Whether you are considering investing in Nya′s painting(s), familiarizing yourself with his work - or perhaps analyzing a distinguished piece for scholastic purposes, it is important to examine or judge the work(s) in question carefully.
definitions and terminology
The following terms are used interchangeably throughout this discourse
why is art evaluation important?
The principal aim of evaluating an artwork or art evaluation; art assessment or art appraisal is not simply to ascertain whether you like a particular painting or not, but to establish the innate and discernable reasons why the work appeals to you.
Following is an inventory of the key reasons why the act of critically judging, carefully examining, astutely evaluating or appraising a work by Nya′ is vitally important from an investment perspective; and a richly rewarding experience with both intrinsic and tangible benefits.
Through evaluation, you will be able to ascertain the ensuing;
a: If and why the work is an astute investment
b: If and why the work meets your aesthetic requirements
c: If and why the work appeals to your intellect and emotion
d: If and why the work augments the vision for the perceived space
e: If and why the work will increase in intrinsic and tangible value over time
f: If and why the work will enhance, augment and/or diversify an existing collection
g: If and why the work elevates the profile of the public/private space it is intended for
h: If and why the work complements the image of a museum/public collection/organization you intend to donate it to
evaluation: part a
understanding the background of the painting
To understand and appreciate a painting by Nya′, it is important to investigate the artwork's context or background. This will immensely aid you to perceive the intention for creating the work and apprehending what was in the mind of the artist before and during the course of creating the work.
Following are background questions that are mandatory to ask in order to eruditely, intuitively and emotionally comprehend the piece as well as investigate and judge if and how the artist was able or succeeded in expressing their intention, articulating their precept and communicating their ideas.
1: What is the “word” that inspired the work?
While it is incontrovertible that every painting by Nya’ is inspired by the Word of God, it is important to comprehend that behind every verse, phrase, passage of scripture, chapter(s) or book(s) in the Bible that inspired the work, there is always a “word” responsible for initially conceiving the work or inspire its creation. This “word” can be directly from the verse, phrase, passage or chapter or a word revealed upon fervently meditating on the verse(s), passage(s) or chapter(s).
In essence, words anchor at the core of Nya’s work. Words generate the concepts, principles and values of every painting he is inspired to create. To that end, prior to studying the colors and subject matter, it is imperative to know the “word” that conceived the idea or spiritually stirred the artist to initiate the research and eventual creation of the work.
Following is a table with an inventoried list of distinguished works from his “Divine Inspiration” series and “Voices of the Earth” series and the “word”, and anchor verse, passage, chapter and book in the Bible that inspired the work:
Eternal letters to my Beloved
Mandate of Dominion
Tablet of Prosperity
Redeemer of Dreams
Escort of Wisdom
Blueprint of Grace
Genesis of Eternity
Bridge to internal Rest
The Babylonian Shepherd
Yonder of Eternal Excellency
1 Peter 1:18-21
Aside from comprehending the journey in creating the work, from pre-conception to the finished piece, knowledge of the “word” that birthed the painting is also essential in establishing the following:
a: How the word influenced the artist’s research prior to creating the work
b: How the word influenced the artist’s thought process while creating the work
c: How the word is alluded to through distinguished elements in the composition
d: How the word influenced the artist’s intention or purpose for creating the work
e: How the precept (original meaning) of the word decided the materials employed in creating the work
2: when was the work created?
The day when Nya′ completed a painting is different from the day he conceived the “word” that inspired the creation of the work. Furthermore, the date he began creating the work is also different, though at intervals it might be in sync with the date he conceived the “word” that inspired the creation of the work.
In principle, comprehending the date(s) the artist created the work is indispensable to ascertaining the ensuing:
a: To perceive the historical undertones expressed in the painting.
b: To recognize specific artistic or cultural influences and movements in the painting.
c: To determine the maturity and relevance of the painting in comparison with the artist's earlier and other work(s).
d: To establish, appreciate and determine the quality of the painting in relation to other work(s) created in the same period.
e: To discern how the painting compares to work(s) from different artists produced in that time and place or previous period.
f: To ascertain if the subject matter is related to any social, cultural and or economic events, either local or global that were/are currently transpiring at the time of creating the painting.
3: which series does the work belong in?
