Manss is an artist and long-time fine art photographer who works and resides in San Diego, California. Inspired by Nature's patterns and textures his works transform inanimate objects into faces, designs and complete figures that present our environment in a different, more intimate perspective. As primary medium he concentrates on photography, acrylic and oil on canvas, and mixed media techniques. Among his other interests are sculptures, video and film. He has a broad background in media, communications and the sciences (including a Ph.D.).
His fine art and photographic work has received many national and international awards. He has exhibited in over 50 juried solo and group shows in New York, San Diego, Laguna Beach, La Jolla, Los Angeles, Miami Beach and international venues, including Barcelona, Florence, Merida, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and Toronto. His museum shows include the Louvre and San Diego's Athenaeum Museum.
His creative work has been recognized by over 25 national and international awards: he is recipient of an International Fine Art Photography Award, 2013, and was selected by Art Platform's Vanguard Visionaries project, Arttour International Magazine's "Top 60 Masters of Contemporary Art" 2015, ArtBuzz 2014 Juried Fine Art Search, Winner in the 6th Artslant Showcase competition, 2014, YourDailyPhotograph.com, 2014, the International Art Festival Committee, New York, 2014, the Toronto Star Photography Awards, 2014, the Texas Spirit Art Show National Juried Art Competition, 2014, Four Points Contemporary, Carlsbad'sWilliam D. Cannon Art Gallery 2013 Juried Biennial. He was featured artist of Art & Beyond Magazine in 2014 and his work has appeared in several publications, including "Contemporary Art of Excellence", "Internationale Kunst Heute - 2015", "Top 60 Masters of Contemporary Art", and "The Art of Creativity".
His work is available at the Maya Fine Art Gallery, San Diego, the Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art, Laguna Beach, California and at the Embler Art Gallery, in the Admirals Club, at the JFK International Airport, New York.
2016 December 1, Bakery Pavilion, Haziel Association/Open Art Milano Associazione, Milan.
2016 November 15, Eighth Con/Corso Buenos Aires (CCBA) Corso Buenos Aires 77.
2016 November 30-December 4, Red Dot Miami Art Show, Miami Beach.
2016 November 21-December 3, Khayyam 2015, International Photography Exhibition, International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP), Mellat Cineplex, Tehran.
2016 November 3-6, Art San Diego 2016, San Diego.
2016 Oct 8 - 23, ArT Venice 2016 "San Servolo un’isola per l'arte“, Venice.
2016 October 4-29, 4th International Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography, Berlin.
2016 September 30-October 15, Bushwick Open International Chapter, New York.
2016 September 16-30, Premio Arte Roma 2016, Rome.
2016 September 8-15, International Artexpo 2016 Milan, East End Studios Milan (Spazio Antologico).
1. 10th Annual International Color Awards, Honorable Mention in Nature (Wagner Moment), 2017.
2. Biancoscuro Art Contest, Winter Edition 2017, finalist (Tyroid), Jury selection, 2017.
3. The Motif Collective, "Minimalism" competition (Symétrie de guerre 2), finalist, 2016.
4. Khayyam 2015, finalist (Five Elements, Salk Institute) International Photography Competition.
5. 11th Annual Black & White Spider Awards Winner: Honorable Mention in Architectural (La Tour Eiffel), Honorable Mention in Still Life (Delirium tremens), Nominee in Abstract (Caligraphy, Cyclops), Nominee in Architectural (Five Elements, Symétrie de Guerre VI), Nominee in Nature (When Trees Dream, Zhangjiajie Cliff).
6. Hot 40 CCBA 2016 Artworks, (Conjugates), Jury Selection, Concorso Buenos Aires.
7. Berlin Art Prize 2016, Art Management Berlin.
1. Biancoscuro Art Magazine #23 (March-April), p. 98-101, 2017.
2. Art Quench Magazine, p. 15, 2017.
3. London Art, Edited by International Confederation of Art Critics, p. 30, 2017.
4. Art Reveal Magazine, #26, p. 6-11, 2017. https://issuu.com/artrevealmagazine/docs/no-26/6.
5. 11th Annual Black & White Spider Awards Journal, #8, p. 94, pp. 552-553, 2017.
