A new artwork by U. S. artist, Evie Zimmer, called “Shiira” is a marriage of two styles of art that have no business sharing a canvas: Abstraction and Realism. It is a feat that only an artist of Zimmer’s skill could hope to achieve. She has combined oil and water to make them behave like peanut butter and jelly. Romeo and Juliet, eat your hearts out! Evie Zimmer is the 21 st century’s visual answer to Shakespeare.
Superficially, “Shiira” (which, according to the artist, means mahi-mahi in Japanese, and is a reference to the fish in the image) is a painting of a fish whose features are obscured by ripples on the water’s surface. But there is so much more to this painting.
Zimmer has painted circular swirls before. The painting known as “Vibe” stands as a prime example. In fact, if you were to turn “Vibe” clockwise onto its side, you would see even more resemblance between it and “Shiira.” Other paintings of Zimmer’s that resemble “Shiira” include “Raspberry Cocoa” and “The Big Spin.” In these paintings, the swirls are made to look familiar enough as the concentric circular waves made from a splash in a body of water, but there are features that make the image also clearly abstract: The first feature is that the concentric circles are too uniform in width from one to the next, while actual waves in the water would get broader as they got larger, moving away from the centre. The second feature is the series of “reflections” in the “waves” that can’t really be reflecting anything; they lack consistency and uniformity of reflections. And more importantly, in “The Big Spin,” the “reflections” are clearly abstractions of geometric designs rather than actual representations of reflections, so, when you view these images that were all made at about the same time, you see that Zimmer is an abstract artist who frequently uses such “swirls” in her art. From that it’s easy to conclude that these three paintings are mere abstractions that resemble concentric waves in a pond, but aren’t necessarily representations of them at all. And from that it’s easy to conclude that she’s done the same again with “Shiira:” made an image of concentric circles that resemble circular waves but really are not. Fine, but you can’t stop there.
Click on any image to enlarge and view slides.
When I first “e-met” Evie Zimmer (to coin a new computer-age term), she was just beginning work on a new piece that eventually became known as “Majesty.” It was a composition of Easter Lilies depicted with nearly perfect vertical symmetry. It was an astounding work, first for it’s nearly perfect balance, left to right, and second, for the way Zimmer can take an image of realism and make it abstract by simply painting it as though half of the canvas were one half of the bunch of lilies, and the other half of the canvas were the mirrored reflection of that first half. I was more than impressed. Drop-jaw stunned is, perhaps, more accurate. Zimmer went on to paint two more like “Majesty,” one called “Moonlit” and one called “Pink Lady.” Three images that meld abstraction and realism seamlessly.
Then, along comes “Shiira,” and takes this melding concept to a new level. You have the waves and the reflections that, like “Vibe,” seem to be representations of water waves, an idea that is confirmed by the impression of the titular fish. But you also have the reflections in the waves that can’t really be representations of reflections on waves; they are too geometric on their own without the uniformity that actual reflections would have. When you couple that idea with the other images that are distinctly abstract works, the abstract qualities of “Shiira” seem to deny the existence of any realism, even while the elements of realism seem to deny the existence of the abstract. And while all of this denial is going on in the viewer’s mind, and you’re scratching your head trying to figure it all out, both Abstraction and Realism are sitting together, like elderly lovers on a park bench, smiling and watching you ponder how the blazes the two of them can be joined on a single canvas.
Evie Zimmer’s “Shiira” is nothing short of a masterpiece of 21st century art—a magnificent work, at the very least, that is sure to raise the eyebrows of a good number of art critics and patrons, drawing them in like the worm on a hook draws the fish. There will surely be calls for more art like this in the future. The problem is that there aren’t a lot of artists—if there are any—with the skill and finesse to be able to replicate what Zimmer has achieved in “Shiira,” without making it a gimmick. What is best for us to do is to simply sit back and enjoy the art, because “Shiira” is a work to be savoured.
About the Writer
A. J. Mittendorf does not have a degree in art, but he does have equal credits—perhaps more in art history, appreciation and interpretation, and he has continued to study art on his own since the end of his university days. He is a long-time educator, having taught high school and university courses in both Canada and the U. S. He is also a poet, an actor, and a musician with symphony experience. The arts are his passion, and he longs to keep all of them in the forefront of our society.