Divergent Masters Inform Remick's Work
By Don Wilkinson. New Bedford Standard Times.
Posted Aug. 28, 2014.
There is something particularly emblematic about Stephen Remick's self-portrait. With piercing baby-blues, he stares directly at himself and hence, the viewer. He wears a classic red-and-black checkered hunter's jacket, his wire-frame glasses sit atop his nearly bald pate. He stands in front of a light brown, unfinished studio wall, where the heads of the screws and the seams between the drywall are clearly evident. He is self-confident and stern and yet on the verge of a knowing smirk or a friendly smile.
But what is behind him reveals much. Drawn directly on the surface of the wall is an interpretation of an ancient and iconic caribou from the caves of Lascaux. It rises above the painter's head like a cartoon thought. Nearby is a painting chart of color swatches. Over his right shoulder, pinned to the wall, is a postcard reproduction of Pieter Bruegel's 1565 painting "Hunters in the Snow," a masterpiece of Flemish realism. Over his left shoulder is a postcard of "Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red," a 1949 color field painting by the modernist Mark Rothko. It should be noted that in Remick's self-portrait, the Bruegel and the Rothko are inverted, as it is a mirror image as are most self-portraits.
This is why Remick's self-portrait is so emblematic: He is traversing the line between realist and abstractionist, visiting the past and anticipating the future, exhibiting both seriousness and silliness, and in all cases, he finds the better of two worlds.
Some locals will remember Remick's participation in the New Bedford Art Museum's 2010 exhibition "In the Landscape: Four Painters — Four Seasons," along with Diane Cournoyer, Benjamin Martinez and Nancy Train Smith. Remick presented a series of winters scenes and some of those are currently on display in a makeshift gallery at the Salt Marsh Pottery in South Dartmouth.
The snowy nocturnal scenes can be simultaneously haunting, sparse and beautifully detailed: wonderfully rendered woodpiles, sled tracks and footprints in the white powder, and shocking jolts of fluorescent orange ribbon, marking lonely trails. And, yes, there is a creepy snowman lingering by the swing set. But Remick is comfortable and confident painting in other seasons. The autumn is represented by "Alice's Spillway in the Fall," and the dog days are given their due in "Summer Woods."
"Cherry Tree in Spring" is a small, demanding work in which branches of mauve leaves impossibly pop off a background of sky blue and a green that is the color of guacamole.
Remick can be an incredibly precise realist but he is not beholden to only that possibility. He displays a series of roof paintings — "Sunlit Roof," "Moonlit Roof," and others — in which structure is reduced to simple forms without ever abandoning reality. "Roof with Trees" goes even beyond a geometric reduction by obscuring an off-white indication of rooftop with wild strokes of viridian, indicating a flurry of foliage.
"Late Night Work" is moody and dark. A three-windowed two-car garage with both doors open, spilling light into the blue-black evening. The architectural details of the building are almost non-existent as a heavy darkness permeates all. In the background, soft shapes come into deep focus as mysterious hills and treetops. A large-scale landscape "Beaver Pond in November" is movingly atmospheric: A dark pine grove reluctantly gives way to a sunlit marshland of ochre and pale blue.
Remick is a straddler and that is meant as a compliment. It takes a confident painter to offer himself up as the nexus between Bruegel and Rothko.
His unnamed exhibition will be on display at the Salt Marsh Pottery, 1167 Russells Mills Road, South Dartmouth for the rest of the year.
Don Wilkinson is a painter and art critic who lives in New Bedford. Contact him at Don.Wilkinson@gmail.com
Painters Channel the Power of SouthCoast Scenes in BCC Exhibition.
By Keith Powers
Contributing writer New Bedford Standard Times
Jun. 3, 2016
For anyone familiar with the SouthCoast landscape, especially New Bedford and Fall River, one look at a mill building easily evokes a range of emotions.
Some of a certain age remember lost jobs, or parents losing jobs. Some see missed opportunities, others a seedy undercurrent of poverty and crime. Others see hope, and rebirth, reuse and a flowering of opportunity.