Every painting by Nya′ belongs to one of the three distinct series that comprise his oeuvre – “Divine Inspiration,” “Voices of the Earth” and “Above the Horizon.” Even though anchored upon the three dimensions that establish his work - faith, vision and purpose, each series has unique traits. It is therefore vital to comprehend the distinguishing features of each series and the identifiable reasons why the painting belongs in that particular series.
series i: divine inspiration
Five distinguishable traits of work from “Divine Inspiration” series include the following:
• An abounding palette of opulent colors ranging from penetrating shades of blues, engulfing turquoises, incandescent oranges, scarlet reds, imbrued tones of alizarin crimsons and mellifluous hues of warm whites
• Canvases are rectangular in shape and are ingeniously left to float on the plane - in other words, the paintings are unframed. However, the smaller pieces, with average dimensions of 40 x 31 inches, (101.6 x 78.74 cm) are preserved behind custom glass, which is 100 percent glare free - prior to being mounted on tailor engineered aluminium or wooden frames.
• Words, in form of obscure alphabet letters, coded Scripture references, verses and numbers are primarily rendered in lowercase, except for the name(s); God; Jesus; The Holy Spirit and every allusion to Him, (always began with a capital letter)
• Work is consummated void of a comprehensive sketch or prior drawing. Therefore, aside from the graphic regularity and impeccable precision, there is a spontaneity, abiding freshness and exuberant vigor bursting through the composition
• Surfaces are primarily coated with sand after affixing unorthodox materials and found objects that include jacket zips, suitcase handles and locks. In most cases, the materials are weaved carefully into the soul of the work thereby veiling their identity
Distinguished examples of pieces from “Divine Inspiration” series include the following:
Blueprint of Grace
Escort of Wisdom
Genesis of Eternity
Eternal letters to my Beloved
4: which genre does the painting belong in?
Primarily for scholastic purposes, it is important to place a work(s) by Nya’ that you are appraising in its distinct category/categories or painting genres.
During the 17th century, European Academies, such as the Academy of Art in Rome, the Academy of Art in Florence, the Parisian Academie des Beaux-Arts, and the Royal Academy in London followed the rule laid down in 1669 by Professor Andre Felibien, Secretary to the French Academy, who ranked painting genres as follows;
∙ Still Life
For example, “Escort of Wisdom” (74 x 38 inches, 187.96 x 96.52 cm, 2004) is reminiscent of murals paintings, landscape paintings and graffiti art as evinced by the size of the pieces, the opulent palette and letters are strewn across the estate of the canvas
Series Il, Voices of the Earth, Nya’ 2006. Courtesy of Seed Gallery, New York
Progenitor of Purpose
Placing a work in its distinct category or investigating the various painting genres the work might be associated with is important in ascertaining the following;
b: The influence of distinct works and artists from different art history periods noticeable in the piece
c: Compare the work with other paintings from the same series that adopt elements from the same genre
d: Elements in the work that make it unique while disassociating it with the genres it borrows elements from
e: External influences during the period the work was created that might have contributed to the artist borrowing elements from the painting genres mirrored or alluded to in the work
5: what school or movement is the painting affiliated with?
A "school" is a national group of artists united by a common style, media, subject matter or period in art history, for example, Shona Sculptors in Zimbabwe, the Spanish School of German Expressionism and the Ancient Egyptian School of hieroglyphics and sculpture.
A “school” is also a local group of artists, for example, Delft School of Dutch Realism in Holland, New York Ashcan School, Ecole de Paris, Visual Art Center in Pretoria, South Africa, B.A.T school of Visual Arts, Zimbabwe.
An established aesthetic movement like baroque, neoclassicism, impressionism, fauvism, cubism, dada, surrealism and pop art is also defined as a school as well as a group of artists primarily dedicated and concerned with a distinct genre of painting, for example, the Barbizon school in France and Newlyn school in England, which both specialized in landscape painting. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt among others who specialized in historical or literary-themed pictures is an example of a unique school which combined English painters, art scholars, poets, philosophers and critics.
An established art group working and experimenting in particular styles is also recognized as a “school.” Primary examples include the Der Blaue Reiter, New York school and Cobra group, Fluxus, St Ives school, both working in abstract expressionism and realism and Tengenenge sculpture group in Zimbabwe exploring various styles ranging from cubism, realism and abstract expressionism, generally known as Shona sculpture.
A “school” can also refer to a recognized specific painting method. For example, neo-impressionism or pointillism, a technique of using dots to build color and shapes founded by Georges Seurat. Socialist realism, a political style of realistic art developed in the Soviet Union that became a dominant style in other communist countries like China and Cuba is an established “school” whose influence is still visible in the work of present-day contemporary Chinese artists like Yue Minjun, Zhang Xiaoguang and Cai Guo Qiang.
Constructivism, an artistic and architectural philosophy that originated in Russia beginning in 1919 is another established school. Devoted to reflecting the modern industrial world, the school utterly rejected the idea of autonomous art in favor of art as a practice for social purposes.
De Stijl, also known as neo-plasticism was a Dutch artistic movement or school founded in 1917 for the objective of expressing a new utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order. Its proponents advocated pure abstraction and universality by reducing the essentials of form and color. They simplified visual compositions to vertical and horizontal directions and only used primary colors, along with black and white.
