Letter About Abstractions
ABSTRACTIONS

"The heart’s desire, as a painter, as a gestural painter, in fact a gestural painter in layers, is to ecstatically see through and express that privilege of consciousness in the immediacy of form, colour, stroke. Because when we look, say at a tree, we revel in the contained explosion of root, trunk, branch, leaf, blossom, fruit; fruit, blossom, leaf, branch, trunk, root. Thrust upwards, waving in the wind, shimmering. To see through that leaf to cell, to molecule, to atom, to energy is the ecstasy of the dervish. The dervish moves like that, is moved by that.

"We are the dervishes of the art world. From that ecstatic move to oneness with energy at the heart of things we fling colour onto canvas. It takes the shape of how we move, our dance. We are the psychic weathervane – turned by the multidimensional infinitely expressive currents of love, the consciousness of love. Burdened as we are by grief, by loss, by impossible desires, by the immense weight of the world, we spin, and throw off images from the unseen world, the world of sudden grace, of unconditional promise, of correspondences and revelations, of surprise.

"Isn’t it?"

—Jo Haines (artist)


"People (my family included) still question my determination for leaving realism far behind. During the late eighties, while painting L'Élue, a centenary tribute series to Nijinsky, the god of dance, my "realistic" paint application and gestures, inspired by the movement he was about, just wanted to explode, to push into the unknown, what I personally feel our obligation is as artists of all genres. I love the classics and without them none of what follow would be possible. I had my formation and basic training in and out of school, but comes a moment of realization that one has to travel further. I've been traveling ever since, finding my work to be about light, as in Orion The Hunter defending paradise, or in Courage, a work about hope and the eminent light at the end of the tunnel (both titles are included on these pages)."

—Ritchard Rodriguez


Notes on selected Abstract Paintings:


Passion Nocturnale (for Gene C.)

At an early age in my life I picked up my very first comic book, an Iron Man story from Marvel, yet I didn't give attention to the artist (or any comic-book artists for that matter). Eventually I was well educated about comic-book artists and writers, and when I entered NY's High School of Art & Design I was sure to be a comic book artist upon graduation. Within a year I bought a box of oil paints which changed my life, taking a sharp turn towards fine arts, Old Masters, the Dutch, the German Expressionists and Neue Sachlichkeit, Abstract Expressionists, etc, etc. Having reached 39 years of painting it's been a beautiful journey, culminating with my latest canvas, Passion Nocturnale (for Gene C.).

Gene C. is Gene Colan, the very artist who drew the aforementioned Iron Man story above, an incredible story teller with his own fluid, richly dark and light approach. He broke many hearts with his passing in the summer of 2011, and today I cannot get enough of his pages to marvel in, but he did strongly inspire this piece, not comic book art, but a lovely experience of applying oils in oh so many ways and textures with Gene in mind.

Aitherios II

Commissioned by a collector inspired by Rodriguez’ The Dream Stelae / Akhenaten's.

"You managed to interpret and understand what I truly want from a work of art: that each day may grant me yet encouragement and joy to know that we are alive" — Alex Leon

Mingus’ Cumbia I & II

Inspired by and a tribute to the music of Charles Mingus, especially his masterpiece, Cumbia and Jazz Fusion. The work begins with colored magazine page fragments collaged onto primed linen, then oil paint brushed on and wiped off in a drawing fashion, giving form in many unorthodox ways in what appears to be the artist’s fastest achievement to date.

Triptych: The Keys of Life

Prior to the above homage to artist Gene Colan, and during a root-canal operation endured reclining in a dentist chair within a semi-hallucinate stupor, I envisioned what it would be like to use the former’s comic-book page layout-designs, that of taking panels and warping them to suit a narrative in a painting, allowing some classic white borders to remain (i.e. not bleeding images past the edges). With that notion in mind I tackled what I had earlier in the year christened, The Keys of Life, originally believed to be Desire (the courage to want) and Effort, all I summed up one needs to succeed in life. A third title, Determination (when all one’s efforts should seem to fail), was ultimately added on. While still being in a Colan-mode, I took steps further by laying the three panels on the ground side by side and painted straight geometrical lines from one through to the other, separating them as he worked up each individual panel, and reuniting them from time to time comprising a true triptych. The Desire panel with the suggestion of a full moon borrows the blue and pale green palette from Passion Nocturnale, the Effort panel borrows from the state of Utah’s symbol by suggesting a beehive in ochre with some blues, and the Determination panel is dominated by red for no apparent reason, purely an instinctive decision.

