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Rick Vian: Recent Paintings: Gitche Gumee Series    Nov 10 - Dec 20, 2012


Opening Reception: Saturday, November 10th, 5-8pm

Robert Kidd Gallery
107 Townsend Street, Birmingham, MI 48009
(248) 642-3909

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Ardor in Motion: The Paintings of Rick Vian
Ben Kiehl

Entering the studio of Rick Vian is to enter a cave of paint. The room's air swells with the aromatic pine-blood of turpentine – an aphrodisiac bound to the heart of a painter. Warm light reflects from the decades’ progression of work that surrounds you. A concentrated area of color-drips and splatter, inverted milk crates, lid-locked cans, bristle brushes and a tucked-in set of drums assign the hallowed space an atmosphere of ordered madness. If an artist’s studio is a realm regarded as sacred, it may be in the breach of this sanctity through irreverent ritual that the most masterful of Vian’s physical poetry on canvas is born.

With his latest series of paintings, Gitche Gumee, Vian denies the constraints of imagery in order to hone more tenacious energies of movement in form. Inspired by Lake Superior, from which this series derives its Ojibway name (literally, "Great Water"), the new works build on earlier investigations of the lake and its adjacent northern environs. There is an ebb and flow in Vian’s oil uniting brush and subject in a manner that draws directly from his experience – breaking waves of water, the gesture of tree limbs, exposure that tangles the senses into one. Subtle, dry scrapings of tonal color are poured over with body-laden marks that caress the surface while framing field-penetrating vistas. In these passages, an intimacy is revealed by the confident strokes of a feeling painter. Glimpses into mysterious depths balance the canvas' mud-luscious skin. Throughout, sensuous nature spawns in the midst of bold action.

The palette of living water that informs these Gitche Gumee paintings is as nuanced as it is resonant. Each composition waltzes to notes of a particular chord of significant color. In this way, well-traveled impressions introduced by the lake's shoreline are at last rendered incarnate. Through spectral choreography Vian ultimately connects us to otherwise elusive experiences of gamboling bare-faced in the presence of permeating majesty.

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