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Gallery Artist: Michael Rich

Biography (2014)

Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Michael Rich grew up surrounded by the waters of New England, living on the South Shore of Massachusetts and spending each Summer on Nantucket Island. With an interest in architecture, Michael set off for the Rhode Island School of Design, only to discover painting.  After college, Michael returned year-round to Nantucket to paint, while honing his craft as a carpenter.  Finding a supportive community of artists on the Island and an endlessly inspiring landscape to draw from, Rich’s work shifted from portraiture to expressive studies of the natural world.  Beginning graduate studies and later travels to Italy heightened an awareness of the opposing elements of a landscape’s serenity and nature’s tenacity. Abstraction in painting, as first studied in the galleries and museums of Europe, became a mode of working and exploration for Michael that continues today. In his paintings, drawings and prints Rich investigates the natural rhythms of nature’s harmony and irascibility through opacity and translucency of color. Rich completed his graduate work in Painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he also taught for a number of years.  Returning to Rhode Island in 2000, Michael Rich now lives and works in Providence, RI and Nantucket, MA and is a Professor of Art at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. A dedicated practitioner of yoga, Rich is influenced greatly by Eastern philosophy and art in an approach to nature and landscape as a wellspring for spiritual investigation and meditation.

Recent featured museum exhibitions include The Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI (2014); The Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI (2008) and the Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville Arkansas (2007).  Rich is the 1996 recipient of the Basil H. Alkazzi Award (USA) was included in Sotheby’s auction series, International Young Art 2000.  His work is featured in private and public collections nationally including, The Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA and the Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, OH.  

Artist's Statement 2014

"One can paint for a long time only to discover they know very little about it.  I come to the canvas free of preconceptions and open to the possibilities of discovery.  Pictures and images are not so much the aim as a resolution, a crystallization of shape, color and mark into a whole of an experience that has resonance.  I am most often lost in the process of painting, struggling to find a way out and feeling very much a beginner until that moment of clarity and resolution.  For a long time now, my work has found a resolution in a kind of illuminated landscape.  Spaces of color and light akin to the mountains and seas of my travels open up between tectonic plates of color and form.  Breath-taking vistas and vast expanses of sea and sky open up into a world of color and paint.

"Lately, however, my work has been picking up on the smaller moments in the landscape - not the broad sweeping vistas of the Italian countryside or the New England shore but my own backyard and garden.  A period of deep introspection and personal transformation has led to looking more closely at the intimate forms of leaves, branches and lines in nature.  Plants and flowers find their way into my vocabulary of paint that only recently avoided any reference to representation.  This process of close observation and translation in mark and color started in drawing some years ago but has in recent times percolated through to my paintings.  Drawn lines of remembered and invented forms find their way from direct drawing observations to the abstract world of paint on canvas.

"Printmaking has offered a bridge between my drawing that investigates natural forms and the paintings that work in layers of color and light.  Beginning with photographic observations in the garden and then manipulated in photoshop, images of the grasses and leaves of my studio garden became the basis for a series of layered monoprints in lithography.  Familiar to my process of painting, these images were printed in different hues, their orientation often turned upside down, then paired with additional or repeated images in color to create depth and interactions of form.  Printmaking has offered up new processes - namely that of collaboration with experienced printers - that are now feeding into my painted work.  An intimate, personal moment of reflection through image, now works it’s way through the ecosystem of art-making in a process requiring many hands and the skills of others.  

"The larger canvases from this time period might be a response to the Waterlillies painted by Monet, that have served as inspiration for my work for most of my life as an artist.  Also influenced by the intimate gardens that he built for himself, Monet brought to life in paint and mark the sensual world of color and light through the romantic forms of flowers and plants near the water.  As an abstract painter, that I have found myself at this moment exploring plants and flowers is an astounding development.  Once again I am lost."