It was a poignant work of art, marked with a “dark, intense, and melancholy-colored feeling”; a result of lingering emotional remnants left by the untimely death of his stepmother in 2006. The artist, Kareem Ralph Amin, had spent countless days and nights painting with empathy — starting with layering shades of gray — to illustrate the grief-stricken state, overcast with uncertainty, that he found himself living in. “I didn’t know what I wanted to come out of it,” he says of his painting Standing Alone. There was something he had to face in it, but a looming fear sought to hinder him; it would cause him to wake up and cover the moving work (and eventually deconstruct it into pieces). The painting boasted a central figure that emerged from a harrowing “depth,” illuminated by a concentrated darkness. It was a mirror of sorts for the Guyana born artist, for he says that the figure staring into his soul was him — he was standing alone.

Abounding from the Los Angeles, California based artist’s fruitful mind are those fascinating, abstract visions, harmoniously interlacing caliginous, mysterious figures with blazing patterns. The two-fold approach — brought to life by a bountiful palette of warm colors and neutrals — oftentimes creates the perfect equilibrium between light and dark matter. (It is similar to the Cubism balancing act executed in some hand-painted Picassos, like the singer, clarinet, and guitar players ingeniously depicted in his 1921 painting The Three Musicians, which juxtaposes recognizable components with illusions.) Bemusing in that double fashion is Amin’s work, whose artistic juggling of dreamy worlds is not always intentional.

“Sometimes, it is not what I wanted to do, but I think I eventually do it,” says the abstract painter, describing the process as an unanticipated departure off course that ultimately makes way for a smooth landing (an intimate confession from the humble artist). He charmingly admits that the organic forms and surrealistic configurations are interdependent on each other; his admission suggests his subtle approval of the process, and all the creative energies that kinetically flow from it. Sometimes, he creates an imaginary line that separates a piece into two halves that hold within each a rich atmosphere — one of stargazing shapes and the other of a design woven together by multicolored hues. Like one of his self-professed favorites, Harmony, painted in 2003, with an invisible divider between a section of bold, intersecting shades of warm colors with some achromatic matter, and two arcane, shadowy figures illuminated by a golden light.

“In contrast to the figures are those dancing patterns — these short, crisp over lines that layer each other very rapidly,” Amin says. Using charcoal to make the intersecting lines, he created what he describes as “mimics that have these lines extended.” He pushed the lines further by blurring and intersecting them, (he also used oil as a medium). “I felt like I [could] have something that worked,” he declares about the piece.

It can be quite difficult to select just a singular piece that tickles his fancy, for his art is about the serendipitous discovery of emotive or fantastic ideas and the ameliorating evolution of his visionary approach (like the aging process of a French Bordeaux that brings a more refined taste). His works are abstractions that are motivated by his imagination, and the monumental events of his life (some pieces are a cathartic release for Amin’s feelings). Immediately after his careful, creative rumination has led to a piece’s gratifying conclusion, and gained his admirers’ affections — something other artists might relish in full capacity — Amin is already looking for his next muse. His divergence is extremely refreshing, for he consciously recognizes first his passion and vigorous work ethic, followed by the acknowledgement of his peculiar gift to vibrantly illustrate what he sees in his mind’s eye, or feels in his heart.

“I can see how I adjusted myself, and where I have developed from, and where I was able to take a look at each painting, and have made something new,” he says. “And I think that is what keeps kick starting and challenging me more because I am extracting things from every series and body of work. I am constantly working my mind amidst everything.”

Unlike some artists, who are lured into the fame, and the potential fortune that await them once they land  lucrative deals, he loves to devise abstractions because it provides a comfortable niche that he can sink his teeth into for sheer enjoyment. That decision does not come without its pitfalls or risks, but an optimistic attitude grounds him, and reinforces his deep belief in avant-garde works.

The mundane falls by the wayside, for he injects his work with an equal mix of fanciful forms and figures, along with “small, conjoined subjects and gestures” that are nowhere near conspicuous, and at times, arduous to find by even trained eyes (a startling liberation that steers his piece into a whole new direction). Take for instance his 2010 painting Standing and its sister piece Standing ll (there is also a third accompanying piece), featured in one of his solo shows at Jett Gallery in San Diego, California; Standing was an inaugural piece in the respect that it unified the worlds of painting and drawing, commingling acrylic with pastel on paper. In retrospect, he describes working with the medium with sincere keen interest and detail. The captivating Standing featured a charcoal child-like silhouette, highlighted by a subdued mixture of yellow, brown, and orange shades that blurs into a towering, intense black form. With the areas of different color contrasts, and black and yellow dashes taking up white space near the margins, the piece used a composition requiring significant cogitation. “I said, ‘well, okay, I’m going to have this intense color, and [I am] just going to keep it very minimal in a way that you get to know the identity of the figure in the work,’” he says about the piece.

Standing was based on Standing Alone, and the melancholy that he felt about his stepmother’s death. This time, he decided to capture those feelings in a stirring drawing, which came across as “simple and creative” — another revamp of that foundational painting. The second version, Standing ll reveals a taller, extended outline of his figure, juxtaposed next to that achromatic form, though this time it is more loosely shaped, with that same shaded mixture that has now moved to the right of the frame.  Amin continued to showcase the event’s emotional impact, for he says that there was no intention to do anything totally different from the preceding work.

In several of his works, he creates spirited subjects around the figures, blazing a trajectory for his art involving persistent cognition, dynamic conception, and whimsical manifestation. He might have “deceivable” figures that are strikingly visible and aesthetic feeling, or those that remain hidden among shadows until a viewer’s inquisitiveness leads to their unveiling. But before we can question it, the artist must confront his subject with as much curiosity as we do (Amin does a solid job of that).

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