Emptiness Fills Artist’s Canvases
John Carlos Villani
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 10, 2002
Isolated in his central Utah Studio, painter Ron Richmond thrives on its serenity.
“I always wanted to be in a quiet, peaceful place,” he says, “the kind of environment that gets me into a certain mood.”
As reflected in his paintings of spaces and places, Richmond’s mood seeks to transport viewers to peculiar places.
“Maybe it makes them think of a sense of being lost,” he says, “or of looking to replace something that’s been lost. To me, they’re about that feeling of what comes next.”
One of the most acclaimed contemporary artists to have graduated from Brigham Young University’s arts program, Richmond is displaying his latest body of work at Marshall Arts Gallery. The show features 12 of his large-format oil on canvas and wood-panel works.
Richmond paints with a subdued palette, masterfully employing geometric relationships within his images. To quickly walk past a Richmond painting is practically impossible, in part because it radiates a sense of compositional incompleteness. This powerful vacancy grabs the eye and translates as both disturbing and serene.
“What I like about these paintings is their apparent contradiction,” the soft-spoken artist says. “The idea of rebirth and rejuvenation in a hostile environment, for instance, and the idea of transferring those ideas to a life.”
Some of Richmond’s most compelling images are also his simplest. He acknowledges an ongoing fascination with the concept of the desert oasis, repeatedly painting this as a series of water-filled pools with symmetrical steps descending into their midst.
“They just come from my mind,” he says of these images, “but evolved from my earlier series of site-specific paintings in southern Utah. Eight or nine years ago, I began playing with the idea of finding pools out in that landscape, and that’s become these places without specific location.”
A more recent Richmond exploration has resulted in the beginning of a series of empty-chair paintings. In some of these paintings, the artist hangs a single piece of folded cloth.
“I think the chair and cloth effectively implies a touch of human element,” he says. “The cloth practically invites viewers to think about entering the painting to rearrange the cloth, straighten it out or pick it up off the chair.
“I leave my backgrounds in an ambiguous state, which creates a sense that the viewer may not completely understand what’s going on out there. Altogether, they communicate this idea about change, about how life lets us leave behind parts of ourselves that we don’t necessarily like or need, and lets us move on to the parts of us we want to preserve.”