"The painter has a language which translates
meaning to the viewer beyond that which the viewer's experience
can give." — Bruce Ricker
Bruce Ricker redefines
landscape art using a style that he calls epic visionary. A
formal education in art and architecture combines with a lucid
imagination to result in the unique Ricker style.
The Ricker's style of painting,
developed over many years, is rooted in his powers of observation.
"First one must see the bones of a landscape, the three-dimensional
molecular nature of rock in all its power and insistence: this
is the foundation of any landscape." With this foundation,
Ricker begins to introduce the effects of sunlight, wind and
water; sensual patterns and textures emerge and flower further
as they manifest the biological life.
Over the years Ricker has built
a language of shapes notable for their sharp detail and articulate
precision, as well as their vision of nature more internal and
mystical than photo-realistic. Ricker reminds us to look more
closely; the final returns are not yet in on what this world
is made of, or even what it really looks like.
It is this borderline between
the real and the imaginary, that Bruce Ricker explores—a
fertile ground for seeing life in a newer, more interesting,
and ultimately more meaningful way.
RICKER ON RICKER
When I was last in Maui, I visited
a stream coming down from a waterfall on the north side of the
island. It had a streambed with many interlocking hexagonal
stones. It was amazing and almost hard to believe and beautiful
and particularly satisfying to me. An artist friend later spoke
of skin diving to the bottom of a deep pool on the island, seeing
a perfect hexagonal hole several feet deep and about 5 feet
wide in the middle at the bottom. I love hexagons. They are
the most technological looking of shapes, yet they occur more
often in nature than just about any other geometric shape besides,
I suppose, triangles. So when I include hexagonal patterns in
my landscape paintings, I am including something rather futuristic,
to some eyes, and unusual, but by no means unnatural.
Sometimes in my paintings I
will place some kind of jewel, like a precious stone set into
a rock. It should be seen as a symbol of unity, being of circular
shape. And also as egg shaped, a symbol of the creation of existence
out of non-existence. As a very man-made looking object it,
to me it indicates man's central and unique role in nature.
The important thing is what
this jewel says about the place and the people who visit it.
In my imagination, there is a place where explorers all realize
that the greatest value of this thing is in the delight it will
give to all those who come upon it in its unique setting.
This unique setting is what
I try to evoke in my paintings. I think of it as a kind of "vortex"
within an otherwise more random and homogenous landscape, where
the linear grid lines of continuous pattern begin to curve and
spiral into something more unique, anomalous, unexpected.
In the context of mountains,
a river has the nature of a vortex. To a river, a waterfall
is a vortex. To a waterfall, a jagged jutting rock may be a
kind of vortex. On a rock, a single little plant. In the plant
is a flower; and in the flower is a seed. A seed is a good example
of the vortex. It is the place you want to finally get to. It
holds itself; orbits around itself. Its components fit together
perfectly. It spirals and dovetails into and out of itself.
It has a magical way of opening out to the future. The Hawaiian
Islands themselves have this magical quality of being unexpected
magical jewels in the midst of the vast, relatively linear and
uniform substance of the Pacific Ocean.
When I begin a painting, I am
first, in my mind constructing a kind of 3-D model of the place.
By getting the spatial relationships clear from the start, I
am more able to convey to the viewer a place she can not only
see, but also feel herself moving through.
Another way of describing these
places is that they are sacred places, but not because it says
so in the travel guide or because a native person tells us a
myth. They are sacred because their beauty is so deep and mysterious
that we are stopped in our tracks. We have hiked for hours,
we have overcome our boredom and fatigue and we are rewarded
with an intimate elegance so satisfying that for the moment
we can't imagine anything better on earth or in heaven.
In their quest for beauty, the
artists of the 20th century had a revolutionary message: that
beauty was not limited to pastoral portraits of history or the
nobility of the landed gentry as was the idea of artists who
existed before them. Later, in the 1950s and 60s, the point
was pressed home by obscure and minimalist artists who, with
the proper dedication, uncovered beauty even in chunks of concrete
block. Point taken, but the point is missed if we don't go on
to apply our newly enhanced and refined eye by once again looking
more deeply at nature.
My purpose in painting is not
just to create attractive objects, but also to try to remind
people to look more closely at nature's concrete blocks: dead
branches, tree trunks, craggy gnarly rocks, monotonous hillsides
and inaccessible terrain, as well as frothy seashores and silky
luxurious jungles. You prepare yourself by looking at the Grand
Canyon. You prepare yourself by looking at concrete blocks in
museums. You prepare yourself by looking at the vacant lot out
behind the liquor store. You prepare yourself by looking at
inspiring paintings. And, if after preparing yourself, you have
the good fortune to discover a truly sacred place, you will
recognize it and rejoice.