6. Biancoscuro Art Magazine #19 (December 2016-January 2017), p. 98-101, 2017. https://issuu.com/biancoscuro/docs/biancoscuro_19/98.
7. Premio Arte Roma, Stadio di Domiziano Roma, p.44-45, 2016.
8. Art Venice 2016, San Servolo-Un’osola per L’Arte, p. 23-24, 2016.
9. Concorso Buenos Aires 2016 Associazone Open Art Milano, 8th edn. Euroweb srl (ed.), p. 18, 2016. https://issuu.com/concorsobuenosaires/docs/ccba_catalogo_2016_issue_ok_1.
10. Berlin Foto Biennale, Emotions and Commotions across Cultures, Julius Hirsh-Hardy ed., Kehrer Verlag, Berlin, p. 34, 2016.
The minimalist and surreal art by Manss Aval: an interior journey through Nature and Life
In the same way as other artists, Manss Aval - a Californian lover of nature, Life and its varied possibilities of transformation and change - is both a painter and a photographer. However, the photographer in him strongly prevails. As we know from the end of the 1960’s, photography was supplanted by an objective documentation of reality, first with television and then computers. So with its vocation resized, in a certain sense, photography retreated into itself - the same occurred for painting at the end of the nineteenth century - to become almost self-referential. As Giulio Argan rightly remarked as early as 1989, “it was through the confrontation with photography, that art gradually broke away to differentiate itself from the classic concept of mimesis and to form its own morphology and lexicon, without naturalistic roots. But the division did not last, photography entered that domain too: it presented itself as a more conceptual than technical action, potentially as creative as art and even more so.” So photography and the enjoyment of it became purely conceptual, so much so that this technique definitively entered the universe of Art and it was possible to see clear similarities in the various currents of contemporary art of the time, such as Informel, Lyrical abstraction, French Nouveau Réalisme, New Dada and Minimalism.
Throughout his professional life, Manss Aval has favored two clearly-documented paths that are seemingly contradictory but which actually complement his personality. On the one hand, we see geometric dynamism made up of symmetries - chromatic or even veering towards an icy black and white (see the Symmetries-monochrome series) – in his digital shots, surreally inspired by futuristic photography, which emanate evanescent fluids that in turn recall optical and kinetic art. On the other, we witness the rigor of a pure and essential shot, again in color or black and white, but one that is figurative, taken from the world that we observe every day (an elderly man sitting on a bench, a dead leaf in Still Moments, a flight of birds or a waterfall). Interestingly, Manss Aval may experiment with the same shot – with its formal analogies both to traditional photography or manipulated with a post-production elaboration - either in a black and white or a color version, the latter then sometimes finding its pictorial evolution in an oil painting on canvas. Undoubtedly, there are two main factors that have influenced Manss Aval and these experiments: Minimalism and lyrical, broadly symbolic, suggestions.
“Nothing more than is necessary” could summarize the first genre of works, where everything is seen through geometrized details (see Hexangles or Rising Cones) and ‘designed’ using light, in an absolute contrast between conflicting colors or between black and white, where the surfaces are personalized by just a few elements and shards of light filter through to open up and reveal the world to the viewer. His minimalist photographs are sometimes in monochrome, often as a sketch on a grid or a matrix of mathematical origin, yet they are always able to evoke the sense of the sublime, existential states and inner depths. Manss Aval’s photographic minimalism lies in the last of these accepted meanings. His photos in this group have clear references to works by Frank Stella in his famous Black Series or Black Paintings, frameless paintings made up of parallel black stripes, divided by thin white lines. These works by Stella do not seem to have any allusive or symbolic reference, but are presented to the observer as objects having a simple value. In Manss Aval, however, we can go further, to take ‘genetic-evolutionary’ allusions, with
reference to the DNA manipulations and his dynamic geometric spirals (see the series More Abstract and Monochrome, with comparable images among them in their chromatic or black and white expression). In this way, photography can be seen to be the most suitable instrument for the creation of conceptual meanings and in this way, representation borders on geometric abstraction, kinetically blocked like some of the formal ‘meanders’ that can be seen in the work by Italian painter, Piero Dorazio. A kind of classical abstract experimentation (that has to be searched for in his works) that derives from the geometries of Mondrian, Kandinsky and Klee, but which is sometimes reduced to the two-color, philosophical absolute of black and white through the countless shades in gray. They are calligraphically drawn or ‘written’ (see Caligraphy) through an abstraction that is modernized and updated with the strictly relevant influences of photo manipulation, video and videogames.
