Murray suffered from hallucinations, which for a brief time caused him to be institutionalized. He was also fervently religious and inherently distrustful of those who did not believe in God—he felt that evil spirits inhabited the world, spirits that could be destructive to those who were not watchful. These factors may have been the impetus for his original creations. He started out creating different structures and protective devices designed to shield himself from the dangers of the outside world. These pieces most likely began as small mysterious piles of rocks and other found materials that could be seen scattered across his property.
As time went on, he moved toward drawing and painting. Everything that went into these pieces, from the colors used to the materials they were painted on, had a specific message and meaning for Murray. For example, in Murray’s system of colors, red represented torment or evil forces, blue represented positive strength and good, yellow indicated a divine presence, or energy embodied by the sun. White represented otherworldliness and spiritual purity relating to death or the afterlife, and black denoted imperfection or impurity. Frequently Murray would paint out spiritual forms that he visualized existing in the world, sometimes opposing one another, sometimes existing in harmony.
The pieces would frequently incorporate an illegible calligraphic script. Murray received very little formal education and was most likely illiterate, but following a vision in 1978, he began to formulate his own cursive script which he alone was able to decipher. He kept a bottle of what he called “holy water” on a table beside his bed which he often would raise skyward in prayer. Murray believed that reading the script while looking through this clear vial would produce “readings” or holy messages.