There is a word in Greek, parea, meaning a group of friends who gather together purely for the enjoyment of each other’s company, to share their stories, their ideas and their philosophies, and to celebrate the essence of being together. It’s one of my favourite words. I think of it every time I sit at a table full of people I love, surrounded by lots of food and wine and laughter…and occasionally tears too, after the ‘lots of wine’ part causes sentimentality among old friends.
So many times I’ve stood as the quiet descended on a room only recently emptied of people, surveying the carnage of a dinner party well celebrated, and wished that there was some way of preserving the celebrations we’ve had. For years I kept a tablecloth ruined with stains because throwing it away felt like I was discarding the memories of the fun that caused it. Eventually I dumped it because really…who wants a manky old tablecloth?…but I do think about it quite a bit. And yes, I know it’s weird to think about a tablecloth. Don’t dwell on that. Anyway, this week the internet threw up the work of Amelia Fais Harnas, a North American artist who paints with wine, and it captivated me immediately.
Wine seems an incredibly romantic medium to work with. There is so much significance held in each glass, a drink used for celebration and ceremony since Neolithic times. The Greeks and Romans devoted gods to its existence, creating symposiums, libations and orgies around its consumption. It has been shared, consecrated, prohibited, coveted, traded, abused and exalted and represents feasting, prosperity, and ritual.
Amelia Fais Harnas embraces this aspect of wine unreservedly. Her portraits have a shroud like quality about them, haunting whispers of faces that seem as though they may fade away if you stare at them for too long. The inclusion of embroidery, wax resist, gouache and gold ink to anchor and give depth to her designs adds to the sacred feel of the work, replicating techniques used in ancient religious iconography.
The organic and free flowing nature of wine makes for a delicate and unpredictable paint medium. The result is paintings that seem as fragile and impermanent as they are beautiful. In this, they mirror the effect wine has on myself and my friends. We are temporarily under its spell, with none of us really knowing how the night will end (although there is always a fair chance I’ll end up performing as Cher, convinced my singing abilities are of equal measure).
I have often joked that I worship at the temple of wine. Amelia Fais Harnas’ art practice turns that joke into something more akin to a benediction.
All images are taken from Harnas’ facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/AmeliaFaisHarnas?fref=ts Be sure to read her quirky, and thoroughly delightful, biography while you’re there!