In the second genre we can observe nature and man who, while not appearing almost ever as an actual figure, is the absent protagonist of fragments of theatrical scenes. They are simple and once again, very minimalist images that seem to encapsulate an entire life, a life that could have been seen in a production by theatre director, Giorgio Strehler. Manss Aval strives for both evocation and synthesis in his photographs, especially those in black and white: from the street photos (details of nature and landscapes) to the icy and rationalist lyricism of architecture, to fragments of cities or interiors that present an almost Bauhaus-like brightness. But also in the loneliness of an elderly man, the fragile transience of a leaf or the essence of a woman (see Essence).
Moreover, we find a perplexed wonder in front of nature and landscape, caught by the camera shot or by the paintbrush (see the series Alternate Realities, the oil painting entitled Moonlight Seduction or the other series of Landscapes). In the latter example, his paintings can surprisingly go from figurative expressionism to lyrical informel, where the only element of color is the soul of nature (as in the Abstracts series, Mirage de la Mer and Meaning of Life). Flickering refractions with their bold colors that are both real-unreal, fleeting and impalpable, spread through the poetics of the Fluid Moments series, wisely blending between the reality of one shot and the technical and conceptual manipulation. The great interest in genetics and evolution is also clearly present in pseudo-real images of twisted, fantastic and hallucinatory Genetic Possibilities, with ‘swollen’ trees that spread out their branches toward the skies that are dotted by a lacework of clouds.
Sometimes, these secondary anthropic spaces or social and urban wastes are revealed to the viewer by the photographer with the scrupulousness of a sharp engraving, in the essential photographic shots of those marginalized environments, or with an indirectly surreal effect, made up of evanescent, ethereal ocean mists. This can be seen in the esoteric black and white photographs of the Monochromes series and in the color photographs – pinkish gray or whitish light blue chromatic hues - of the Oceanscapes, where one perceives an existential and meta-physical journey, for example, through a corridor between wooden structures to reach a final, Neoplatonic light, beyond which humans may only pass in the after-life.
Lyricism always plays a discreet role and is broadly nostalgic of the twentieth-century avant-gardes, with landscapes that become an entirely inner journey, made up of stimulated impressions and emotions. Perspective shots of streets or pillars recall the streets of Life. Objects, that in their minimalist simplicity, are the composition counterpoint and are almost geometrically abstract, around which a multitude of shades of gray arrange themselves, and through expert, gradual transitions, make the monochrome base solid, almost velvety.
I repeat, in this case too, the significance of the shot does not reside in the importance of the subject, but in the photographer's ability to see the beauty - which is the value of the object – in what would normally go unnoticed or is actually absent. Yet it is a minimalism that has lyrical and almost monumental moments, for example in the architecture or the bright and strongly contrasted fragments of spaces, which suggest clear tributes to Pictorialism. We could say that Manss Aval finds “equilibrium of geometry and lines, in an overall of light and shadow” , as well-known American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) and founder of the Photo-Secession movement once wrote.
In Manss Aval’s photographs, together with light, the shadow is the mistress and absolute queen, who holds - and wisely governs - the composition. Shadow designs, marks and shapes the photograph, recalling, with its ineffable, uncertain and changing ephemeral reality, the constant Freudian mutations of the human soul, which are comparable to those genetic mutations tested in laboratories, in a globalized and alienating society populated with robots and clones (see Duplicate Genes).
Both his photographs and paintings are formally impeccable, both when his landscapes are exposed with the radiant and zenithal light or in backlight and in chromatic fading, like watercolor-painted scenes, and where the artist depicts scenes, environments and figures that seem to be sculpted in their saturation of color. Through his camera lens, Manss Aval accentuates and enhances the natural comparison between the technical perception of the photograph and his constant creative intervention of the artistic interpretation.