Whatever the feelings, the mill buildings that still stand have power. And although “Under the Influence: New England Mill Paintings” — a joint exhibition of works from Stephen Remick and Randy Swann — strays far from that single subject matter and explores a number of visual topics, that power sweeps through all the works on view.
The exhibition, currently at the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery on the campus of Bristol Community College, marks curator Kathleen Hancock’s 100th show. It’s a tribute to the sophisticated sense of display and innovation that she brings to the space, which, in the end, is simply a well-lit room.
Remick works in acrylic on board; Swann in oil on board. Their paintings make an admirable comparison study: to generalize, Remick strays toward nocturnes, Swann the sharp angles of daytime shadows.
But that’s a simple generalization. If this is a look at downtrodden urban sites, it’s done with a loving eye. And broad expectations from the past, specifically drawn from the human experience, an expectation that includes nostalgia, but is not limited to that.
As much as both artists choose human development as a subject matter, neither includes a single figure in any of these works. It’s a revelation that only comes after consideration, and comes as a surprise. Because these paintings all revel in the human experience.
Swann shows almost a dozen works, spotlighted by five large horizontal compositions. The paintings, some with familiar landmarks like the Braga Bridge or St. Anne’s Church in Fall River, cast their subject matter realistically, with Hopperesque light and shadow. But a subtle, almost digitized approach, especially to façades and windows, makes the work modern. Showing exclusively aspects of human enterprise — bridges, buildings, delivery trucks — without any living creatures at all delivers its own editorial message.
Remick’s eight acrylics choose slightly different subject matter. An abandoned cemetery, solar panels on the margin of the woods, a worked-over yard sale at the end of the day, an unfinished foundation — these isolated constructs are mostly cast in late-day or early evening light. They are realistically proposed, and deeply poignant.
Certainly an abandoned foundation, or an old cemetery, can easily evoke a “where has the time gone” flavor. But the solar panels do as well — and the tree house, and the yard sale. An emotional distance is created, as if the abandonment will happen in some future time, and as such gets anticipated here.
Remick’s work has a deep technical appeal, not in its precision, but in its captivating compositions. Swann’s ability to see and paint aspects of human engineering as part of a fully integrated landscape — making what we build feel just as natural as what nature supplies — creates beauty in often overlooked vistas.
Notes on the Arts
By David B. Boyce
February 13, 2010
Remick's paintings of woodsy winter snow scenes, alluded to with individual examples in recent group shows at Crowell's, comprise an impressive full body. The artist's use of light and shadow in these limited palette acrylic paintings is remarkable, given the difficulty of the medium in achieving subtle effects. The technique demands a slow and patient approach, with thin paint layers applied with accomplished control. Some of his shadows even compel the viewer's eyes upwards, to locate the light source that creates them. The results here are simultaneously lush, wonderfully illusionistic, and yet very painterly.
And herein lies an especially attractive quality in Remick's recent work. He has in the past experimented and achieved high levels of effect in a large body of abstract paintings, which now serves him well in this representational exhibit. Seen close to, this interest and practice in abstraction becomes clear, as well as the artist's love and mastery of his medium.
From a distance, Remick has achieved a near photo-realism in these images, which will appeal to a broad audience. Admired in closer proximity, devotees of abstraction and painterliness will find their particular loves equally present. This nearer view also gives an audience the chance to admire Remick's gorgeously brushy surfaces.
Subject-wise, the artist is also celebrating the remembrance of a child's take on winter. Several works picture a red swing set with a yellow slide, a rope swing with a yellow disk seat, an enchanting welcoming snowman, and in one small painting, a half-forgotten snow angel and the boot tracks that led to its location fairly bursts with pathos and nostalgia. This is a really lovely exhibit with more meat on its bones than immediately meets the eye.
Remick's Work Invites Prolonged Study
By David B. Boyce
July 11, 2009
One of the most exciting aspects of this writer's job, or in fact that of a collector or a museum or gallery curator, is to observe an artist's development over several years' time. If that artist's work interests the eye and mind to begin with, the journey becomes even more fascinating. Stephen Remick is such a painter.
