Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Realism Redux

The following works will be in the Secord Gallery exhibition: Realism Redux

The Home Coming, o/c, 33" x 50", Steven Rhude

Pleasantville, o/b, 24" x 48", Steven Rhude

Telephone, o/b, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

Portrait of Caitlyn Jenner, o/b, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

Cathedral, o/b, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Making Things Matter: 5 Painters

Below are the 5 works I have included in the Making Things Matter show. Full colour catalog available from Gallery 78. Nice essay included by Leopold Kowolik.

Reception: Gallery 78
October 30th, 2015  5:00 PM to 7:00 PM - show continues to November 22nd, 2015
Location: Gallery 78
Phone Number: 506 454-5192
796 Queen Street
Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada E3B 1C6

After the Storm, o/b, 24" x 48", Steven Rhude

Double Bind, o/b, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

Ship of Theseus, o/b, 24" x 48", Steven Rhude

Splitting Table, o/b, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

Post Cod Beach House, o/c, 36" x 48", Steven Rhude

The Textures of Nature

Stephen May, David McKay, Steven Rhude, Réjean Roy,
Stephen Scott

Nature seems so obvious. It’s right there; we live in it and
we are it. We say ‘naturally’ when the point is self-proving.
And yet what exactly is nature? Where is it? What does it
look like? It can be just as much an impression and a vibe
as something green and specific. For certain romanticizing
poets and artists of the past, nature was a pastoral idyll
in which to escape, a Utopia almost outside time, pure
and honest in a way human society can never be.

The five artists of Making Things Matter understand
the natures of things but without escaping anything.
And though we the viewer can take pleasure from some
escape into their paintings, it is what we return with that
matters. Painting here in the 21st century, Steven Rhude,
David McKay, Stephen Scott, Stephen May and Réjean
Roy know that there can be no Arcadia, no Utopian myth
– at least not in the way there was before. Now nature and
art have so much more in their story.

Nature and the nature of life is something we will find in
these artists’ work. But what they also have in common
is the shared thread of texture; this is what makes this
exhibition a grand statement on the nature of truth. Like
five students of the same subject, undertaking the same
assignment: so much is the same, only the method of
reaching the conclusion is different. Each ends with a
statement of nature, but each begins by exploring the
possibilities of texture in a different way.
Like nature, ‘texture’ can have a variety of meanings,
especially when used to discuss paintings. In the work
of these five artists, texture is extensively defined – from
the subjects within the paintings to the brushstrokes themselves.

Texture means something of oppositions – two or a few
elements rubbing against each other to produce something
new and often startling. For McKay and Rhude, this
textural energy is inside the subject matter of the paintings
– it’s a texture of contrasts between the objects they’ve
painted; for May and Roy the texture is on the surface, in
the paint itself; for Scott the textural relationship exists
somewhere between, in the amorphous tension of subject
suspended in paint.

Being able to hold the thread of a painting tightly is the
mark of a good artist. Such textural elements must be
stretched tight if the friction of the elements is to be
effective. Lesser artists may attempt to work with these
ideas of texture, but something usually gives, the line falls
slack, the suspension sags and the works don’t have that
captured energy that we see here.

For Rhude, there’s tension in the almost surreal contrast
of his subjects which are often placed in paradoxical
situations. You can feel the slight rub of confusion – why
is the buoy on the over-turned boat? How can the shed be
in the surf? In that moment of disjointed comprehension,
behind the smooth, enjoyable surface of the painting,
Rhude’s texture opens up a culture of enquiry – the
political meaning of unemployed fishermen for example
– a visual expression of our society’s pressing questions.
Rhude makes ideas into texture.

For McKay too, the texture is in the contrasts of the
subject matter: wiry trees in the foreground syncopated
against the horizontal rhythm of a barn side or the
horizon itself, or smooth globular rocks in front of a
teeming mysterious tree-line. The sensations that McKay
summons and captures weave the texture of a tartan rug
– not only in their colours and patterns but in the nuzzled
austere familiarity. He’s recalling something of a previous
time, another generation; McKay wants not the noisy
present of people but a stillness out of time. McKay makes
memory texture.