For all its originality, it is preeminent to know that Nya’s work assimilates diverse modernist elements and ingeniously interweaves them into a post-modern style that meets all the progressive mainstream criteria while projecting a subjective sense of African identity.
While possessing a keenly developed Afrocentric authenticity, each painting adopts European-inflected aesthetic sophistication one can only attribute to the fact that the artist is not confined to his “African-ness,” but has extensively travelled, is well-read and is extremely knowledgeable of the existing and changing global art trends, hence a vast vocabulary to utilize in order to achieve his intentions.
The influence of modern expressionist painters like Picasso, Braque and Rothko is noticeable in Nya’s “Divine Inspiration” series, for example, in his pieces “My Boathouse” (41 x 31 inches, 104.14 x 78.74 cm, 2006) and “Yonder of Eternal Excellency.”
In “Victims of Faith,” (62 x 35 inches (157.48 x 88.9 cm, 2003) the artist replicates neo-plasticism tenets of pure abstraction and focusses on the basic essentials of form and color by dividing the canvas into vertical and horizontal axis and arranging the elements on the picture field according to color, shape and size.
Series III, Above the Horizon, Nya’ 2004. Courtesy of Seed Gallery, New York
Victims of Faith
By ignoring traditional aesthetics and employing unorthodox materials like animal dung, sackcloth and shards of metal in his compositions, Nya’s work adopts Dadaist elements. However, unlike the informal international movement, whose aims were to offend, confront, shock and protest against the bourgeois nationalist and colonialist interests which many Dadaists believed were the root cause of World War I, Nya’s use of materials is meditative, erudite and insightful, resting on a deeper, more significant formal armature and exude an aura of spiritual connectedness.
By disassembling his subject into geometric plates that overlap and intersect at different angles in “Victims of Faith,” Nya’s work subtly echoes cubist principles of spurning the normal rules of linear perspective by reducing painted objects into components planes and geometric solids like cubes, cylinders, spheres and cones. However, as characteristic of his work, Nya′ obliterates the movement’s use of a flat plane by affixing found objects to his ground to create a tangible third dimension to his composition.
As part of the evaluation process, apprehension of the various global art movements and investigating various schools or movements that a work is associated with or adopts specific elements from is important in establishing and understanding the following;
a: The historical value of the painting
b: Elements in the work that are pure and authentic
c: Keen elements within the artist’s oeuvre that remain constant
d: How his relocation to the United States influenced his work and subject matter
6: where was the painting created?
Aside from establishing the date and year of completion, knowing the physical place of creation is also a vital component of the evaluation process. Distinguished works from Nya’s oeuvre were completed in his native country while a majority, especially from “Divine Inspiration” series were completed in New York even though the ‘word’ that inspired the work might have been received in Zimbabwe.
For example, the “word” that inspired “Genesis of Gratitude” (48 x 36 inches (121,92 x 91.44 cm, 2003) was received in 2001 while the artist was visiting South Africa but the work, though it began in 2003, was fully completed in the New York winter of 2006. To that end, materials brought from Africa were later mixed with linseed oils and other synthetic hues in New York to create the textures and add heft to the intense red hues in the work.
Series III, Above The Horizon, Nya’ 2003. Courtesy of Seed Gallery, New York
Genesis of Gratitude
When working in his native country, Nya′ is in constant communion with his family, friends and unadulterated economic, social and political news pertaining to the continent - whereas in Europe and America, the artist works and in absolute seclusion. As a result, works completed in Africa tend to have alacrity, a youthful zeal despite the subject matter and an unvarnished and relatable ambiance - while a work painted in his New York studio without any intermittent breaks tend to be purer, possessing a meditative tenor ascribed by the artist to providence, Grace and the serenity of splendid solitude.
For example, in “Blueprint of Grace” 74 x 27 inches, (187.96 x 68.58 cm, 2006), the subtle and gracile palette connoting the ethereal mirth and abiding peace that engulfs Man in the presence of his heavenly Father is contrary to the ebullient colors in “Butterfly Kisses,” which was completed in Zimbabwe 6 years prior.
In New York, the artist primarily works under artificial light and the paintings cure after a protracted period that ranges from two to six years resulting in surfaces with resplendent tones and an immutable glow that has been attributed to the effects of changing seasons and the artist method of applying color in subsequent layers. In contrast, the dry and warm weather of Africa cures a heavily textured work from “Voices of the Earth” series in less than thirteen months resulting in compositions that emit or reflect very little light.