A 1986 graduate of the now-legendary Swain School of Design here in New Bedford, earning a BFA in painting with honors, Remick is also a husband and father. Thus far, his artistic pursuits have not provided enough of a living for him to devote full time to his art-making passion, but Steve certainly has the talent and the work ethic, and it's evident in his current exhibition called "findings" that concludes today at Crowell's Fine Art in downtown New Bedford.
What has been most interesting after a several-year observance is seeing how he addresses the basic issues of representation and abstraction, particularly because he does both, though not necessarily on the same canvas. His show, "findings" presents work completed during the past few years, and because of its quite intelligent and beautiful installation, the show reveals quite clearly (even to the untrained eye) his process of deriving his abstraction from representation. Several groupings do this admirably, without any need for wall text or verbal explanation. It's all there, right before your eyes.
Remick's principal subject, whether representational or abstract, is the woods in various seasons. An ideal theme, as it lends itself so well to either mode, his treatment of the woods in winter displayed in numerous smaller paintings captures the solitude, the sharp dark-and-light contrasts, and the isolation one feels in that milieu. While his treatment of light is warm and inviting, the snow looks cold!
With his abstraction, Remick references those practitioners of the New York School, particularly Mark Rothko (evident in the first painting to the right upon entering Crowell's) and Adolph Gottlieb. His use of dripping can become too manipulated, too much of a device that becomes too much the focus, yet without real conviction, depth, or purpose.
But in his more recent work, especially the landscape-based abstractions, his allusions are less specifically obvious and more his own. So while the Rothko-like work is a knockout, I find these latter works to be the more arresting, subtle, and intriguing.
Despite the occasional lapse into his comfort zone, Remick's work persists in holding my interest because I want to see where it is going. And this is a hallmark of intelligent painting.
David B. Boyce is senior arts correspondent for The Standard-Times.
Reliance on Landscape Unites Artists in BCC Show
By David B. Boyce, Standard-Times correspondent
April 6, 2005.
Included in "Forces of Nature – Tales of Remembrance" are works by two abstract painters, seven by Michele Provost of Providence and eight by Stephen Remick of New Bedford, and nine welded metal abstract works by sculptor Ray Sauer of Seekonk. The result is a handsomely installed exhibit that recalls the classical years of modernist abstraction...
.....On the other hand, Mr. Remick has reduced or all but eliminated similar painterly elements from his boldly colored works, though not enough so to consider them minimalist. The one he most relies on, the drip, often becomes an actual pictorial element rather than an effect or affectation, yet if he were to place more focus on the sensitive and fecund juncture seams where his color masses meet, his reliance on even the drip might find reason to decrease.
Mr. Remick of New Bedford holds a BFA in painting from the Swain School of Design, and an associate's degree in applied science in architectural and building engineering from Vermont Technical College. An artist in residence at ArtWorks! from 2000 to 2002, he has exhibited chiefly in SouthCoast venues.
Seen in a previously exhibited body of work from a few years ago, Mr. Remick quoted more directly and observably from the illusionist traditions of landscape art, and, though these newer works retain a subtle reference, they venture more gallantly into the flatter preserves of painterly abstraction. Their simplified composition and color also refer to the chromatic theories and explorations of Josef Albers.
This is a series that, while much bolder than earlier work, still feels somewhat tentative, as though Mr. Remick hadn't quite found the exact solution to his self-selected problem of inquiry. He's a seasoned painter with good instincts, and will undoubtedly locate the proper combination of visual and intellectual density and intrigue...
Vermont Perspectives Inspired Dartmouth Artist Stephen Remick's Abstract Landscapes
By Catherine Carter, Standard-Times correspondent
December 01, 2006
Dartmouth artist Stephen Remick paints those times in nature when light is at its most dramatic. His canvases describe sunrise, sunset, midday brightness, moon glow, blizzards and lightning storms. He chooses strong colors that express those heightened moments — golden yellow, hot pink, electric blue, often contrasted with black — to illuminate the large abstract shapes that are the characters in his paintings.