Kuan Answers according to A. W. Watts

Title inspired by pages 73 through 75 of philosopher Alan W. Watts’ Nature, Man and Woman. The term Kuan when researched migrated remotely from that elaborated by Watts in his book, but it was the author’s description that spoke relevantly to the artist in me. This return to collage painting borrows from methods dating back 22 years, from recent writing techniques, and displaying angled geometrical designs with white bordering in between.

Justice

Inspired by life, and so much injustice experienced (or suffered) since the beginning of time. The word Injustice appears abstractly painted over and over, although it is "justice" that is craved. The painting’s palette is one color short of the count on previous similar pieces, No Regrets and Without Judgment which were five each. Its reds were inspired by those from the film of the fictitious comic-book character Daredevil, and the painting title from his answer within the movie when asked, “Hey you up there, what do you want?” “Justice!”.

Privacy

Words painted inspired by American actor Marlon Brando in his Playboy interview, “My soul is a very private place”, and by England’s Ray Davies, founder of the rock group The Kinks, in his song, 20th Century Man, “…got no privacy…”.

Saramago (for Jose)

Inspired by and a tribute to my favorite author and Noble Prize winner for literature, Jose Saramago. The painting is a suggested abstraction of the Portuguese author’s native Lisbon. Saramago's real family name was de Sousa, but when, as a 7-year-old boy, he showed up for his first day of school and presented his birth certificate, it was discovered that the clerk in his home village had registered him as José Saramago. “Saramago,” which means “wild radish,” a green that country people were obliged to eat in hard times, was the insulting nickname by which the novelist’s father was known.

Agriculture (dum spiro spero)

Inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s "Anna Karenina" (part five, chapter 15, 1st page), but mostly by Robert Ashley’s use and definition of the word Agriculture in many of his operas. Dum spiro spero (Latin), "While I breath, I hope".

Aitherios I

Inspired by the answers to a questionnaire between artist and the work's commissioning client.

"The painting is getting a lot of WOWs, we all really enjoy it!" — Carmen Tal.

Desire

"We fell in love with your painting immediately, even before entering the gallery where it was displayed. It was interesting that we all had no doubt immediately. We were already close to choosing another nice work we saw several times during our days in NY. But we chose yours in a minute.
"Desire is a very special word: you probably know that it comes from the ancient Latin 'de cider' which literarily means, 'take it down from the stars'. It is a beautiful word as is your beautiful painting.
"All our compliments Ritchard, we aren’t great collectors but we are surely your great fans. Keep us updated of your works. We will take care of Desire."
— Andrea Broggian

Courage

I was inspired to do a kind of galactic, Jack Kirby-ish* space piece, rather large in format. I got as far as the title and immediately lacked just that, “courage”, to commence work on it, or for many other things within my own personal life. This strong title opened up for me a certain awareness of things lacking in general, perhaps a reflection of the times we’ve been in, I don’t know. Well, 2001 being the worse year I can remember, horrible incidents surrounding me including the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center and those who occupied it on that tragic morning, the war that followed pounding military weight on the planet, and a dear friend struggling against cancer, all gave me the strength, incentive, and courage, to dive into it, tackle it, until year’s end; and in the end, I was quite content with the results. No, ‘Courage’ doesn’t have that galactic feel originally thought of, but it does remain a piece about hope, and about the courage to just step forward. It took twenty-seven years to paint.