Manss Aval’s photographs have certain distinctive features that can also be perceived in some of his paintings: the sinuous structures created by technology and by dynamic and fleeting lines of strength and power; regular shadows in a grid-like pattern with undefined backdrops; a bare, cold and solitary central prospective; and the bright lights like neons, which are transformed into white clear lines - in the same way as certain optical experiments carried out in the 1970’s - which divide the painting into seemingly broken landscapes.
In a world where art, following impulses, neuroses and disenchantment of the contemporary soul, has moved away from reality to follow - both in painting and photography - only informal mirages and more cerebrally conceptual abstractions, the admirably exposed shots by Manss Aval testify, on the other hand, that it is precisely in the objectivity of reality where the purest and deepest seed of the human emotion can be found and only in a second instance, can it be transformed into digitalized processing and into special effects that are reproduced in the ‘laboratory’ of the computer.
Already the first manifesto of Surrealism dating back to 1924, allowed us to illuminate the night’s eye with the light of the spirit, which was in constant captivity in a snare of existence. Normally we are not accustomed to looking at the world through this hyper-sensitive view, because our vision is always obscured and veiled by everyday life. But this everyday vision is superimposed by a surreal vision, which has been rightly described as a critical vision. This symbolically oneiric vision also guides Manss Aval towards positivity and negativity and towards the black holes of the soul (see Badyear).
His expressive vein swings between luministic certainties and restlessness, in a kind of geometric or figurative mirage, where dreams and reality blend into each other. The work by Manss Aval presents an almost hallucinatory tension, which makes his photographic world become both surreal and geometrically rational, as if produced under a microscope in a genetic laboratory. It is the revisiting and computerized manipulation of science fiction horizons. The reshaped and surrealist shot taken by Manss Aval becomes a virtual space where imagination and reality lose their borders and exchange their roles, to access a wonderful, oneiric and vital area of our conscience.
In the mechanistic intricacies of colors that have been expressionistically modified or achromatic visions, ultimately like images of nature and the environment - although it may seem at first a superficial, almost absurd view – it is Life that is the true subject of Manss Aval’s art, seen in a cell, a ray or a blade of light, a genetic chain, a leaf, an old man or in an (illusory?) aspiration to the transcendent other world in the mind-spirit of man.
Prof. Giampaolo Trotta, architect, art historian and critic of modern and contemporary art, author of nine books, collaborator of the magazine “Eco d’Arte Moderna” and of the television program “Incontro con l’Arte” (Toscana Tv), artistic manager of the National Biennial Festival of Sacred Art in Pistoia in 2006 and of “Spazio-incontri di Arte Contemporanea” to the Diocesan Museum of Sacred in Santo Stefano al Ponte, Florence, he arranged several exhibitions in Italy and in Romania and prestigious catalogs of art. He was the artistic manager of “Spazioeventi Orler", Marcon (Venice), and adviser for the Modern Art Gallery "Modenarte" in Modena.
In the works of Manss Aval the canvas becomes a repository of graphic signs that rest upon a background that is as neutral as possible, where each track is a discovery and revelation, where each figure rises to the role of the protagonist.
This idea of a fresh start makes him similar to Joan Mirò, famous artist associated with the importance of signs, inventor of mysterious "scriptures" and most faithful follower of the magic value of the gesture.
A work by Joan Mirò in particular that approaches that of Manss Aval’s is: “Portrait of a Dancer” Paris, mid-February–Spring 1928; where there is a whole ritual almost mystic, a religious silence.
The "acrobatic" arrangement of the strands of grass on the sand, perhaps accidental, perhaps intentional, in the works of Manss Aval recalls, although in a less experimental and defined way, the compositions that Robert Simthson and Richard Long used to create with materials of nature. Let’s not forget, however, that in the case of Manss Aval we are referring to painting and not installation, but there is a big similarity to these two exponents of Land Art in their desire to "organize" the chaos and random disorder of nature.
