Friday, August 31, 2007

Rick Monzon: Filter

Usually I follow a fixed patten when preparing to write a review. I look at some paintings and make notes on predominant characteristics, elements of style, color preferences, brushwork and so on. I brainstorm and write down first impressions. Then, using this data, I try to deduce what the artist seeks to express and what should be the general direction of my interpretation. Finally, I strive to construct a coherent argument and make conclusions about the paintings I examined. But, sometimes, the artwork resists direct analysis. I receive a different kind of inspiration, one that is difficult to put to words -- all I have is a vague sensation that morphs and pulsates inside my head and psyche. Such is the artwork of Rick Monzon.

Rick paints mostly landscapes and suburbia. It is fascinating to observe how the gloomy and troubled palette he uses in the former genre shifts towards the serene and soothing in the latter; darker tones towards the lighter. The artist communicates a complete world view that opposes the precipices of nature to the security of the city. His paintings flow and float, and, to experience them optimally, the best strategy, so it seems, would be to entrust yourself to the artist's world, and simply hop the adventure. Furthermore, in order to fully enjoy Rick's art, one has to let go of the desire for conventional understanding. Not all art was made to be understood; sometimes it is made to be felt, experienced on another level. Here it is the subconscious: his pieces transmit on waves unregistered by standard perception but duly absorbed by what resides under or behind it. They are akin to David Lynch's strange realm, particularly as it was displayed in the film Mulholland Drive, where we witness utopian urban landscapes being shown as the other side of sordid slums -- literal, as well as figurative, those of our psyche and ego.

Eventually, his paintings claim a mind -- following the subconscious -- of their own, and they speak for themselves. And this what I will try to do in my review of his artwork, to let it speak, adding not so much a critique as a commentary, sidenotes and impressions, in an endeavor to uncover the common denominator of the audience and the collective psyche that the artist addresses. Rick Monzon lives in Ojai, California, USA. He is relatively new to the online frequent painting scene, having usually displayed his work in galleries. You are invited to visit his blog and his website.

This painting displays a complex interplay between the light and the trees and the ground that hosts them. The light is filtered by the streaming growth; the result is a series of rhythmically positioned spots that create a pattern of hypnotic quality, aiming to tap into the subconscious. This device is further accentuated by the incredible sense of movement, as every trunk is somehow curved and recurved . It is as if the trees are trying to confuse the viewer, while, in fact, withholding a secret agenda: to force the observer into a somewhat delirious state of perception. At this point I already feel the need to apologize for my probably too serious tone but, following my vow expressed in the introduction, I am merely trying to follow the will of this piece. With this painting, I am a always a step behind, and the sense of uncertainty can be pretty severe.

But not all is harsh. Just as the artist's oeuvre propones a dichotomy of light and dark, this piece contains it on a miniature level. There is a captivating horizontal symmetry: three sections, one entirely green (the bottom), one black (the top), and another one combining these colors (the middle); the two outermost stripes are shown how to deal with in the middle section, where the green tames the black and vice versa. In fact, there are two major areas of color that intersect in the middle, and this arrangement is not at all alien to the Freudian scheme of the ID, the Ego and the SuperEgo. The imposing sense of distortion may imply on how things can go wrong and how difficult it is to retain one's sanity. Indeed, the line "How you suffered for your sanity" from Don McLean's "Vincent" comes to mind.

It is almost possible to see the wind in this piece. This is not a coincidence. The line of trees may be serving an agricultural purpose of blocking winds and hurricanes, to prevent soil movement and loss. It is particularly interesting to see that the wind, in fact, blows in the viewers' direction, practically into our faces. The artist creates an illusion that the trees are trying to protect the audience, forming a hedge between them and the element, dragging observers into a live, powerful experience along the way. The protective intent recurs in other paintings as well, and, it occurs to me that the painter, while violently stirring the hidden parts of the mind, assumes artistic responsibility, and guards the audience from excessive cataclysms. Looking at his art may seem like a risky venture -- but you are in safe hands, and it's a risk worth taking.

1 comment:

ming said...

you are quite talented elijah! i love the winds as a hedge bit!

you really have a way of looking at pictures and a way of writing to make them so much more appealing.

not only do your critiques educate viewers, even seasoned young artist like me;) but the do well to enhance the paintings value!