"Thank you for bringing such light and beautiful energy to my home. I am so happy to wake up and go to sleep with 'Courage' each day. Your painting is a true vortex. I continue to be thrilled at my purchase and have only grown to love the painting more each day." — Jana Herzen

Fear (3rd series)

Fear of Change inspired, despite this series created during yet another presidential election year (as with the previous Fear series from 2004), not by Barack Obama’s campaigning for “Change”, but by my very own “fear”, after having read coach specialist Jennifer White’s, Work Less, Make More.
Fear of Time inspired in part by Robert Ashley’s opera, DUST, track Just One More Time.
Fear of Religion inspired in part by John Cale’s song, Half Past France: “…nothing frightens me more, than religion at my door…
Fear of Truth inspired in part by Al Gore’s film, Inconvenient Truth.
Fear of Lies inspired by a deleted scene from Francis Ford Coppola's film, Apocalypse Now, where Marlon Brando playing Colonel Kurtz states to Captain Willard, “...you remind me of my colleagues back in Washington”, angrily looking up, “those master liars”.

Comfort/Calins

Inspired by the refrain in John Cale’s recent song Wasteland: "...you comfort me, comfort me, hold me in the dark…" I painted the word "comfort" over and over. Calins is the French word for cuddles.

"I love your painting, it`s fantastic. We have a wonderful place in our home for it." — Marc Borowski

Hostias II

Inspired by Mozart’s Requiem, second attempt at a piece by this title. Hostias, meaning victim, lent to an abrasive approach at the original painted back in 1990. The music being rather tranquil called for this alternate rendition.

Confutatis

Also inspired by Mozart’s Requiem. Lacrimosa being my favorite piece within the Requiem got painted back in 1990. This one is from the rather short music that leads to the Lacrimosa, one that grew on me through the years and demanded Mozart’s masterpiece revisited along with Hostias II. By comparison, Confutatis, which musically sets the mood for Lacrimosa, turned into a raw set of painting sessions, though sharing the same palette with Hostias II.

Fear (2nd series)

Inspired by Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine.

"I received the painting thanks to Silvana and I have to tell you that I really love your art, I'm so happy to have it in my apt and I look forward to being able to buy another one soon." — Francesca Sintoni, owner of 'Fear of the Neighbor'

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The Dream Stelae

For reasons enigmatic to me, I was intrigued with the notion of painting something inspired by ancient Egypt. I decided on nine paintings altogether, proceeded to study all the Pharaohs of the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties, and finally selected nine that were significant to me personally.

CODEX: Speculum Amoris I & II

CODEX initially would have been a rather ambitiously large installation comprised of paintings and text on glass, but the title remains attached to these two sole works. In the company of female friends, I was almost embarrassed to discover that Speculum was the name for the instrument found chez les gynecologists. Well, it comes from Latin and so happens to be, along with Amoris, the name given to the book read by Brother William’s young mascot (in author Umberto Eco’s, The Name Of The Rose), a collection of warnings by Christian and Moslem sages about the dangers of love. Song-writer David Thomas portrays such venom in his song Codex, which is obsessed with longing, that I thought it intriging to juxtapose these two works within an art installation. Speculum Amoris, the book, mentions lycanthropy as one potential outcome of love, so I very abstractly hint at a Loup Garou begging under a full moon within these two paintings.

Gethsemane (Calices)

Gethsemane is the garden in Jerusalem where Christ had it out with his Father, holding a symbolic chalice as he feared what was to come. There’s an aria in the Webber/Rice musical Jesus Christ Superstar which breaks the heart, and I happened to be going through my own personal problems, so...

Brazil’s Chico Buarque wrote Calices, a song which played with words at a time when their dictatorship would easily incarcerate or deport many: "Father, take this chalice away from me, of wine tinted with blood". Tinto is also the Portuguese word for red wine, and cálice is a homonym for "cale se": keep quiet.

These were painted in Recife, the capital of the Brazilian state Pernambuco, in a studio I rented in front of the main port. Four centuries earlier, across the street from me, stood a synagogue, no longer there today, but nonetheless being reconstructed today (???). Curiously, the Jews expelled, or chased away at the time, were some of the founders of New York when it still went by New Amsterdam.

Orion The Hunter

Inspired by and a tribute to *Jack Kirby, the most renown American comic book artist of the 20th century, and by his creation Orion of the New Gods. While celebrating my twenty-fifth year of painting, this piece would also mark my final work for the twentieth century and the millennium.

God's Song

Title inspired by Randy Newman.

William's Sagacity

Named after Brother William, the Franciscan Monk in Umberto Eco’s book, The Name Of The Rose.

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