Manss’ Aval’s works, express an essentiality and touching simplicity, where there is no added elements to spoil the idyll, where the background is almost a blank screen, where only signs are arranged harmoniously and the veracity of the composition seems to be in front of a picture full of light: a light that doesn’t generate shadows and is able to cancel the third dimension, by removing the thickness of the bodies.
Maybe those fragments of yellowed grass are composing letters, a code phrase or some kind of imaginary, the fact is that it is a language of which only the artist is the interpreter.
Aval, thanks to his profession as a photographer, as well as a painter, manages to see through new, alert, lively and “mobile” eyes, all the things that surround him. He manages to restore dignity to the little quirks of nature and to give voice to objects and beings that inhabit this world. Only then the sea, the sand, the birds, the plants once again have their autonomous place in the ecosystem, without the immediate intervention of man.
He represents always a disenchanted reality, but nevertheless makes sure not to spoil the sense of wonder for nature. The lyrical sense of this work is behind the silence that rises almost "deafening"; silence that keeps away this time the chirp of seagulls or the lapping of the waves, leaving only the hot sand that burns in the sun and that has embedded inside the rocky crystals of arboreal strands.
Our world, the one where we live every day, the one we make functional to our small or large discoveries is presented in a completely new dress by Manss Aval, a dress covered by truthfulness, but also of sweetness and intimate solemnity.
Dr. Federica Peligra, “Last Paradise”, Esposizione Triennale Di Arti Visive A Roma, Giorgio Mondadori, editor, p. 71-73, 2014.
Manss’ abstract expressionism brims with free, gestural strokes, a rich palette and radiates emotive energy. His work is characterized by a sense of impromptu and instinctive freedom.
Kay Colvin, L Street Fine Art, San Diego
…With a playful sense of freedom and an energetic vibrancy his works surge with an expressive abstraction, filled with explosive movements of color and texture. But it is the rhythmic spontaneity and raw dynamism that truly captures the viewer. Abstracted and instinctive, Aval’s work explores visual ideas rather than narrative or technical concepts-and yet it is almost uncanny how emotive and formal the finished product becomes. In some works monolithic shapes of sapphire and crimson explode against the delicate shards of ice white. In others we see rainbow-colored clouds that pile up to become an exercise in rhythm and tone.
Vanguard Visionaries: “The Art of Creativity”, Art Platform, New York, 2015
Manss Aval is an artist with a multifaceted personality, able to quite naturally go from photography to painting or mixed techniques. The wide cultural background, where studies in media and communication interweave constantly with a deep interest in the sciences, and continuously feeds his creativity flowing in an imaginative grandeur capable of generating works of great visual impact. In fact, the artist redefines the boundaries between photography and painting, creating powerful images, where the painting technique is inspired by the artifacts and camouflage effects of the camera. The striking use of color, the skilled and breezy manipulation of reality, producing floating and ambiguous images, imaginative utopias, where the subjects have no longer definable limits and seem about to evaporate, diluted in polychrome enveloping masses, or be swallowed by the swirling chromatic dynamism. All Aval’s artworks are marked by an extremely vital creative tension.
Galleria360, Arte Contemporanea, Firenze, Mostra collettiva “Internation-ART”, April 2015.
[Manss’] compositions are bold and consistent, showing a commitment to a unique style of image processing… Manss’ pictures have this ‘grace note’ of poetry amid the chaos of the built environment…. [Manss] clearly has an innate sense of color and composition as well as the beginnings of a street photographer’s style.
As a photographer for more than 40 years I have had opportunities to observe the social, educational, economic and physical conditions of people in many countries and I have developed and honed unique sets of images. My belief is that these sets of images create an experience for the viewer and my hope is that these created experiences can be catalysed into something greater and more relevant for today.
Tony Othen, curator “Crowds” exhibition, The Greenwich Gallery, April 2015.
The painter and photographer Manss Aval derives his artistic inspiration from contact with nature. His painterly photographs with their wide ranging perspective radiate the freedom of the landscape. This likewise applies to the detail, such as in “Beach Sculpture”. The motif is not immediately apparent, but one is immediately impressed by the photograph’s melancholic mood and spectacular colors. The pale yellow leaves swim as if on a pearl string partly above and below the water surface in which a white cloudy sky is reflected.
“Out of Nowhere” appears at first like a long walk through different wooden gates at the end of which light is awaiting. This prompts associations with images of near death or out of body
experiences. Aval reveals the vista under one of the gates in the water with fog raising. The mysterious emanating light creates a fascinating perspective. Two dark blue bands sandwiching a white one-the overpowering minimalized photographic composition of “Wagner Moment” could be deriving from the artist’s color palette. The low lying, bright horizon above the ocean provides the image’s calmness, whereas the overwhelming, heavy sky occupying three quarters of the photo creates the drama which Aval associates with Richard Wagner’s music. The color experience here differs from that of the other two water scenes. However, Aval’s gripping photography always evokes deep emotions in the viewer.
Dr. Ingrid Gardill, "Internationale Kunst Heute - 2015", Martina Kolle, Ingrid Gardill, eds., IKH-Publishing, Munich, p. 44-45, 2015.
[We] find [Manss Aval's] work to be very original and Intriguing ...[it] gives the viewer an array of different emotions moving from a serene peaceful feeling to a more imaginative dream state that provokes emotions of strangeness and familiarity all at once.
Stacia Gates, Founder/CEO, Artquench.com, 2015
The type of art that Manss Aval creates is from the deepest perception. His colors flow on to the canvas with a true sense of harmony and structure. His viewers often ponder what he might have been thinking when creating is images. His travels around the world are evident in his work.
Pamela Squires, Gallery Director, Gallery 570, Laguna Beach, 2015
“We refer to [Aval’s] monochromatic works in-house very excitedly as avant-garde nature X-rays.”
Juliette Townsend, Managing Editor & Curator, Artplatform, 2015
"Manss Aval shows the viewer a fascinating world with his works. [His] incredibly multi-faceted technique in a contemporary style inspires and engenders sensitive feelings and intelligently encourages the sense of the endless freedom of his art. His talent to evoke fantasy by creating a magical atmosphere in his artworks shows him as a master of fine art ".
Art News Contemporary and Modern Art, 2015
“[Aval’s] wild images of trees and branches … are very cool and slightly overwhelming.”
“Aval’s mark making techniques oozes movement and colourful moments in time. He successfully translates his inspiration of patterns, textures and nature throughout his work. The Artist draws you into the texture of the paint on an intimate level; the closer and deeper you observe you begin to find images within the brushstrokes.
It is evident that San Diego, Aval’s current location has had a profound effect on the vibrant, exciting and chaotic outcome of his work. The application of paint has a real sense of quality with each mark, creating an idyllic scene and fun environment.
It’s no surprise that Aval has achieved 30 national and international awards.”
Gena Johns, Gallery Manager, Jam Factory Gallery, Oxford. Curator, Global Art Agency, 2015
"An optical vision is always capable of being sensational, because it lays bare the secret components of the universe of which we are observers, but also observed, in a large puzzle that never ceases to surprise, to the endless possibilities of effects and riddles."
"Una visione optical è sempre capace di essere sensazionale, perché mette a nudo le componenti segrete dell'universo di cui siamo osservatori, ma anche osservati, all'interno di un grande enigma che non finisce mai di sorprendere, per le infinite possibilità di effetti e di enigmi."
Manss endorsement with photography "Conjugates" on display along with the great masters of Italian Pop Art of #SpiritoDiRoma, until October 30 at the Archaeological Museum Stadium of Domitian, Premio Arte Roma
Francesco Gallo Mazzeo, Professor of Art History at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, former director of the Palermo and Mondadori, consultant Academy of Fashion Designers for modern art catalog, Adjunct Professor at the University of Catania, Professor at the Brera, Naples, Palermo, Catania and Reggio Calabria. Author, art critic, curator (including exhibitions for the Museum of Sao Paulo and the Principality of Monaco); collaborator for the Venice Biennale -1993, for the exhibition of Francis Bacon and installations by Alessandro Mendini. Commissioner of the Italian Prague International Biennale-2004, recipient of Pirandello Prize for Culture-2009, 2016