Eric Aho

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Eric Aho

DC Moore Gallery has recently presented "Eric Aho," the first presentation of the artist's work at the gallery. Eric Aho explored extreme conditions of nature in landscape paintings that incorporate traditional representation, gestural abstraction, and implied figuration. The subjects of Aho's recent paintings—ice floes, forest fires (, and snowstorms—recall the immediacy and monumentality of nature. In them, he made palpable the physicality of mass and texture while directing us to the more intangible qualities of light, movement, and time.

Evoking tectonic sensation on a scale and with a painterly vigour appropriate to the wildernesses depicted, Aho conjures the density and friction of layers of ice (, the bracing temperature of arctic water, and the beauty and destructive force of wildfire. In the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, author Bonnie Costello elaborates, the dynamism of these paintings aligns with their subject matter. Instead of offering abiding geological forms, as a stable theatre for variations of light and season, Aho places us deep inside extreme, protean states—in a reality not just leafing and shedding, but burning and freezing. As representation dissolves into abstraction, these works simultaneously evoke grandeur and moments of intimacy. Aho explains, he responded to extremes and the tension between clarity and indistinctness, the literal and the suggested, between the knowable and the unknowable. He was curious about the line we are unable to cross either physically, intellectually, or imaginatively. (

This space, where nature and feeling fuse together—this is Aho territory. Looking at his landscapes, you suspect that the physical world has grafted itself onto his nerves, that his emotion and imagination have troweled their way into matter. Aho dwells in the borderland between self and world, and he attends to its shifting weather with a fierce subtlety.

This exchange shows in his formal process. Aho moves between the open air and the studio, as his trust in his motifs and his painterly intuition reinforce each other. The two urges have intertwined in him. When Aho looks at nature he sees it for its formal intensities, for the interaction of its shapes, for the palpable shifts in the value and temperature of hues. Take, for example, the cloud in Canadian Wilderness. The abrupt movement between light and dark provides immediate sensation, what the scholar, Edward Morris, has called “emotional chiaroscuro.” So too with the colours: the blue of the sky, hot against the dark gray yet cool against the bright white, dynamizes this whole area of the composition, giving it a felt particularity.

When Aho paints the world in front of him he doesn't represent it so much as he confronts it. He's fascinated by mass, by the way that substance can have, at the same time, a sheer “thereness” and a protean variability. His urge to explore this contradiction has reached a new intensity in his recent series of Ice House paintings. The architectural form in Ice, for instance, stands with stark solidity and yet, because of Aho's subtle brushwork and the gentle suggestiveness of the barely open door, it also hums at ...
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