Fragmentation and Harmony explores the grandeur, refinement and even dystopian aspects of abstract artwork, while the exhibition title refers to diverging approaches to creating art of this genre by two participating artists.

Soheila Siadate exhibits paintings on canvas and fabric and two assemblage pieces, all reflecting the fear, dismay and recent sense of relief that she has felt since the start of the pandemic. Joshua Elias’ abstract paintings, balancing shapes, color, lines and mood, illustrate the creative journey that he has been on for the past three decades.

Photo by Shana Nys Dambrot

The 40 works by the two artists – while differing from each other’s in their creative origins, methods and mediums – dialogue seamlessly on the walls of the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art. Their pieces, reflecting the panoply of emotions that most of us have felt over the past 15 months, also display passion, bold application of paint and scintillating energy.

Curator Shana Nys Dambrot elucidates, “I see two painters with very different styles yet each performing a deep dive into the nature of matter, form, energy and perception… . Each has a personal, specific story to tell, and yet each has determined to do so in a gestural, rarefied language of energy and impression that arises from places and events like fog from a morning lake, catching the light.”

Siadate’s boldest piece in this show, “Devour,” is a 48-inch diameter black assemblage sculpture made of metal mesh that she shaped into a semi-circular form, then ripped and tore to reveal jagged edges. The sculpture, evoking the images we have seen of the COVID-19 virus, is a lucid depiction of the dark aspects of the pandemic that the artist has experienced in her own life and with her friends.

Several other Siadate pieces in this exhibition contain circles and balls. She explains, “During this time of Covid, I noticed that I have been running around in circles. I became aware that the whole world is a circle and how we are all globally affected by this microscopic circle” [the progression of the virus]. She was so fearful about life during the pandemic that she retreated to a small loft in her home where she felt safe. She worked intensely there on her latest series of paintings, often incorporating circles into the works.

Soheila Siadate, “Mah-E Roshan”

Her “Genomics of Galaxy 1” and “Mah-E Roshan,” each containing several dozen circles of various sizes, progressing in a course, portend the evolution of positive change in our world. With their abstract blue and green backgrounds, the paintings are redolent of our universe in flux. Her contrasting “Shredded Emotions,” created with mixed media including toilet paper, is a vertically striated illustration of her temporary loss of good memories. “Desaturated,” even darker in mood and coloration with organic shapes on a black background, suggests the despair of the pandemic. Yet the harmony of the painting, in structure and coloration, extols the beauty extant in our world even during the gloomiest times.

Soheila Siadate, “Shredded Emotions”

Siadate’s most recently completed contribution to this show is “Peacefully Submerged,” an elegant installation in the gallery’s dimly lit back room. Composed of 350 shimmering fiber optic cables surrounding painted Styrofoam balls, with water dripping throughout the piece, it intimates the advent of peace and harmony in our constantly evolving world.

Joshua Elias, “Winston Revisited”

Contrasting in tone and intention, yet complementing Siadate’s pieces and bringing this exhibition from despair to exultation, are the paintings of Joshua Elias. He describes his colorful oils as “Spiritual Abstraction” and indeed they are. Inspired by the many decades of abstract painting, the artist forges his own path, combining large swirls and swaths of primary and muted colors to create a range of emotions, with an emphasis on joy. He encourages viewers to gaze at his paintings for long periods, to meditate on them and on their numinous features.

In several pieces, Elias emphasizes one particular color in various hues. “Sortie” is a study in yellows, from bright to dirty, as he describes it, with splotches of greens, oranges, blues and browns. The total effect mimics a field of spring flowers seen from afar.

The complementary “Elpis” has a background composed of blues, from sky-colored to deeper shades, to hues approaching navy. Also including large splotches of yellows, greens and browns, the artist has created a transcendent painting that uplifts the viewer. “In Good Form,” with broad painterly areas of bright to deep reds and large daubs of contrasting colors, demonstrates Elias’ ability to use color to inspire.

Joshua Elias, “Elpis”

In other paintings, he combines several shades to create abstract pieces that explode with color, form and fluidity. “Exceptional Rules” contains a harmonious blending of blues, greens, yellows and a bit of pink and browns. “The Weavers” features primary colors, seemingly woven alongside each other. And “Winston Revisited” with reds, yellows, oranges, greens and browns set against a blue background evokes the sky on a perfect California day.

This skillfully curated exhibition reveals how Siadate and Elias – influenced by decades of this movement’s evolution – use their creative instincts to enable this style to flow intuitively from within. The show also demonstrates that abstraction is an ongoing and important influence today among Southern California artists and art lovers.

“Fragmentation and Harmony” is on view through June 26, 2021. Orange County Center for Contemporary Art. 117 North Sycamore Street, Santa Ana. Gallery open for appointment only: (714) 667 1517;;

Joshua Elias, “In Good Form”