The 45-year-old Mr. Remick grew up in Vermont. He spent long hours as a child playing outdoors, observing the dense woodlands and open skies that would eventually inspire him as an artist. His first landscapes out of college were realistic studies of forest views. But when he realized that his real interest was the effect of the sky on the land, he simplified the individual trees into one mass floating in the center of the canvas. This way, his colors could tell the story.
While Mr. Remick says he wants his landscapes to look natural, "almost like they grew," his process is complex and constantly evolving. He uses fluid acrylics and multiple layers of gel mixtures, sometimes as many as 50, to create the lush surfaces in his paintings. His color mixing is "trial and error," often the result of the tones that create themselves on the canvas as the layers build up. He also allows random drips to act as defining lines that emphasize the large forms in his compositions.
When it comes to painting, Mr. Remick says he "can't not do it." But he started on the path to this impractical profession with practical intentions. He first earned a degree in architecture from Vermont Technical College, then moved on to the Swain School of Design in New Bedford with plans for a degree in graphic design. It was at Swain that Mr. Remick found the two loves of his life — his future wife, Anne, who was a fellow student, and his unexpected career as a fine artist.
He applied himself with care to his design courses, but felt more stimulated by the painting and drawing classes he was taking as electives. After two years, he made the decision to follow his heart and change his major to painting.
Mr. Remick says the "bohemian atmosphere" at Swain had a big impact on him. He was influenced by the sense of camaraderie among the students, the spirit of free expression encouraged by the teachers, and the ornate beauty of the historic buildings on campus. He completed his studies with a bachelor of fine arts degree.
After he graduated from Swain, Mr. Remick's architectural training landed him a plum job at Jordan Marsh in Boston with a good salary and benefits. But the 9-to-5 life didn't suit him, and he left to work for a friend from Swain who was wallpapering and painting houses on the SouthCoast.
When the friend moved on, Mr. Remick stayed with the business. In 1986, he founded Remick Painting and Paperhanging Inc., specializing in faux and decorative finishes for residential and commercial settings. This work gave him the chance to combine his experience as a contractor with his background as a painter.
As his company flourished, Mr. Remick found his voice as an artist during a residency at ArtWorks! in New Bedford from 2000 to 2002. In his Dover Street studio, he came upon two discoveries that altered the representational landscapes he had been painting up to that time. He realized that he was most drawn to the areas where two colors or two shapes met on the canvas, so he began to focus on those intersections by enlarging small sections of his formal landscapes. He also realized that he could unify his compositions by depicting one overall weather pattern like a snowstorm.
When Mr. Remick's ArtWorks! residency was over, he began painting in his garage at home. The switch to a larger studio gave him physical and mental space to expand, so he stretched larger canvases to create more imposing scenes. His palette became bolder, too, with paintings of stormy blue or sunny yellow taking their place alongside the quieter umbers and whites of the earlier snow-based works.
In 2003, Ms. Remick heard about the planned conversion of 21 Cove St. in New Bedford from manufacturing spaces into artist studios. He soon joined a group of other artists who were dividing up one of the building's 7,000-square-foot floors. The change of environment again influenced his work, allowing him to work on even larger canvases, some up to 10 feet long. The sunny environment, brightened by the huge windows in the mill, urged increasingly complex color combinations into his paintings.
Today Mr. Remick balances his time between his business, his studio and his family. He lives in Dartmouth with his wife, Anne Carrozza-Remick, a mural painter, and their two children, Theo, 14, and Tess, 8. His home has a view of the woods that recalls his childhood in Vermont, still providing imagery for his current work. A lightning storm, viewed last summer out the back window with his son, inspired "Watching Lightning with Theo," a dark-blue and white work-in-progress that sits on the easel in his studio today.
Mr. Remick's favorite professor at the Swain School, David Smith, trained with famed teacher and painter Hans Hoffman, who himself had studied with the legendary French artist Henri Matisse. Mr. Remick says he is honored to be a part of that legacy of dedicated artists, and dreams of being a link in the chain through art history that joins one generation of artists to the next.
Catherine Carter is a painter, teacher and writer. Her Web site is www.catherinecarterart.com and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org