By looking at the history of each technique dating back to the artistic movement it originated from, we shall examine how Nya’ ingeniously confronts his work with an elevated degree of sophistication, methodical precision and an inexhaustible reservoir of sagacity and unadulterated passion.
abstract expressionism .
Abstract expressionism was the dominant movement in American painting in the late 1940s and 1950s. Characterized by a desire to convey powerful emotions through the sensuous qualities of paint, often on canvases of huge size, it was the first major development in American art to achieve international status and influence and thus recognized as the most significant art movement since the Second World War.
The energy and excitement it brought to the American art scene helped New York to replace Paris as the world capital of contemporary art, and to many Americans, the heyday of the movement has already acquired a kind of legendary status as a golden age.
Regarded by Ed McCormarck, (former editor of the star-maker magazine, “Rolling Stones” and Chief Editor and founder of “Gallery and Studio Art Magazine, New York”) as one of today's preeminent contemporary artists; Nya’s work from his “Above the Horizon” series exudes a serene and eloquent aura which stresses line, light and space with an awe-inspiring economy of means.
His use of color is remarkable and the paintings are important and encompassing statements on chromatic aesthetics. Monochromatic shapes occupy a single field of color, therefore abdicating the customary use of color as representational. No longer depicting objects, Nya’s use of color now intercourses figure and ground into one entity, a sole shape wedded to a monochromatic field.
The decisive point in the artist’s development was consummated by abjuring the binding elements of abstract expressionism, particularly the traditional tenet of organizing a painting according to color. Instead, form emancipated itself from its conventional support -the ground- so that it could valiantly pursue an independent dialogue.
In Nya’s earlier works, “Retired Composer” 48 x 36 inches (121,92 x 91.44 cm, 2003), he employs an honorable sense of balance between the planes and colors. The pieces evoke memories of the work of two notable abstract expressionist painters, Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky by focusing on line to form linear planes while the pedantic use of primary colors grants for the formation of a unique triad.
Unrivalled in its mixed mood of joy, melancholic and almost painful contemplation, as Nya′ stated in his biography; “working on the painting brought thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears,” “Retired Composer,” speaks of the discipline, clarity and integrity that true surrender embodies.
As the viewer revels in the intensely ferocious hues inundating the 48 x 36-inch (121,92 x 91.44 cm) canvas, he’s arrested and consumed by an expression of pure commitment in the tripartite rendered visage of a “line” rendered violinist who, despite a gesture that suggests obfuscation, relentlessly pursues his search for the perfect keynote. In the abyss of his quandary, subtly expressed by the receding shapes of the stringed instrument that seems to be a cross between a cello, violin and bass guitar, the composer has stood courageous, thwarted the odds and birthed a mellifluously passionate rhythm as evinced by the chromatic red deluging the picture plane.
Executed in 1998, Nya’ uses highly contrasting colors to accentuate the essential elements without obstructing the harmony and cadence of the composition. Expressing only the ethereal elements and annihilating the peripheral inhibitions of normal view and purview, the viewer is left to harmoniously float at the metropolis of a prospect that falls out as below him, before him and above him. However, even though the artist relinquishes us to our own associations, he subtly determines within his formal structure the extent of the world he wants those associations to inhabit.
These two works are an early example of the Nya’s persistent focus on purification by dismantling, dissecting and reducing a painting to the elementary elements of line, space and color. As the series evolves, the artist’s relentless search for perfection becomes conspicuous and the symbiotic relationship between each piece is visible.
a: The preference for working on a huge scale, (see “Escort of Wisdom”)
d: The tenacious belief in the absolute individuality of the artist.
However, Nya’ rejects abstract expressionism's essential attributes of glorifying the act of painting and the emphasis placed on surface qualities to stress the flatness of the ground. Instead, he adroitly adds a third dimension to his complex compositions by introducing a copious amount of texture. By adopting an affluent palette of visceral reds, Prussian cobalt blues, Cape Town turquoises, an orgy of tangerines, marmalade browns and a buffet of natural pigments, the series eclipses the boundaries of abstract expressionism and begins to rejuvenate subtle memories of cubism, surrealism and fauvism; while authenticating its own set of values, codes and principles.
Collage is a term applied to a type of picture (and the technique used in creating such pictures) in which photographs, news cuttings, and other suitable objects are pasted onto a flat surface, often in combination with painted passages. The word collage comes from the French word “coller,” which means to gum; to affix; to cement; and or to chew and paste.
Some paintings elicit subtle memories of the work of George Braque and Pablo Picasso, the first notable painters to make collage a systematic and important part of their compositions. Picasso began using the technique in 1912 and Braque soon followed with his own distinctive type of collage, “the papier collé,” in which he applied strips or fragments of paper to a painting or drawing.
