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The Independent, 09/17/2002
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Local gallery features mosaics, paintings of dynamic art duo

Independent Newspapers

   SAN MATEO - You enter the Knorr Gallery at 253 B St. and bright orange, yellow and blue mystical mosaics of mermaids and fairies immediately engulf and overwhelm your senses. Interwoven with the massive Mission-style tile works are soft, sensuous cityscapes painted in murky auburn, smudged charcoal and wavy blues.
   At first it seems like most small gallery exhibits - the work of two artists shown side- by-side for any number of random reasons. But within moments, the deep,- visceral connection between the work and lives of Russian mosaic master Galust Orduyan and
his son Greg becomes obvious.
   "It's like we're one artist," says Galust as he uncorks a bottle of Moldavian wine.
   The wine is a tribute to their Armenian heritage, their Russian homeland and their strong sense of family.
   "You should not drink wine to be happy," Galust says in a broken Russian accent, raising his glass high, "you should be happy first in order to drink
the wine."
   It's a mantra for his art and his life, which he will tell you are one and the same,
   So it's no surprise that his son is also an artist.
   A ruddy-cheeked, boisterous patriarch from the former Soviet Union with an almost childlike air of mischief about him, Galust giddily relays his family history, folklore traditions and memories of being a hippie in the '60s - all of which inspire his work.
   "We are a family of artists and educators," says Galust.
"In Russian, we are called 'bringers of light.
    " The Orduyan light-bearing legacy began in the former Soviet - countryside with Galust's grand-
father, a builder of wine vats, and continued with his father who planted a lush public garden of fruits and flowers.
    The blend of traditional ceramic tiles with coins, glass, beads and other found objects to pay homage to the family's gardens and vineyards also creates a 3-D effect that
draws viewers into a romantic, fantastical world.
    "My paintings aren't literal. They're tales of imagination, a 7 for life," says the artist, who quotes the wisdom of Joseph Campbell, The Torah and
New York City cabbies with equal ease.
   Perhaps it's no surprise that Galust, who comes from a land

Father, Nick(Galust) Orduyan and son, Greg Orduyan

where over 100 religions are practiced, draws on eastern philosophy, Egyptian art, Russian lore and American
pop iconography to create his alternate universe - a dazzling mythic landscape of tightrope walkers, pirates, floating Buddhas and flying fire-
   Raised in one of the most turbulent regions in the world, Galust has a keen appreciation for the power of humor and
   "I could create dark art, but
I have no right to bring my darkness into the heart of another - so I give humor and jokes," he says, - dancing a jig and rumbling with a full-belly laugh.
   Having traveled the rajecto-
ry of so many American im-
migrants, Galust and his son are New Yorkers at heart.
   "New York is filled with youth with hope in their eyes," Galust says. "There's a feeling like 'I'm going to take a piece of this great city and make it mine.' Generation after generation they come with their dreams, and New York City has the same face."
    The timeless wonder of immigrants arriving in New York is perfectly captured in his son's -pain of majestic skyscrapers, bustling docks and leaves falling in Central Park.
   "My paintings are almost like
a journal. They're the best expression of how I experi-enced that time," says Greg, whose tranquil demeanor and towering, stoutly athletic build are a sharp contrast to his father. So close to home are the paintings that Greg, who arrived in New York at 20 and dove into the Chelsea art scene, doesn't want to part with them.
    The 31-year-old amateur boxer shares his father's passion and heritage, but has his own distinct style and approach.
   Greg, a Moscow-trained painter, illustrator and animator who now teaches video-game creation at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, has
an eye like his father's for the beauty and mystery of the world, and a knack for capturing its distilled essence
in his artwork.

   "We go through life without realizing how beautiful every day things are," he says. Greg wants to reawaken that beauty in viewers.
   Deeply inspired and influenced by the work of French impressionist Paul Cezanne, Greg's vision of beauty is one of natural harmony that exists everywhere - from gutter view of the darkest, crumbling, five-floor Manhattan walk-up to a rooftop vista of the San -Francisco Bay.
   "Beauty's everywhere," Greg says. "It's up to us to align our selves to see and experience what's around us."
   To capture the natural world,Greg climbs mountains, rooftops and jagged rocks, There's a multi-dimensional element to his paintings, some of which are divided into triple panels and heavily layered with mixed media, a technique clearly influenced by his father's craft.
   Greg's total immersion technique results in paintings that pulse with fluidity and life. A boat floating on waves suspended in deep blue-green hues seems to jostle along the warped paper curves as if tossing on the sea. "I can always tell when someone has paint ed from a picture," he says. "It's flat and lifeless.
   "I believe that to capture the essence and to connect with the essence, to experience it - you have to be there not only with your eyes. You have to feel if it's cold, if the wind is blowing, if the waves are chopped - to convey it so the emotion really -comes across in the artwork. It's all about emotion."
   Most of the time, Greg is the silent, serious partner who watches for his father's approval, smiles as his dad embraces friends and strangers alike as they pass through the gallery door. But when Greg speaks about his work, his father becomes quiet, stands behind him and beams.

An opening reception will be held Thursday Sept. l9from-6 to 9p.m. at Knorr Gallery, 253 B St., San Mateo.

Sabrina Crawford can be reached at 652-6782.


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