For example, the potent and splendiferous dose of light portrayed in “Epistle of Breath” (70 x 30 inches, 182.88 x 76.02 cm, 2007) can be attested to the emollient rays of sunlight that engulf New York in the early days of spring - the season when the painting began to cure. To the contrary, the desiccated and arid atmosphere exhibited in “Spiritual Purifiers” which amplifies the subject matter is a testament to Zimbabwe’s scorching and prolonged summer heat – the period when the piece cured.
In summary, ascertaining the country and region Nya′ created the work as an integral part of the evaluation process will help you to establish and understand the ensuing;
a: The artist’ choice and use of materials
b: The overall esthetic quality of the work
c: How the artist's intention and subject matter was influenced
d: How the culture and environment of the country influenced the artist
Upon ascertaining the place of creation, it is also important to understand the prevailing conditions exposed to the artist prior to and during the creation of the work.
For example, in the winter of 2008, Nya′ travelled to California for a skiing vacation in the prodigious mountains of Squaw valley. The breathtaking scenery comprised of a mellifluous range of mountains covered in snow and enveloped in a celestial dome that periodically ajar to pardon a warm and serene shower of light left an indelible mark in his memory. Upon his return, and after investing exorbitant hours meditating on the word “freedom,” a torrent of affluent and immediately captivating colors reminiscent of fire and cascading snow enraptured his work, “Genesis of Eternity” (72 x 30 inches, 182.88 x 76.2 cm, 2008).
Spanning eleven years from conception to reality, one important work that clearly depicts the eminence of understanding the prevailing conditions prior to and during the creation of a painting is “Retired Composer” (48 x 36 inches, 121.92 x 91.44 cm, 2003)
In 1994, Nya′ visited his aunt in hospital, and upon knowing that she had breast cancer, disconcerting news that sank her once vivacious spirit and contagious alacrity into a state of acute despondency and abject despair, the budding artist left the institution confounded and crestfallen. In isolation, he recorded his brewing emotions in a series of sketches completed over several months on disparate kinds of salvaged paper.
Almost nine years later, in the solitary of his New York studio, and upon hearing of his aunt’s faith in God and subsequent triumph over the enervating disease, Nya′ aptly responded by transposing the archived sketches onto a massive canvas - he ironically entitled “Retired Composer.”
Apart from Nya′, notable artists whose oeuvres reflect how their surroundings and existing conditions immensely influenced their palette and distinguished works are the American pop artist, Robert Rauschenberg. During his youth, the German-born artist was desperately poor that he stayed in his apartment and painted the quilt on his own bed, decorating it with toothpaste and fingernail polish. The iconic work, entitled “Bed” (1955) is now worth an estimated US$50 million and is one of the definitive works in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York, USA.
Camille Pissarro, a French Impressionist and neo-impressionist painter worked outdoors and because the sun often disappeared before completing his work, he left a large number of unfinished paintings. His eagerness to capture light explains why the artist painted the same scene or motif repeatedly and why his brushwork was increasingly rapid, spontaneous and loose.
Edouard Vuillard lived with his mother for 60 years in a series of run-down apartments in Paris. As a struggling dressmaker, his mother ran her corsetiere from home giving Vuillard plenty of opportunity to observe the patterns, materials, colors and shapes of her dresses as reflected in the intricate patterned work of his paintings.
7: what was the artist’s developmental stage when the painting was created?
Nya’s early works were conceived in Africa, his mid-career paintings were created in America and his mature works to date were consummated between the two continents.
Understanding and appreciating the artist’s developmental stages is an integral part of the evaluation process; an engaging, intimate and rewarding course that is actualized through the following;
a: Carefully surveying distinguished works from the artist's formative and maturing years
b: Studying how the subject matter and artist's style has keenly evolved through the years
c: Objectively comparing key selected early works to current paintings and the piece you are evaluating
d: Assessing the level of craftsmanship exhibited in the current work and comparing it to work from the artist’s early formative and maturing years.
Artists typically ameliorate their technique while honing a distinguished style that later punctuates their oeuvre through time and practice, and to that end, Nya′ is no exception. By creating his work in two entirely different continents, it is incontrovertible that his choice and use of materials, palette, dimensions, subject matter and intention have been vastly influenced.
A meager budget and a desperate dearth of resources - from basic paint, drawing paper, canvas and pencils hugely restricted pieces from his formative years to an average size of 12 x 8 inches, (30.48 x 20.32 cm). On the contrary, the artist’s exposure to a plethora of painting materials after a highly successful exhibition two years prior to his departure to America quadrupled the dimensions of his work and improved the overall quality.
