Saturday, 31 August 2013

In the Spirit of Artistic Immaculacy: Susan Avishai

What you notice first about Susan Avishai's art is the strong sense of passion that emanates from her work. She very fondly describes her first encounter with art. 

"When I was two years old, one night my father came to tuck me in bed. One of his pens fell out of his pocket. He didn't notice, and I was left with the pen and my bed sheet became my canvas. I can still remember looking at the scribbles I had made on my bed sheet and feeling an immense sense of freedom."  

How Joy Is Felt

Susan travelled a great deal and soaked up art wherever she went. From the streets of Montreal where she took classes from Arthur Lismer when she was five years old, to Paris as a teenager where she studied at the Academie Julien and sat and worked on the same benches as Gauguin and Rodin had done in their times. She returned to Montreal to earn a BFA at Concordia University. 


She settled in Boston for a quarter of a century, and to sustain life as an artist she started her own freelance illustration business. She worked in the medium of silverpoint and also made a suite of drawings in pencil. The level of skill that Susan demonstrated brought forth encouragement from her teachers to explore her potential further, giving her the confidence to experiment. 


In 2001, when Susan Avishai moved to Virginia for a Masters in English and Creative writing from Hollins University, she used her expertise in portraiture, and her passion to express herself using art to impress the school's literary magazine. She landed herself the job of cover artist for the publication. She continues to work as the cover artist for the publication to this day. 

Leonard Nathan, poet

Her work in realism is astonishingly close to the subject.

"I could draw pretty much anything as close to reality as you would like to see it. But I thought there was much more to explore."

Dreaming of Poetry


Lilypads and Bubbles

Even though human expressions flow from the face down to the rest of the body, Susan's work focussed more on how the clothed figure represented the human body externally. 

Two Jeans (58" x 46")

"I think our clothes are very similar to how we give glimpses into our personality. Just like we behave in a controlled manner when we're interacting with people. Clothing both hides and reveals our bodies, just as our affective behaviour can both hide and reveal what we are feeling."

Roger's Yellow Slacks

'Scapes of the Clothed Figure' is a series that shows us Susan's insight into the human being, clad and covered, or revealing and unabashed.


Susan's artistic force compelled her to deviate and create work drawing on her inner energies. Symbolism, like an unconscious force, crept into her work. This advent of symbolism was only to be noticed later when the typewriter keys morphed into abstracted circles and bubbles of the collages.

Shiftlock Balloons

Once the symbolic circle had crept into her work, realism evolved into abstract work. It took ahold of Susan's creative potential and the Underwood No. 5 typewriter series morphed from representations in realism to an illustration of her shift to abstraction.


"I don't think it was a conscious decision to do so. But I noticed the evolution in my works away from realism; even though, the change was subtle. The last work in realism was a drawing of my father's jacket. I drew it after he passed away. One look at how nearly perfectly it had been reproduced made me realize that I had gone as far as I could in realism."

My Father's Jacket

Veil of Tears

With abstract expressionism, she felt she had found a sense of release. The abstraction of subjects gave her freedom of expression. Using abstract expressionism she elucidates emotions in a way that makes viewers marvel at how closely their emotions match with what they see. 

Luminous Morning

Susan enhanced her abstract work with the use of collage. 

Tahrir (96" x 48")

Tahrir is a collage she made impressed by the force of the human need for freedom and justice. She was inspired by the uprising in Egypt and feels that the size of the collage is a key point in informing the viewer of the intensity of the experience for those in the thick of things in Tahir Square, Egypt. 

O, What a Tangled Web!


Susan has now found a new medium to use in her abstract collages: textiles. Shortly after her mother passed away, Susan started out by making a collage using her mother's clothes: an homage by an artist to her mother.


"One day, my husband and I were going for dinner, as he put his winter coat on, we heard a rip. Later that night, my husband walked up to the door of my studio and tossed the coat inside saying, 'Here, something for you to create from.' And I set about recycling the material to make something out of it!"

Winter Odonata

Susan is a strong believer and supporter of upcycling or recycling materials. 

"I know that our clothing industry imports products at cheap rates, and when we're done using those products we send them back to third world countries to be sold by the pound. I would like to insert myself somewhere in this process of fast-use to create something more lasting."

Winter Odonata, detail

She used collage work not only to create new pieces of art but also to restore and modernize old pieces of furniture. She created a kiddy table set for her grandchildren. Instilling her playful spirit and artistic delicacy in the pieces, hoping that she will inspire the next generation and leave traces of her personality engraved within her works of art.

Kiddy Table

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  1. Real life works of Susan are beautiful, like Magnolias, Lilypads and bubbles, portrait of Leonard Nathan, all look very real. I love the way she has resycled a piece of cloth to make the Winter Odonata. A lot of variation is found in her works. The writer has projected every angle of Susan's expertise.

  2. Real life works of Susan are beautiful, like Magnolias, Lilypads and bubbles, portrait of Leonard Nathan, all look very real. I love the way she has recycled a piece of cloth to make the Winter Odonata. A lot of variation is found in her works. The writer has projected every angle of Susan's expertise.

  3. Greatful for it all. Cheryl Muise


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