The microcosm and the bigger picture with Craig Al...

The microcosm and the bigger picture with Craig Alan and Pezhman

The works of these two artists will be on display at the Conrad Algarve hotel throughout the summer with Artcatto

As artists, Craig Alan and Pezhman have seemingly little in common. Their subject matter and technique are worlds apart, but what unites these two artists is an interest in the craft of making and the process. They are both artists who have honed their artistic skills in order to create work that is a visual delight to the viewer.

Craig Alan was born in San Bernardino, California, United States. From an early age, he developed a remarkable ability to reproduce the human figure, literally on the job through street portraiture. These on-the-spot artworks proved very popular and his earnings went towards paying for art supplies. Later he attended the University of Mobile, Alabama, where 47 of his pieces were selected for the university’s most prestigious exhibition — Art with a Southern Drawl. Upon graduating, Craig worked as a theatrical set designer before embarking on his career as a professional artist.

Through constant experimentation, he developed a signature style and distinctive practice. The culmination of years of training and searching finally brought him to his highly sought after Populus series, using tiny figures to create portraits of famous icons. “I find it’s really easy for me to draw inspiration from almost everything I see. I think if we are willing to look closely enough, even the most ordinary things hold their own type of fascination,” Craig says. “One day, I was overlooking Orange Beach in Alabama from my mother’s condo, something I had done hundreds of times. But this day was different as I had a new Nikon camera and I was experimenting with it. I took some random shots of a wedding party on the beach and when I looked down at the screen, I was struck by how the camera condensed the people, forming the shape of an eyeball.” This set him off on a journey of many ‘what ifs’, as he began playing with stipple drawing, alternative techniques and a type of pointillism. “The concept of how we are all symbiont beings, all part of a bigger picture began to resonate within me.” Indeed, the concept that all of us are collectively responsible is nothing new, as Aristotle wisely noted: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This has become self-evident in the era of uncertainty.

As for his selection of popular culture icons as his subject matter, Craig states: “The thought behind this is that those figures are, of course, easily recognisable. At the same time, there is always the underlying thought of their recognition being a result of the fact that masses of ordinary people hold them in high enough regard for them to be famous. Again, we are nothing without each other. No matter how big or small, society and people need one another to exist.”

Pezhman was born in Shiraz, Iran, and his family moved three years later to the USA as the result of the revolution. He was an adventurous kid, always exploring and at one with the natural world, which he felt compelled to document on camera. The sublime beauty of light and nature has captivated artists through the ages and Pezhman is no exception. With the dawn of the digital age, the photographic image-making process changed and so he moved his practice into mixed media, bringing at first oil paints to and then, by degrees, adding all types of material to the artwork, including acrylic, textiles, resin and even encaustic tar. The important thing was the creation of a surface and texture, which complemented and enhanced the underlying photographic image.

He thrives outdoors, trekking, kayaking, mountain climbing, and fishing. Beginning as a photographer, he captured destination landscapes on film, inspired by the contrast between natural and urban environments. As his work evolved into mixed media, he has channelled his photography talents to explore the surfaces and textures of his own creation. “I consider myself very much a Romantic artist, in the sense that a lot of what I create is based around the mood and emotion of the imagery I choose. I have a tendency to become completely immersed in nature and natural elements,” he explains. “Some of my favourite photographs I have taken include elements such as fog, water and natural reflections as well as the female form. My inspiration comes from a simple place in raw forms.”

As for his other inspirations and influences, Pezhman credits many of his contemporaries: “At a younger age, I was inspired by the work of photographers such as Ansel Adams; his black and white techniques did lay some groundwork for what I do. I would say he was, in some way, a springboard for me into my professional career,” he says. “Since then, there have been many other amazing photographers who are a constant source of inspiration, such as Michael Kenna, David Meunich, Peter Linbergh and Sante D’Orazio. Be it shots of landscapes or women, these photographers always capture the pure elements and silhouettes in the most creative and engaging way.”

Pezhman believes that there is a strong relationship between the mixed media and the photograph. “When I started, I spent a lot of time in the darkroom experimenting, as I always loved the chemistry behind the processing. This has now translated into other techniques such as emulsion transfers and the application of wax on certain pieces. I consider my work to be a very much a hands-on process,” he says. “I greatly appreciate the photographic print in its simplest form. But I really want people to connect with my work in a different way. I love the idea of being able to turn a raw photograph into something that is totally unique and beautiful. I want people to experience something more. By creating depth through layers of wax and other materials, I am creating another dimension. The meshing together of the photographic component and the physicality of the process is for me the most inspiring part as an artist.”

Both Craig Alan and Pezhman have had numerous national and international solo shows, as well as high-profile commissions. Their work has been exhibited at many art fairs, including Art Palm Springs, LA Art Show Modern + Contemporary, CONTEXT Art Miami, Seattle Art Fair and the Affordable Art Fair in New York.

The works of Craig Alan and Pezhman have been on display at the Conrad Algarve hotel from mid-June and will stay throughout the summer. Artcatto in Loulé is now open to the public, and particular works can be viewed either by private appointment at the gallery or by arrangement at home. Contact Artcatto for more information on [email protected] or +351 912 267 351

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