The robust energy, uncontained zeal and exuberant palette exhibited in the artist's last work before leaving his native country in 2004, “New Light, Old Windows,” is different from the strict graphic regularity, ambrosial monochromatic palette and subdued fervor that underscores a work from his maturating years “Eternal letters to my Beloved” (48 x 48 inches, 121.92 x 121.92, 2006)
Aside from knowing the artist’s stage of development when he created the work, it is also important to understand the prevailing circumstances that might have spurred the work during the period. For example, Nya′ received the ‘word’ that later inspired his works that depict the theme of Fatherhood after forgiving his late father for abandoning his mother when the artist was two years old. As he sought to fathom why a man would abandon his family, it was through revelation wisdom that he began to understand that fatherhood is not an intrinsic title, but a unique position determined by its function and therefore consecrated in amaranthine obligations.
evaluation: part b
evaluating the actual painting
After investigating the context or background of the painting, you can begin evaluating the actual work, the following is an inventory of questions that will help you in accomplishing this task.
1: what materials were used to create the painting?
Material use is one of the most powerful, riveting and spellbinding traits in Nya’s work. In actuality, the distinctiveness of his compelling compositions rests in the unorthodox materials he ingeniously synthesizes. It is therefore mandatory that you know the materials that he employed to conceive the work you are evaluating.
Depending on the work and the series it belongs in, ensuing is a general inventory of pertinent questions that you ought to consider in regards to the artist's use of materials;
a: What are the distinguished materials in the work?
b: What do each of the materials used in the work represent?
c: How are the materials related to the subject matter and didactic message in the work?
d: Which part of Africa or the world, city and or community did the materials originate from?
Aside from understanding the materials employed in the work - it is also important to know how each material is painstakingly preserved and securely bonded to the composition. In essence, Nya’ uses reliable, tested and modern scientific techniques and medium in order for his works to remain intact and not lose luster over time.
Animal blood and dung is one of the most important and recurring materials in the artist's oeuvre – and to that end, if the work you are evaluating contains either one or the two elements, the following questions are indispensable for the appraisal process;
a: Where in the painting is the blood and or dung located?
b: What is the name of the animal(s) the dung and blood was taken from?
c: Why did the artist use blood and or dung from that particular animal(s)?
In essence, Nya’s work is composed inherently using constituents procured from the earth. Oxblood, lamb’s blood, animal dung, tree twigs, shards of metal, found iron parts, rocks, sackcloth, seal shells and animal hide are all part of the unorthodox matter that sculpt the relief landscape of his paintings. These materials show none of the desperation to grab attention with novelty for its own sake, but rather, these natural hues salvaged from various parts of the world allude to a deeper, more significant formal armature and an aura of spiritual connectedness.
In “Mandate of Dominion” (41 x 31 inches, 104.14 x 78.74 cm, 2006) the sackcloth covering the Holy Text represent the sacredness of the “Word of God” and its immortal power to remain hidden from hardened hearts while being revealed to those who revere His name and make it their sole priority to seek His Kingdom.
Series I, Divine Inspiration, Nya’ 2004. Courtesy of Seed Gallery, New York
Mandate of Dominion
The materials intercourse to create compositions that are fresh, powerful, immediate, thought-provoking, challenging and compelling. The ashes, cement nails, shards of abandoned scrap metal and torn glass add tact and heft to distinguished works and the animal blood provides reds of visceral radiance unlike that of the most brilliant cadmium.
2: what is the content and subject matter in the work?
Nya’s work is established on three dimensions; faith, vision and purpose. Every painting he is inspired to create is a voyage to unearth the abstruse root of “words” in relation to the three dimensions.
Fundamentally, it is the immutable, irrevocable, imperishable and supernatural power of God’s Word that is inspired by revelation knowledge upon which his entire body of work is founded. However, the power of spoken words, written words, words invoked through images, words conveyed from generation to generation, words warehoused through oral tradition, words uttered through the world of religion, words reverberated through the world of music, words broadcasted through the world of social media and words expressed through the world of science are visually coded through color and different materials in distinguished paintings.
From the onset, it is important to understand that the work you are evaluating is not merely an act of fate, nor is it an abstract painting for abstract sake. Every detail, material, color, texture and surface is carefully chosen and with keen astuteness, deep meditation, prayer and consultation with the Spirit of truth, wisdom, excellence and understanding, they are identified, catalogued, preserved, composed and arranged. Furthermore, every painting has a definite meaning and authenticates a time, a place or event, either past, present or future.
· Call to remembrance
· Re-discover the precept
However, seldom is a work pinned to a single message. Therefore, a painting that has a teaching message might embrace a prophetic message and also inspire and exalt.
For example, “New Light, Old Windows” (70 X 42 inches, 117.38 x 106.68 cm) declares and prophesies how the Light of God’s Word is and will penetrate through the darkness of this world system through his Kingdom citizens and bring hope, life and restoration where there is debilitation, debasement, depravity, decadence, depression and death.
