“Science underpins all my work,” says Ari Athans. Geography, geology, and topography combine in her paintings to resonate with a sense of the earth and its timeless processes, to explore the fuzzy boundary between organic and inorganic. The physicality of her creative process – building up and sanding back layers of enamel paint, oil pastel and graphite on a mild steel ground – allows for erosion, oxidizing and layering, evoking the passage of both mineral and cultural time. Her background in geology informs her interest in the poetic traces of lost activity, fossils, and “subterranean imprints of past lives”.
Athans also makes jewellery, and brings a love of rich colour to her painting palette, often pitting complementary or surprising colours against one another to cause a jolt of visual energy. Her paintings recall the simultaneous, all-around view of objects essential to early Cubism, reducing the subject to geometric form in shallow space, to emphasize the painting as an object verging on sculpture. Gemlike in their pristine square format, Athans’ paintings invite the viewer to consider a precarious balance of earthliness and the sublime.
Ari holds a Diploma of Arts in Jewellery Design from Sydney Institute of TAFE, a Diploma in Gemology from the Gemological Association of Australia, and a Bachelor of Applied Science from University of Technology, Sydney. She has exhibited throughout Australia and internationally, and received Arts Queensland grants in 2000, 2002 and 2007. Her work is held in the Toowoomba Regional Gallery Collection and numerous private collections. Carol Schwarzman