Here & now

Queenstown-based artist, Elan, has spent the past 35 years travelling the world conducting philosophy programmes for global organisations. His life view, and the ethos of his teachings, is one that revolves around the gift of now; to embrace the present and exist wholly within it is, perhaps, the most rewarding and powerful reality we can experience as human beings.

That's How The Light Gets In, 120cm, ink, varnish and acrylic on board.

It is this notion that underpins Elan’s expression as an artist, and it is also what he seeks to capture, even if fleetingly, in the viewers of his work. “To take people out of their minds … this is it, right here, right now, this is life. To have people show up, even if it is just for a moment — to look at a beautiful piece of art, to be present for what is, is a gift in life,” he says.

Elan was born in New York City. He tells us he wasn’t one of those children who, as a budding artist, scribbled on napkins at the kitchen table.

“In 1977, someone showed me a technique with ink and I found it fascinating.” He turned this first foray in the art world into a set of greeting cards, which were eventually stocked in a high-end department store in Colorado, where he was living at the time. “That was quite a profound moment for me.”

Since then, alongside his thriving career teaching philosophy programmes, Elan’s canvases, and brushes, have methodically increased in size as he explores self-expression through art. His Queenstown studio is a place of vivid experimentation. “There are no rules in art,” he tells us.

Elan’s mediums of choice are, generally, acrylic, ink, gold leaf, and varnish on canvas or linen.

“What’s on your mind always seems to come out in the works. I like to see things of beauty, things of love, things of Zen, things of nature. When I go into the studio, it really does feel like an expression of myself. It’s very similar to speaking to 50 people about how they construct their own reality, and how to look at creating a reality for themselves that is empowering. I think art can also do that — in the same way that music can transform peoples’ reality and joy in the world, art has a phenomenal power to do that.”

Life 5, 55x53cm, ink, varnish and gold leaf on linen.

When asked about the meaning of his work, Elan has little to say, preferring to leave interpretation entirely in the viewer’s hands.

“Sometimes, the best pieces are thoughtless ones. I think it’s about clearing your mind and letting whatever comes out, come out; allowing the brush to move where it wants to go without too much interference from me. Sometimes I direct it; sometimes it directs me.

“I almost don’t remember painting these pieces; they are very much about self-expression … it’s something more profound, something deep inside at a precognitive level, that is being expressed. Sometimes, looking at it, I see something in it and go ‘Wow, look at that’.”

Elan in his Queenstown studio.

That’s the case with one of his recent pieces, That’s How The Light Gets In.

“I think it’s a beautiful piece. There’s something about it; it’s a bit feminine, soft, and loving. It’s a little Japanese-y, but that’s because I view the world that way from a Zen perspective, and that doesn’t mean that’s what’s there. Towards the top left, there’s a double sweep of the brush that feels like some soft, gentle, Zen moment somewhere. This was one of those pieces that wasn’t being painted with something in mind. It was painted with nothing in mind. The title, I wanted to keep a bit subtle. The red flash looks almost like it could be a crack going across the canvas … but, by keeping the title subtle, I hope people might make up their own story about it.”

The name of the piece references the lyrics of a Leonard Cohen song, “Anthem”, from the 1992 album The Future: “… There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”

“I found those words profound,” Elan explains. As with the lyrics, there’s a profound depth to Elan’s pieces. They are an expression of a moment — interpreted personally by each viewer in turn; all capturing a certain beauty of expression in their abstraction.

Elan is represented by Artbay Gallery, which houses a stunning art collection from leading contemporary local  and international artists, with a focus on diverse and innovative fine art and sculpture. Elan’s work is regularly exhibited throughout the year.

WIN Elan’s piece, ‘That’s How The Light Gets In’,
valued at $9,000!

Enter your details below to go in the draw. 

That’s How The Light Gets In, 2024. 120cm; Ink, Varnish and Acrylic on Board.

*Competition closes on 31 July 2024. The winner will be notified by email on 1 August 2024. Competition is only open to those living in New Zealand. By entering, you agree to receive email communications from Nook Publishing and Artbay Gallery.

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