Series I, Divine Inspiration, Nya’ 2004. Courtesy of Seed Gallery, New York
New Light, Old Widows
Conclusively, it suffices to say that the most eminent and rewarding step in the evaluating process is discovering the meaning behind the work. It is the definitive intention or the artist’s purpose for creating the work that distinguishes it while intrinsically and tangibly adding to its value and posterity.
3: which angle should the work be viewed from?
In order to appreciate the intricate details, meritorious workmanship and exquisite virtuosity of the work you are evaluating, ascertaining the distance the artist intended the audience to view the painting from is eminent.
The recommended viewing distance for works from his “Divine Inspiration” series, which are primarily rectangular in shape and are left to float on the canvas (unframed), and with an average size 60 x 30 inches (177.8 x 76.2 cm) is 3 feet (36 inches). However, to appreciate the intricate detail and continually discover the message in the raised fonts and numbers, razor etched lines and hand stitched letters, a distance of 2 feet (24 inches) will suffice.
For works with 1 or 2 dominating colors, for example, “Epistle of Breath” and “Blueprint of Grace” the best viewing distance is from 4 feet (1.2 meters) and beyond, and the works must be mounted at least 50 inches (127 cm) from the ground.
The smaller works in the series, with an average size of 40 x 31 inches, 101.6 x 78.74 cm) e.g. “Tablet of Prosperity” and “Redeemer of Dreams” must be viewed from a distance of 3 feet and mounted 45 inches from the floor. It is also important to note that the innumerable details (extremely finite and complex) in his works behind glass can only be discovered and appreciated over time and in most cases, through understanding the purpose of each material used in the composition and with the aid of a magnifying glass.
In conclusion, it is important to underscore that the artist is not implying that his work can only be fully appreciated when viewed from the suggested distance, but understanding the distance from which Nya′ intended for you to view the work is important not only as part of the evaluation process, but for envisioning the painting in a perceived space or location.
evaluation: part c
overall appreciation of the painting
1: how to appreciate the composition
Composition refers to the overall design, also known as ‘designo’ or simply, the general layout of the work. Studying the layout of the work is an indispensable part of the evaluation process because it largely determines the visual impact of the work and therefore your ability to appreciate the composition. In brief, examining the layout entails the following;
a: Evaluating the use of color
b: Scrutinize the level of workmanship
c: Appreciate elements unique to the work
d: Perceive the relationship between key elements
e: Investigate recurring elements and or motifs/patterns
f: Arrange the elements in the work according to importance
g: Observe and appreciate the intricate details and complex features
Regardless of the series, the work you are evaluating belongs in, to ascertain if the painting has been adeptly composed, diligently study every element in the composition and as you do, intermittently pause and objectively ask yourself the ensuing questions;
b: Are there any elements in the work that I immediately relate to?
The key to prudent evaluation lies in your ability to silence any external inhibitions and use your eyes as a tool to dissect and decipher the composition. In essence, eyes cherish the thrill of recognizing something ineffable, picking distinguished elements that separate a painting and make it nonpareil.
Stand before the work you are evaluating for a considerable time, (approximately five minutes to clear your mind of preconceived notions before your internal eyes are ready to begin seeing into the painting). It is the artist's intention for you to invest quality time contemplating the work, concentrating and emotionally engaging with it as you would if you were reading a book in order to understand its significance. It is only through looking intently at the work you are evaluating that your ability to access what is genuinely intrinsic, essentially supreme and veritably eternal to the painting becomes evident.
Discovering and maturing your own unique taste, composing your own visual vocabulary and understanding what is truly intrinsic to you in this age of celebrated tastemakers, opinion marketers and the orthodoxy of academia is only achievable by temporarily arresting your flesh and intently looking with your natural eyes with the intention to see with your soul and spirit; and to that end, following are key practical things that will immensely enhance and hone your visceral response as you stand before the work you are evaluating;
a: See how the unique elements seamlessly fuse with the entire work
b: Stand in front of the painting and take a deep breath, be quiet and still
c: Study the work from different angles as you liberally step to and from the piece
d: Step back from the work, while keeping your eyes glued to those unique elements
e: Move closer to the piece, fixing your gaze into those elements that are drawing you in
f: Allow the work to speak to you and have its own voice by muting your right brain impulses
g: Let your eyes slowly and liberally move around the painting, from left to right, up and down and vice versa
h: Gently and softly squint your eyes while looking into the work and focus on elements drawing you into the painting
Nya’s honed ability to position elements within his work with subtlety and clinical precision for maximum optical harmony and to convey chief messages that are congruent with the overall theme requires that you keenly study the entire composition prior to isolating the intricate details that connect the primary elements.
The surgical lines, broken letters, disappearing vowels and coded verses that embody a work from “Divine Inspiration” series demand a contemplative deportment birthed out of a subterranean passion to revelatory discover the innate constituents that unite us as humans, for example, the fonts comprising the text in the triptych “Destiny of Words” 23 x 17 inches (58.42 x 43.18 cm, 2008). The works from the series also require a heightened meditative sojourn for the feast of color to penetrate your psyche before you objectively appreciate the primarily graphic layout of the composition. for example, “Epistle of Breath.”
2: how to appreciate line and shape
An artist’s skill, ingenuity and commitment to pursue excellence is evidenced through his use of line. Art history records how a distinguished art patron sent a messenger to Giotto, the pre-renaissance Italian painter with an added request to verify his identity, whereupon the artist produced a paintbrush and a piece of cloth, on which he painted a perfect circle. He then handed it to the messenger, with the words;
"Your Master will know exactly who painted this…"
Line is a crucial element in the structure of a painting. Renaissance painters regarded drawing as the most important attribute of an artist and it was line drawing, and not painting or (colorito) that they emphasized and tutored at European academies of fine arts.
The work of the classically trained American painter, John Singer Sargent, (1856–1925) is distinguished by the artist’s meticulous draftsmanship portrayed through a keen understanding and use of line – and among modern artists with no classical tutelage, the paintings of Van Gogh and Gauguin stand out as having exceptionally strong, fervent and confident line Nya’s use of line is both intuitive and erudite. In his “Divine Inspiration” series, linelineis a tool primarily used to create the shapes and render the architectural plans that discreetly hover in the background. For example, in “Vault of Dreams,” 40 x 31 inches (101.6 x 78.74 cm, 2007) the key elements in the composition, primarily the padlock key and book were created by cutting shapes into the texture of the painting
Series I, Divine Inspiration, Nya’ 2007. Courtesy of Seed Gallery, New York
Vault of Dreams
In “Retired Composer” every element in the collage is rendered through conscientious use of line and in “Escort of Wisdom,” fine lines etched into the canvas with a needle, tracing the Spirit of Wisdom’s plan of redemption from Genesis to Malachi.
On the whole, to appreciate Nya’s use of line as an integral part of the evaluation process requires you to ask the following questions irrespective of the series the work(s) you are appraising belongs in;
a: Does the line(s) converge to meet at a central point?
b: What kind of materials were used to create the line(s) in the work
c: Does the line(s) lead your eyes to the primary elements in the work?
f: How does the use of line compare or differ with other works from the series?
d: Is the line(s) solid throughout the composition or receding into the background?
e: Has line been used to emphasize the importance of certain elements, symbols or figures?
g: What type of line(s) is prevalent in the work? Is it vertical, horizontal, diagonal, parallel, organic, abstract or a broken line?
3: how to appreciate color
Color influences emotions. To that end, it plays a preeminent part in affecting your reaction and overall feelings for art. The question of color is paramount since for the most part, a painting has the power to draw your attention because of various elements that might not be beneficial to an astute evaluation of the work. For example, a person in search of a vibrant painting for a living room space can immediately find “Yonder of Eternal Excellency” a suitable work to acquire due to its intense red hues.
The monochromatic palette of “Eternal letters to my Beloved” can immediately draw one to conclude that the work will suit his contemporary abode and blend well with his new cream leather sofas while the emotive tones of blood and earth in “Epistle of Breath” can cause another to think that the work will be too controversial for a boardroom.
From the onset, it is vitally paramount to clearly understand that Nya′ does not use color impetuously, or merely because the hues are alluring and harmoniously blend. He carefully considers his palette and upon diligent research and meditation, (a process that takes between 6 months – 5 years and beyond), the artist applies the initial coat onto the prepared ground. Each color is a symbol, an adage, allusion, prophetic symbol, a visual acronym and a revelatory vehicle delivering a potent message.
Therefore, as you conduct your evaluation, rise above the primary emotions expressed in colloquial phrases like, “I like this color,” and “I don’t think this color would work.” Instead, be objective, open-minded and surrender your prejudices to allow the eyes of your heart (sub-conscience) to see beyond the surface. Below is an inventory of pertinent questions that you will need to ask to aid the “color dialogue” throughout the appraisal;
a: What kind of mood is created by the colors?
b: How has Nya′ used gradation to blend the colors together?
c: How does the palette compare to other works from the same series?
d: What is the dominant color in the composition and what does it represent?
e: Do the colors create harmony, balance, chaos, conflict or a potent dialogue?
f: Are the colors incongruent, and if so, how does it heighten the overall mood of the work?
g: How can you describe the palette used by the artist, Is it ebullient, somber, banal or exaggerated?
h: Has the artist intentionally heightened the mood by increasing color intensity on some parts of the work?
i: Is the work composed entirely of primary, secondary, complimentary chromatic or monochromatic colors?
