Thursday, July 14, 2011
While around three dozen quazi-photographic images burst loudly from canvases hanging on the white walls of Aleks Raskin’s gallery, incense burns peacefully in one corner and the graying artist stands in another, twirling two Chinese meditation balls in his hand. As he observes peoples’ reactions, he doesn’t say a word.
There’s a lot to react to: His images are vivid, magnetic, almost psychedelic.
Some contain optical illusions, like “Your Move,” which looks like a rich assortment of distorted chess boards and luscious apples, within which black, white and red patterns wobble slightly.
“Liberation” pulsates with light. It looks like a swirling galaxy of pastel colors which somehow collaborate to form an illusion of movement without leaving the surface. Nearby, a synagogue seems to be bursting with divine light and a willow tree cries beautiful streams of greens and yellows and reds.
“The colors were all sampled from various candy wrappers,” he says.
These images are created using what Raskin calls “surreal photo transformation.” In simple terms, he digitally layers and cuts and pastes photo upon photo that he’s taken, samples colors from other images and mixes them together to get just the effect he’s after. Each piece takes at least a few months.
What makes his art so special, he says, is that they are made of images we all see and understand on their own, but have never observed from the perspective he twists them into. Others might say it’s the perspective he applies that make them so special, one born of heady science, humble meditation and a sudden decision to abandon a lucrative career.
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Raskin was making a “very comfortable” living as a biochemist when he had an atypical artistic epiphany.
“I was looking at the DNA of wheat and a man,” he says, “and saw that when they’re split, they’re almost identical. It’s just their arrangement that makes them different. I realized every form in the universe is created through the constant interchange of factors.”
Soon thereafter, he decided he needed a change. “I left science after 25 years of research because I wasn’t getting my message through,” he says. “I needed something new.”
He traveled to Tibet and India, where he spent a year meditating.
“I realized if you’re not content and happy now,” Raskin says, “nothing in the future will bring that to you. Real happiness is internal.”
When he came back, he chose to settle in Carmel and started producing art. But he still felt a connection to his previous occupation, to those small building blocks. In fact, he started to feel a connection to everything.
“Art is a part of science,” he says, “but the delivery is different. Science is analytical, but art is emotional. Art without a statement is just a hobby.”
The statement in Raskin’s art is that understanding our connectivity with all living and non-livings things and gaining an acceptance for both the “good” and the “bad” is the path to happiness.
“If we understand that every object in life and every moment is special,” he says, “we will be that much closer to happiness.” “
That ethic is clearly evident in his art: It’s built from common things to create something remarkable.
“There are no ordinary objects,” he says, “just ordinary points of view.”
For Raskin that means combining at times 150 images into one photograph.
“This one here is called ‘The Kiss,’” he says, indicating a dark cedar tree set against the backdrop of a maroon sea. “Don’t you see the couple kissing? They’re right there. It’s not hidden or an optical illusion.”
Suddenly it’s clear that the tree also reveals the faces of a man and a woman coming together.
After a year of having his work on display, he’s already sold pieces to private collectors in London and Sydney, and a museum curator from Paris. But he regrets that in order to make his art more desirable, he has to print it in limited editions. Some people think that the rareness of a piece is what makes the art attractive, Raskin explains, but that’s not the case for him at all. If a piece is true art with a true message, it doesn’t matter how much it’s replicated.
In line with this thinking, Raskin tried making his art available for viewing online, but the large size of the images make this nearly impossible.
“When I would compress a two-gigabyte picture to fit it on the website,” he says, “it lost so much.” So for now, if people want to see his art, it’s got to be up close and personal. Which is the best way to do it.
ALEKS RASKIN GALLERY is on the third floor of Carmel Plaza, Ocean and Mission, Carmel. 465-0379, www.aleksraskin.com