In Stephen Scott’s work, pleasurable visual friction comes
from the interaction of individual paint marks and subject
matter. Visual and physical paint texture is integrated into
his subjects; simultaneously, the subjects of the world that
matter to Scott are integrated and subsumed in paint. Our
eyes are acutely aware of brushstrokes and subject separately
but instantaneously. The contents of the paintings
– the stories and scenes – exist within the inner texture of
the material of the artwork. Scott finds and fosters texture
in the division and reunion of seeing and showing.

Stephen May tries to get out of the way of the subject altogether.
He wants to be a conduit for the reality of a subject.
We see naturally what May sees. His work is colour and
paint with as little interpretation as possible. Where there’s
tension, it’s in his striving to channel the reality without
filling-in any of the ideas or social contraptions. The
visual texture is a communion with something beyond.
It is fragile, fleeting and incomprehensible. And yet May
makes it understood, and permanent and palpable. This is
the paradox of art perhaps but May’s texture is paint made

May makes paint into nature; Réjean Roy makes nature
into paint. Of the five artists, Roy is perhaps closest to the
Arcadian dream of natural nature as found by a wandering
observer. With a style that makes paint sensory and
tangible, Roy captures in thick brushstrokes of texture
the scale and intensity of raw, powerful nature. In this
contemporary Arcadia, nature can be intimidating – but
that awe can be so rewarding to eyes that have viewed
too much human hubris and not enough respect for the
natural world. By capturing the light and the din of the
wilderness, Roy takes our eyes like hands, running them
through and over the world. Roy’s texture is the paint of a
real Arcadia.

Making Things Matter is an exhibition of nature as cast
through a many-tiered gauze of textures. More than that,
it is a display of the making of a natural world. These artists
observe and muse and then convert, direct, conduct
the bolts of their understanding onto surfaces for us to see
and consider and enjoy. They define nature. These matters
are nature. They are the world surrounding us that we
do not control and often do not notice – whether that is
memory or a garden plant. Indeed, nature can be the side
of a building or a porcelain vase or a maritime object just
as it can be a waterfall, wind in the grass, light falling, or
cliff-face silence. And herein lies the greater achievement
of this exhibition: it is not just the portrayal of the ‘things’
and surroundings of our naturally found world, it is that
these artists make these definitions of nature important.
“Not he is great who can alter matter,” said Ralph Waldo
Emerson “but he who can alter my state of mind.” And
this is the summit achieved by this exhibition: the artists
create art that matters. Emerson continues “They are the
kings of the world who give the color of their present
thought to all nature and all art, and persuade by the
cheerful serenity of their carrying the matter, that this
thing which they do, is the apple which the ages have
desired to pluck, now at last ripe.”

Rhude, McKay, Scott, May and Roy begin by looking
and rubbing together the things they find to create the
tensions and textures we’ve seen. The result is a natural
world that is significant. Each of these five artists makes
his art matter – they make statements and share understandings
that are vital. The great art critic Robert Hughes
could have been describing exactly this phenomenon
when he talked about the “direct, sensuous and complex
relationship with the world” which is the “lost paradise
that art can return to us.” The five artists of this exhibition
do not seek an imaginary escape into nature: They make
us feel natures through their textures and then make them
significant to our lives. As Mr Hughes concluded, “the
basic project of art is always to make the world whole
and comprehensible, to restore it to us… to close the gap
between you and everything that is not you.” This is the
grand statement of this exhibition: that nature is mysterious
and difficult to define and yet it can be captured
in between sliding textures of brushstrokes and subject
matters – and, moreover, that this can be understood and
matter to us all.

In the art of Making Things Matter these five artists show
a natural human engagement with our world, showing
nature as a real, complex Utopia – something older than
art and humans but as contemporary and essential as our
own ability to understand our experiences. This exhibition
shows us how to look at what matters, returning us to
ourselves along the way.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson ‘The American Scholar – an Oration delivered
before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 1837’ in
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays & Poems (New York: Library of America,
1996) 65.
-Robert Hughes ‘The Shock of the New,’ Episode 8 (sl: BBC & Time-Life
Films, 1980) 48’20”

-Leopold Kowolik

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Capture; Nova Scotia Realism

Olympia with her Buoys, oil on canvas, 44" x 62", Steven Rhude

This work will be on display at the AGNS Western Branch Gallery in Yarmouth, NS for the Capture, Nova Scotia Realism show. Opening November 21st, 2015 and continues to May, 2016.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS