This is a description of the kind of play that happens when you encounter a piece in The Ideal Marriage, a new exhibition by Ashraph at Y Art and Framing Gallery at 26 Taylor Street, Woodbrook. The piece described above is completed with two drawings of the same arches meeting at the bottom of the canvas with a small circle (ring, eye, egg) inside.
The show, said to be in the works for "a couple of years" contains 20 pieces in mixed media. There are silk screens, paper, canvas, glitter, inks and collage works, all unified by the motif of the dual arches (which sometimes multiply into menage a trois-like variants) as well as Ashraph's use of clean spaces, minimal compositions.
The artist is investigating relationships between people, between forms, thoughts, perceptions, colours, patterns, textures, ideas. The arches are representative in a figurative way as well as possibly phallic. They suggest architectural differences, the human body, religion and the idea of different personalities, all of which often have almost imperceivable distinctions that may unite or divide. Most striking, though, is a sense of emotion being interrogated. Ashraph has, with these canvasses, penned a love letter.
Here is how Ken Critchlow describes the work: "the images suggest connections between marriage and balance, symmetries between man, woman and sometimes a mysterious observer."
And Judy Raymond: "The two glittering shapes begin as religious symbols but might also stand for...any opposed yet complementary dyad. After all, any marriage, any relationship between two individuals is mixed. In every possible combination these bright shapes playfully suggest the variety of desire, the endless permutations of love."
Christopher Cozier observes: "the surface of the work functions like a veil suspended between the viewer and the inferred story. Should we stay where we are or should we look further inside the work or inside ourselves?"
What we must also not forget in all of this is that Ashraph has drawn from Derek Walcott's great poem 'Love After Love', the first lines of which are: "the time will come / when, with elation / you will greet yourself arriving / at your own door, in your own mirror".
Yes, The Ideal Marriage can be read as an analysis or investigation of relationships between two people. But it is also clearly the artist's examination of conflicts within himself, conflicts which he must engage in dialogue with and through which he is compelled to view all of his other relationships.
What is the ideal balance between lust and spirituality? Between two differing religions or ideologies, both with claims on the subject?
How is the citizen to negotiate between two choices that may be different but in fact resemble? Between two political (in all senses of that word) alternatives? Between two political systems? Between one form of coalition and other types of (self) representation? Between varying aesthetic points of views? How to choose between different philosophies, disparate streams of reason? Between different ways of self-presentation? This is the hidden and, in my view, most intriguing aspect of a show which must not be missed.
The Ideal Marriage runs until March 28. For further information call 628-4165.