Had a chance to visit the studio of painter James Rieck. I had only recently become familiar with his work and was impressed. However, seeing his work is person is a much different experience. The scale of the work and the quality of execution are really quite spectacular. James’ beautifully subtle manipulation of paint is unlike any work I have seen. At distance the work has an element of realism that you can only assume will break down as you get closer to the canvas. This is not the case. In fact, at proximity the work is even more impressive. It has a nearly photographic quality as you find soft edges and almost no traces of mark making whatsoever. When you consider how large these paintings are the feat is only more impressive. To complicate matters he has executed entire series of paintings while limiting himself to two colors – red and green (plus white, but white is not considered a color after labor day). This not only makes me appreciate his skill for mixing paint, but also gives each painting in the series a beautiful harmony.
For most artists this would be the accomplishment. This kind of flawless rendering would be where the angst and toil resides. James displays a level of skill that most artists spend a lifetime pursuing. However, after speaking with him for awhile I’m convinced that the execution of the piece is really secondary. For James, the purity of the concept really trumps all. He never uses his own photographs as a base for his paintings, and yet each series looks as if he hired and staged the models himself. He creatively crops and manipulates piles of reference until his composition and concept feels cohesive. This gives his work a ‘found object’ quality which only enhances the experience of viewing his work. For him, I believe, this is where the real angst lies. This is the work – pouring over and accumulating reference until he finds just the right pieces with which to make his fabulous paintings.
A true pleasure to meet such a gifted and humble artist who was willing to open his studio and share his process. Overall, an inspiring visit that will stay with me for some time. Cheers, James Rieck.
See more James Rieck here.