Paz Winshtein believes that art is a form of communication, whether it expresses a mood or tells a story.
“Since the human figure is the main tool we use to communicate with the world, it is the main focus of my art,” the Agoura Hills artist said. “My paintings are about contact with the outside world and the difference between self and environment.”
A solo show of Winshtein’s paintings can be seen through April 3 at the Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture at California Lutheran University.
Michael Pearce, curator of the gallery and chairman of the art department at CLU, said he’s been watching Winshtein’s work for several years.
“It’s nice to see someone who is stretching the boundaries of figurative work,” Pearce said. “Paz is working with bright color and brings a dreamlike feeling to his work — it’s like snapshots from a dream.”
Winshtein, 25, finds inspiration for his paintings in such diverse directions as mythology and construction equipment.
“I don’t really think about it; ideas come to me,” he said.
He doesn’t like art that is only decorative.
“I like when a piece says something,” Winshtein said. “I like paintings that tell a story — even if it’s not a specific story, but you are able to come up with a story when you see one of my pieces.”
His construction series features large graders and backhoes juxtaposed with human figures and animals sometimes mimicking the position of the machine.
The series started with drawings inspired by construction activity in the neighborhood, Winshtein said.
“I love how you come out every morning and the earth is in different position,” he said. “The equipment is fascinating — the machines look like muscles and bones, how it works together. I had the idea of comparing the human to the machine, and animals, too.”
In “Comedy and Tragedy,” a woman points aggressively at a man who seems mystified at her wrath. Skulls with wings, wearing sunglasses, hang from the ceiling.
Winshtein starts to say it’s kind of a miscommunication between a woman and man, but then backs off.
“I don’t like giving explanations,” he said. “I usually ask people what they think. I don’t think my explanation is any more valid than anyone else’s just because I painted it.”
“The Most Vulgar Thing Ever Painted,” done predominantly in red and blue in an expressionistic style, features a woman sitting on a road that runs through her body. A man reaches toward the woman, who gazes upward, arm thrown over her head.
“It’s about all of life in one picture,” Winshtein said. “It took a year to paint, and then I took a year off — it took so much out of me,” he said.
Winshtein was born in Israel, and his family came to the United States when he was 4. He started drawing as a preschooler.
“They weren’t even stick figures, they were bubble people,” he said. “But they told a story.” He told his parents what they meant, and they wrote his explanations on the drawings. He drew his mother, but he also drew Pharaoh.
“Maybe I heard a Bible story about Pharaoh,” Winshtein said. One of those drawings later evolved into a painting of Pharaoh and his wife.
In the beginning, he liked surrealism, then was drawn to the German expressionists but doesn’t conform to a particular style, he said. His influences range from Egon Schiele to Caravaggio and Albrecht Dürer, he said.
“By the time I was 14 or 15 I knew I was going to be an artist,” he said. “People were very supportive.”
By the time Winshtein graduated from Agoura High School in 2003 he had won five awards, including three in one show: first and second place in oil and acrylic and first in watercolor at the Westlake Village Art Association student show.
He went to the Laguna College of Art and Design for a year but felt he wasn’t learning anything.
“I was way ahead of the other students as far as studying art,” he said. “I was on a different level. It wasn’t necessary.” So he took some private classes and attended the California Art Institute.
“The best teachers didn’t force me into a new style,” he said. “They let me do my own, and for that you don’t need a teacher.”
Winshtein shows his work throughout the west. He won best of show at the Thousand Oaks Art Festival in 2006 and best of show and a first-place award at the Beverly Hills Affaire in the Garden in 2007.
Pearce said the Kwan Fong Gallery is oriented toward showing work of emerging artists.
“Paz’s is so interesting now, I wonder what he will do in the future,” he said.
The Kwan Fong Gallery is in the Soiland Humanities Center at CLU, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks.
Winshtein’s work can also be seen on his Web site: http://www.paz-art.com/.
— To recommend an artist to be profiled in this section, or for more information, contact Nicole D’Amore at ArtProfiles@roadrunner.com or 405-0364.