However, unlike Braque, who left the ‘found media’ bare on his chosen ground, Nya′ assiduously marinates his conscientiously acquired raw materials, which range from hand-made parchments, vellum paper, Braille scripts, pages from the Bible, journal scribbled notes, abandoned invoices, company ledgers and variant “photo-shopped” images together with other unconventional organic components. This is evident in his “Divine Inspiration” series.
In the preparatory drawing for his work, “Chorus of Discord” 74 x 27 inches (187.96 x 68.58 cm, 2008) the artist combines pages from an old Bible and a disintegrating ‘Braille’ with shredded and burnt pages illustrating graphs of several blue-chip company’s declining share price. Braille is a system of writing or printing, devised by L. Braille for use by the blind, in which combinations of tangible dots or points represent letters and characters that are read by touch.
©Nya’ 2020. Seed Gallery, New York
Foundation of Conviction. drawing 44
The piece discourses the folly of Man in trying to meet his own needs without God. In his sensual wisdom and philosophy motivated and remotely administered by the spirit of fear, Man creates a financial system that begins to crumble right in front of his eyes- but since he is blinded by fear and greed, instead of selling his remaining shares, he keeps adding kerosene to the volcanic flame by investing in more shares. In the end, he sees himself in a cycle of perpetual bondage destined to quarantine his unborn generations in gross darkness.
A circumspect survey of the burnt share and dividend price charts in the background of the actual painting reveals memorable dates, names and phrases familiar to Wall Street, e.g. October 4 1929, black Thursday, Jesse Livermore, October 19 1987, black Tuesday, 16 million shares traded, 24 October 2008 and collapse of Lehman Brothers. Considering that the inventoried dates depict the 3 major financial crashes in history, it becomes evident that “Chorus of Discord” and its accompanying collaged drawings serves as a reminder to Mankind that even our best system of trying to manage the earth –capitalism- is severely limited, and at its best, only enriches a few while the majority languish in the murky waters of an average existence and the remainder, die in dire poverty.
In a verse dedicated to the painting, an underlying narrative of the bogus Wall Street manufactured derivatives that primarily caused the 2008 world financial meltdown, Nya′ describes greed as follows;
“Greed is the paramount manifestation of matured fear, it is a marauding cancer that corrupts and corrodes, gnaws and erode the soul, rendering Man a hapless prisoner, a helpless convict and hopeless slave to his carnal senses”
Aside from the sand coated canvas upon which the scorched collage of burnt papers is affixed, the only item unscathed by the fire and still intact on the canvas and partially noticeable in the collaged sketch is the capitalized word, SPIRIT. This is incontrovertible evidence of that Nya’ is alluding to the Kingdom of God in the PERSON of The Holy Spirit now on earth. In essence, the Kingdom of God in the Holy Spirit is the only system of government Man is yet to embrace and yet it is the ideal Kingdom government that he lost and is frantically searching for in all his endeavors – It is the only Kingdom government whose economy is immune to downturns, manipulations, political confusion and cyclical gyrations.
Other notable paintings from Nya’s “Divine Inspiration” series that proficiently combine print matter with organic essentials and natural pigments include “Epiphany of Dreams” 74 x 25 inches (187.96 x 63.5 cm, 2007) and “Vault of Dreams” 40 x 31 inches (101.6 x 78.74 cm, 2007). However, the materials used for collage are pedantically weaved into the soul of the picture plane, thereby erasing their origin.
Series I, Divine Inspiration, Nya’ 2007. Courtesy of Seed Gallery, New York
Vault of Dreams
For example, “Vault of Dreams,” is comprised of unorthodox materials which include padlocks, ball points, blended parchments, sand similar to that found in the Kalahari-desert, red soil that evoke memories of the dusty streets of Senegal, and a laterite like clay similar to the clay rich in iron and aluminum found in Kenya. However, with the exception of the padlock and the key lodged inside it, the origin, texture and colors of the balance of the materials were erased by crushing them into powder and mixing them with other synthetic materials to create a uniquely opulent palette of angelic turquoises, ethereal blues, redemptive crimsons and replenishing gold.
The heavily textured layer comprising the massive scarlet key on the canvas were created prior to the application of paint by industrially bonding several layers of foam core board on the canvas followed by pouring industrial adhesive. As the mucilaginous substance resembling boiled cow hooves began to eat into and dissolve the foam core board, a stainless-steel palette knife and straight edge was then used to score and create the architectural indentions.
