Eric Aho gets around. Born and educated in Massachusetts, raised in New Hampshire, he lives in Vermont, summers in Maine, and currently has a solo exhibition in New Hampshire. Transcending Nature: Paintings by Eric Aho at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester NH (through September 9) features 30 paintings that display the range of Aho’s response to the natural world from painterly landscapes to abstract paintings that record and express a human reaction to light, landscape and life.
“I discovered that landscape is an intervention between what is seen and what is painted,” Aho wrote back in 2009 when one of his Ice Cut paintings, a square of black incised into blue-white ice and resonant for Aho of saunas and his Finnish ancestry, was included in the Portland Museum of Art Biennial. “I use the terrain for my starting point for reference, content, and meaning, as well as for the simple pleasure of being outdoors.”
Back in 2002, I selected Eric Aho, a Melrose native and a Massachusetts College of Art graduate, as one of “Six To Watch,” one of New England’s finest emerging artists. A decade later, Aho has not disappointed, establishing his place in the art world by exhibiting throughout New England as well as New York, the U.S. and Finland.
What intrigued me then and intrigues me now is the virtuosity with which Aho handles paint while modulating along a spectrum of descriptive fidelity from painterly realism to pure abstraction. He was a student of George Nick at MassArt and he retains an allegiance to the visible world, yet Aho is also able to free himself from the bonds of description to explore the way paint on canvas becomes its own landscape, every bit as real, perhaps even more so, as a picture of a landscape.
“Aho’s latest abstract paintings capture the lived, remembered and imagined experience of being outdoors,” states the Currier press release. “Through the unexpected use of color, vigorous paint handling and surprising compositions, his paintings make palpable the immediacy of nature and the intangibles of light and movement.”
Paintings are analogous to digital imagery, varying in their degree of resolution from hi-res hyperrealism to low-res abstraction in which the phenomenal world breaks down into pixels of light and color. Aho’s art resonates at the low end so that paintings such as Winter Cathedral and Shower Over Ballycastle remain faithful and oriented to landscape while paintings such as Daybreak and The Naturalist are non-representational applications of paint inspired by but not restricted to landscape.
Landscape painting remains the coin of the real in the New England art world if not the art world-at-large and Eric Aho is one of its finest contemporary interpreters.
[Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St. Manchester NH, 603.669.6144 x108.]