Work by this week’s cover artist, Michael Rich, can be described in multiple ways, but well-known art critic Donald Kuspit perhaps said it best when he wrote that Rich’s work represents a state of unity between an object (nature) and subject (feelings). While Kuspit was talking about Rich’s landscapes, we can see how the artist’s signature abstractions also relate to landscapes, thus suggesting another unity at play in Rich’s art. For example, there’s a pervasive sense of place in Rich’s non-representational pieces, and one can pick out images that resemble real objects, like a boat or waterfall.
Color, light and space play an important part in Rich’s work as well, elements that are equally salient in landscapes. In fact, we’d swear that one abstract painting was really a landscape recalling a snow-covered field with dabs of blue color.
Nature is important to you and especially the element of water—you’ve lived near water in many places, like Savannah where you got a Masters at Savannah College of Art and Design. You also now live in both Providence, Rhode Island, and Nantucket, both near bodies
The water feels like home. I have a strong affinity for it.
But you don’t paint the water.
I am not a landscape painter, although after college at Rhode Island School of Design, I did landscape painting on Nantucket. And I do deal with light, space and color as landscape painters do. But I am less interested in pictures than in painting.
Can you explain that a bit more?
The search is more important in painting. It’s not preconceived. Each work is discovered after I make it.
And if you don’t “discover” the painting in the process, do you give up and go on to something else?
No. If I don’t discover anything, I scrape the paint away or sand it away, and I keep working on it until I find something.
What has influenced your art? For example, were members of your family artists?
My family were architects and designers. I went to the Rhode Island School of Design to study architecture, but pretty quickly I was influenced by my teachers and peers to go into drawing. I’m the black sheep of my family.
Has architecture played a part in your art anyway?
Yes. My art is about space and structure; my work is constructed, like my shapes and blocks of color. Each piece has a real concern for space and spatial relationships.
What else has influenced your art?
My wife is a yoga teacher, and we both study Eastern philosophy. In my daily practice, I am searching, although I never arrive at the end point. The idea of “searching” is certainly important in my art, as I said. Also, painting and yoga are both meditative experiences.
How prevalent are these influences in the development of your art?
I have been painting like this for the last 20 years. I haven’t changed much in my goals, although my art has evolved.
Michael Rich’s work is available at East Hampton’s Birnam Wood Galleries, 48 Park Place, 631-324-6010, birnamwoodart.com.
To see more of his art, visit michael-rich.com.