Viewing the painting from the bottom up, the collage and colors become an allusion to the fervent power of a divine vision, from the undiluted rich season when a Man discovers his purpose, and his faith is resolute hence he assertively writes his vision on paper with confidence. Nevertheless, as portrayed by the heavily collaged foot of the composition submerged in intermittent shades of burnt umber, charcoal and ashes partially covering the key to unlock the padlock, as the visionary begins to journey towards his destiny, fear and doubt, fueled by the cacophonous words from a multitude of friends and foes alike creep in, thereby contaminating his faith and diluting the potency of his vision.
However, since the vision originated from the Source of life, the Creator of the universe and the giver of purpose, it is intertwined with the mortal’s desire and will, as portrayed by the seamless blending of redemptive crimsons, opulent scarlet, celestial white, replenishing shades of gold and earth tones of burnt sienna brown and Ethiopian black. To that end, as the visionary keeps looking ahead, meditating on The Word of Life in his re-born spirit as alluded to by the Scriptural text peering through the thick collage, his strength is resuscitated, hope is reignited, and he emerges triumphant.
Nya’s use of collage and sensitive, sensuous and highly emotive color to explore light’s authority over darkness is incontrovertibly predicated on his indomitable belief of the irresistible, unstoppable and unconquerable power of a vision inspired by a passion birthed by a conviction which is produced by purpose anchored in a sense of identity rooted in the source of life, God.
oil paint .
Oil paint refers to paint in which drying oils (usually linseed oil) are used as the medium; but while its origins are older and obscurer, in “The treatise of Theophilus,” a Latin text written in the 12th century, there is a passage that describes “grinding colors with oil.”
However, it was the Dutchman, Jan Van Eyck who revolutionized the technique and brought it to a sudden peak of perfection. Other painters soon took up his innovations, first in Northern Europe, then in Italy, and over the next century oil progressively superseded tempera as the standard medium for painting. Its versatility increased in the 19th century with the invention of the collapsible metal tube, devised in 1841, which made it convenient to work outdoors.
Alongside natural materials such as animal blood, ashes, red soil, river sand, clay, cow dung, chernozem or black soil, also known as "black land" or "black earth", (a black-colored soil containing a high percentage of humus and high percentages of phosphoric acids, phosphorus and ammonia,) Nya′ also uses industrially manufactured oil paint when creating his composition.
The medium's history, flexibility, opulence and dense color, its wide range from light to dark, and the ability to achieve both minute detail and subtle blending of tones lends well to the contemporary artist’s temperament. However, contrary to old masters like Titian (1490 – 1576), John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925) and the South African painter, Irma Stern (1894 – 1966); who fully exploited the rich textural qualities of oil paint, giving their surfaces an expressive life of their own, and when required, a porcelain smoothness; Nya′ applies the medium in progressively delicate layers using a “sprinkling method” he terms “the thumb technique”
To actualize this seemingly impossible task, especially considering that the average size of his canvasses is 60 x 40 inches, (152.4 x 106.1 cm) Nya′ initially dissects his ground into 12 x 12-inch (30.5 x 30.5 cm) squares. This is ensured by blanketing the entire ground with a transparent wash of the desired color. Using a 500+watt lamp together with natural light, the artist then focuses on each specific area and assiduously sprinkles the oil paint by gently stroking the loaded bristles with his left thumb.
In an interview conducted in 2004, Nya’ described the arduous technique by stating;
“Every thumb stroke is a cathartic step to the core of my purpose and work; a sacred place where passion fueled by conviction rooted in purpose and authored by the PERSON of Grace reign supreme and impossibilities melt into oblivion.”
A good example in which the unorthodox thumb technique was employed is in “Genesis of Gratitude,” 48 x 36 inches (121,92 x 91.44 cm, 2003).
In this painting from the series, “Above the Horizon,” color is masterfully applied to create a subliminal world in which the viewer can liberate his aspirations and every solitary word left unspoken. The canvas becomes a celestial habitat and a meditative belvedere where all the clandestine regrets, un-cried tears, aborted smiles and unconsummated joys are eternally abandoned as a new horizon replete with purpose, profuse with faith and teaming with vision is restfully ushered in.
Technically, this was achieved by using several carefully selected brushes with firm bristles to sprinkle oodles amount of oil paint onto the river sand coated Belgian canvas primed with acrylic gesso and polished with an industrial adhesive; and while high contrast was employed to emphasize form, line was employed to separate color and define the key elements. For example, the salvaged metal comprising parts of the music instrument was heavily sanded before being grounded on the picture plane to represent the indispensability of time, planning and preparation before a Man’s gift is served to the world.