After objectively assaying the color as part of the evaluation process, conclude the color dialogue by asking the ensuing questions;
a: What kind of mood will the color(s) bring when displayed in the perceived space/location?
b: What kind of environment will the color(s) bring, create, sustain, mature and/or preserve in the perceived space?
c: Will the color(s) in the painting balance, collide or blend with the furnishings when displayed in the perceived space?
d: Will the color(s) in the piece balance with the pre-existing environment when mounted in the perceived space/location?
Throughout history, artists have always used color in variant ways. The American abstractionist, Mark Rothko was probably the first to create huge canvases saturated with rich colors, ranging from yellows, oranges, reds, blues, indigos and violets. His cardinal goal was to immerse the viewer completely and deliberately force him to bathe in a sea of hypnotic color. He deliberately abandoned all form and turned color into his sole activating force. Leaving little to chance, Rothko carefully assayed how the texture, intensity and specific surfaces of distinguished colors communicated. Breaking from conformity, he caused colors that normally advanced to recede and those that receded to advance in order to evoke an emotional response from the viewer.
Historically, impressionism and expressionism, notably fauvism, were the first international movements to exploit the full potential of color. While academic painters adhered to conventional color schemes e.g. green to represent grass, blue and gray to represent the sea and clouds, the impressionists painted what they saw with their inner eyes or how they felt from what they were physically seeing, hence the name, expressionism.
4: how to appreciate the brushwork
Nya′ applies color to his paintings in multiple layers primarily using 4-inch (10.16 cm) brushes, 2-inch (5.08 cm) brushes and hairline sable brushes for the raised letters and numbers. The unorthodox technique commences with appropriately loading the brush with paint after saturating every single bristle in linseed oil followed by the desired color. This is ensued by painstakingly sprinkling the pigment from square foot to square foot until the pegged surface is blanketed. The unconventional technique results in immediate surfaces rich with raw emotions, yet subtle enough to invite the viewer and chaperone him through the intricate details and carefully coded symbols that allude to the work’s subject matter.
Aside from the intentional brush strokes used to highlight distinguished spaces within a specific painting, Nya’s unorthodox technique of applying color makes it arduous to trace his brush marks. However, depending on his intention, surfaces can be densely covered with color using tight (slower, precise, controlled) sprinkles or partially covered using loose (more rapid, casual and expressionistic) sprinkles. Rather than the artist’s temperament, the degree and intensity of coverage is determined by the style and mood of the painting.
Overall, as you study the artist’s brushwork as part of your evaluation process, consider the ensuing:
a: How the colors on the work blend together
b: Areas within the work highlighted by visible brushstrokes
c: How rich or dense the ground has been covered with color
d: Elements in the composition left unpainted or partially painted
5: personal questions for effective appreciation
a: How do you relate to the message in the painting?
Aside from the didactic messages, Nya’s work asks the viewer to examine his understanding of the world and determine his role and relationship to it – but above all, each work provides access to a dimension where impossibilities melt into oblivion, and true hope, founded in the Author, Giver and Preserver of Life, reigns supreme.
b: How does the painting make you feel?
As you look into the painting again after the evaluation, do you feel infuriated, perturbed, intolerant, calm, invigorated, indifferent, enraged, provoked, serene, passionate, hopeful or melancholic?
Deeply intercourse with your feelings - have the unabridged autonomy to use your intuition from the onset, with the acute comprehension that you can always change your mind later in the context of the work that transforms your perception. After focusing exclusively on your subjective reaction to the painting, exit the dialogue with the question;
Is the impact of the painting mostly visual; or is it also cerebral and intuitive?
There are many ways a painting can impact your sensibilities; from the primly intellectual to the wildly emotional. It can ground or elevate you – it can transport you to depths of unimaginable sorrow or ascend you to a higher spiritual plane. You can be delighted, you can be baffled, you can be appalled or you can be refreshed. A painting can move you to tears each time you look into it or fill you with inconceivable joy and hope. Essentially, a work of art you truly engage with on a purely personal level and void of preconceived ideas, assumptions and philosophies will return you to its source of inspiration, the invisible spirit and unseen hand working with and through the artist.
As a word of caution, please avoid being seduced by our commodity-driven culture into confusing the dollar value of the artist’s work with quality; and thus, be drawn toward paintings you have been told are important or have a hefty price tag at the risk of overlooking a piece that will personally speak to you. When it comes to selecting what you like and might want to invest in, choose what innately appeals to your core being, your spirit, where life emanates – and not your rational mind.