[THEMEING WITH TALENT]
Michael Ashur’s paintings are flat, very flat, covered as they are with just fine layers of paint. But with these fine layers he works illusionistic miracles, plunging us into the depths of space. Ashur takes us on cosmic excursions, visiting supernovae, glowing star fields, incandescent galaxies.
There is more than a touch of “2002: A Space Odyssey” that kind of transcendental science fiction, to his work. Instead of presenting us with conventional images of outer space, he constructs sometimes incredibly elaborate geometric frameworks, like complicated crystals, through which we can glimpse the galactic clouds and myriad individual stars and star clusters.
The effect of these crystal like outlines is to play tricks on our eyes, drawing us in and out of the picture of space. In fact, there are often two distinct levels of space in Ashur’s paintings: the close, shallow space and the distant, incredibly deep space beyond the surface, where the cosmic fireworks sparkle and explode.
In fact, without the intricate surface patterns, he would find it much more difficult to convince us of the immense scale of what lies beyond. But convince us he certainly does and the pictures with their ethereal otherworldly air, their ability to transport us out of workaday reality, have a devoted following in Europe (especially Switzerland) as well in the artists native Dublin.
Chief Art Critic, Irish Times
The Irish Times
[RECENT BELFAST EXHIBITIONS]
To all but the scientist or astronaut the precise significance of Michael Ashur’s paintings at the Arts Council Gallery must be a mystery, but it is the glory of his art that it is at once exhilarating and delightful to someone ignorant like myself. The precision with which he places the coruscation on his richly coloured backgrounds is wonderfully satisfying and the control of the flickering silvers and blues as though an etchers needle has been used. The smaller pictures are particulary exciting bringing as they do a close contact with the world beyond what is immediately observable. Strict geometry is not only decorative – the hexagons, triangles and elipses are defined purposefully, but they also have a sensuous appeal and colour generally is in accord with that appeal.
These paintings indeed have a mathematical satisfaction in combination with something that is romantic and joyous. They do not overwhelm with immensity of the universe, they are concerned with its beauty, the glory of light and colour. There is one painting “Solar Time Slip I” – that has a suggestion of a certain being about to be lifted. To confront these pictures is to feel a lift of spirit before a revelation.
Ray Rosenfield ::: Irish Times
Hollywood hype had nothing on some of the great master painters like Rembrandt, Rubens, Reynolds of Benjamin West. Their big historical paintings were released to the public in special halls like must-see blockbuster movies. With the public queuing often for weeks, all that was missing was the popcorn.
Which gave Michael Ashur the idea of hiring the RDS to launch “Tower of Babel” – a hug 16 ft by 7ft apocalyptic acrylic, which has taken him two years to complete. “I’m virtually building a gallery in the Lawn Room for the two-week show”, he says. “I’m painting the walls white, putting down a carpet, free hanging all the paintings and installing lighting”.
Although its title is biblical, the panoramic painting of a disintegrating cosmic crystal is anything but Cecil B DeMille. “Contemporary society is like the King who built his Kingdom up into the heavens and then defied God. We’re building our structures and then saying to the earth and the environment, I defy you. “So at the last minute I show a bolt from the blue disintegrating the whole vast crystal, breaking up even the sky around it. It’s a way of picturing the possibility of what could happen if we don’t look out”.
Seeing Cinerama prompted Ashur to paint big. “The Sheer impact of the huge screen astounded me. I wanted to create that panoramic view on canvass”. When he applied for the College of Art, four men had to carry in the large-scale painting that made up his portfolio.
He’s drawn to the heavens since his father bought him a telescope as an 8 year old. His interest in the exploding stars and multi-coloured nebulae comes from astronomy rather then science-fiction (“that’s some elses interpretation of space, and no use to me as an artist”).
Yet for all their apparent geometric abstraction, Ashurs paintings are rooted in nature: it’s just that the landscapes that inspire him are out in the galaxies rather than the familiar sea and countryside of our own planet. “We live in a goldfish bowl and seldom see outside it”.
There are things you can walk around within Ashurs paintings. You can easily imagine yourself being there. “Anything we can imagine, can be done. Its just that it mightend be done in our lifetime. Science fiction keeps becoming science fact”
Ciaran Carty ::: Sunday Tribune