The opulent sea of red engulfing the canvas testifies to the re-vitalizing, re-deeming, re-storing and re-empowering power of passion. In essence, how every Man’s passion and dedication to his gift will ultimately determine his possessions, his preservation, his promotion, his position, his rating, his impact, his influence and his distinction in his field of calling.
In his works from the series “Divine Inspiration,” Nya’s application of oil paint is less pedantic and more rigorous in order to satisfy the treacherous contours and intricate relief drapery created by the unorthodox texture applied to the compositions.
For example, in “Epistle of Breath” (72 x 30 inches (182.88 x 76.2 cm, 2007) orange and gold shades beam across the picture field concealing the identity of the copious amount of texture pasted on the linen ground. Aside from a hint of the zipper and wire, other materials liberally used in the composition, e.g. sackcloth, beach sand, wire and beads are hardly noticeable.
Another key composition in Nya’s "Divine Inspiration" series in which wire, metal and other found objects were used is his panel-grounded work entitled “Escort of Wisdom” The doorknob plate void of the handle alludes to the high cost of true wisdom, which, like the doorknob plate is accessible to every Man, but like the missing door handle, demands you to diligently pursue it until your hand is divinely guided to locate the handle requisite to enter its treasure-laden rooms.
Portrayed in earthy tones of amber, sienna, saffron, jasmine and sunglow - a potent, resplendent and glorious dose of light heightened by shades of lamb whites and the exposed construction markings illuminates the entire picture plane. The sheer power of the light, awash with its autonomous and inexorable strength, pierces through and reaches the dark cavities of the piece, thereby making it facile for the viewer to see and read the coded text inscribed across the bottom of the composition.
In “Tablet of Prosperity” (41 x 31 inches 104.14 x 78.74 cm, 2007) the oil colors are keenly applied over several days to enable maximum navigation through the thick, heavy and extremely dense layers of texture.
Aside from regular painting brushes, a toothbrush kind of brush with loose bristles that are cut at a 45-degree angle was used in applying the initial coats of oil paint to ascertain that every fold created by the sackcloth and pebbles mixed with the bonding cement was adequately covered. However, in order not to conceal the dots comprising the Braille as well as to avoid the thin paper on which it is composed from disintegrating, a very runny mixture of linseed oil and shades of sienna was used to paint it.
In essence, the raised scroll placed within the confines of the Braille is comprised of disparate parchments and secured on the thick canvas ground using contact cement. Each letter in the composition was painstakingly sculptured using wire - ensued by conscientiously stitching each miniscule on to the canvas.
However, the font running across the plane towards the foot of the piece was molded with bonding plaster. The heavily textured relief is made of disparate organic materials that include sackcloth, grass, earth, metal and foam core board mixed with plaster, concrete and industrial adhesive. Before applying the oil color and natural pigments, the heavily constructed composition was naturally cured for 14 days.
The keenly selected materials charged with imagery and metaphors portray the imperishable, unyielding and unwavering power of a blood covenant. While the sackcloth and ashes covering the scribed text represent the fall of Mankind, the untold sorrow of leaving in a cursed earth is represented by the pebbles and desert sand, while the confusion, strife and fear of living without God or by one’s natural senses are represented by the partly burnt Braille.
However, hope, light and life, essentially the entire Kingdom of God restored to Mankind through Jesus redemptive work or His blood is alluded to by the opulent streak of scarlet cascading from the roof of the picture plane. The imbedded scroll, from which the intense light feeding the entire picture is emanating represents the foretold Word from the prophets of a coming Messiah who will be slaughtered and through his blood ransom for God's saints from every tribe and language and nation, thereby restoring their citizenship, kingly status and authority to reign on earth.
In the triptych “Destiny of Words” (23 x 17 inches 58.42 x 43.18 cm, 2007) a celestial palette of oil colors that range from gold, purple and white are used to disclose how God’s Word dispenses immeasurable Grace that enables Man to triumph over the unpredictable waves of life with incommunicable joy foreign to human wisdom and facts.
The earthly hues of umber and charcoal black, a keen mixture of oils and natural pigments and materials that include sackcloth, scrolls, cow dung and stones allude to the Word’s authority and illimitable power to infiltrate the world system and spiritually resurrect any Man from the tomb of grief, sorrow and poverty to his redeemed position of dominion. Divided into three equal parts and composed of multiple layers of foam core board, gypsum and industrial adhesive that were deliberately exposed to natural fire for elongated periods; the triptych is analogous to the dead sea scrolls that were traditionally divided into three groups, namely the Biblical, Apocryphal and Sectarian manuscripts.
While oil paint is a primary medium in Nya’s oeuvre, his method of application and the acute complexity of his compositions in his “Divine Inspiration” make it challenging to distinguish the pieces or parts in his work where oil paint is the exclusive medium.