Vandormael: Could you tell me about the little Richard, what are your most precious memories of childhood, which influenced and characterized you as an artist?
RM: Somewhere around 3rd or 4th grade, while studying geography, I made about 6 or 8 pictures of South American Indians in the Amazon. These were fully colored with crayons on 8.5 X 11 inch construction paper. My teacher, Mrs. Brown, pinned them on a bulletin board in the hallway for everyone to see. At the bottom right corner there was a sign that said, “Illustrations by Richard Malinsky.” I told my mother all about it when I got home and asked her, “What does ‘Illustrations’ mean?”
My mother had visual art talent, and won an art medal in high school. Unfortunately, she never had the opportunity to develop her talent. We drew together many times – mostly portraits of Native Americans. I have never outgrown my fascination and admiration for their colorful arts, crafts and spirituality.
Vandormael: Did your family already know you were born to create?
RM: I grew up in East Hartford, Connecticut - a middle class factory town, and was the first in the family to go to college. Art was not part of our daily life or even valued. I don’t think my family felt that I was born to create, but these experiences must have been the first clue that something was brewing.
Throughout high school I thought I wanted to be an architect. I made two trips to visit architects to see their offices and work in progress. I learned that the required mathematics were just not a fit for me. About a year later I won a statewide art contest for an album cover design as an art class project. The piece was displayed in the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in Hartford and that was followed by a $100 college scholarship. Art School was the choice. I was clearly a late bloomer!
Vandormael: Your art is expressive, folding and unfolding on a canvas, on paper and silk. Do you have a particular picture, method or composition in your mind before painting? Do you want to refer to a particular landscape, a particular state of mind?
RM: I have had a lifelong passion for the relationship of all living things. The poetry of nature inspires me. My images are derived from organic growth forms and remembered or imagined landscapes – allusions to water, earth, and sky. All are in the process of defining themselves and therefore kinetic, which makes them unexpected, energetic and evocative. I share the conviction of the first generation Abstract Expressionists that the role of art was not to report on the visible, but to reveal the unknown. I remain faithful to the idea of working as closely as possible out of pure intuition.
I think of my paintings as poems or songs. Sometimes I may start with a feeling or an observation, especially if I am working with a series such as reflections on water, or water currents. Unlike the abstract expressionists “gestural wrestling” with the paint, my work is more about simplifying and having a “private conversation” with the paint – sometime just letting it go the way it wants to. In the end, it is never about a particular thing or place. Rather, reflections on water might become a metaphor for reflections on self and water currents may strive for the feeling of a warm water current surrounding your body. Like Rothko, I want to elicit an emotion from the viewer. An interpretation is not necessary. I strive for my work to be transcendent and create a non-verbal communication that allows new and deeper personal feelings each time you see it.
As a second generation, lyrical abstractionist, what sets my work apart from Abstract Expressionism is a return to atmospheric depth, and an evocative poetic link to color field abstraction - frequently a single color field populated by organic forms pushing at the boundaries of the traditional defined rectangle. Some pieces actually move beyond 2- dimensional illusion and actually are a 3-dimensional reality that challenges the definition of a painting. These dimensional explorations actually led to the scarfs – dimensional paintings that can be worn.
Vandormael: What is your favourite medium to paint and why?
RM: Technically, I work exclusively in liquid acrylic - frequently pouring the paint and encouraging colors to meet and react to each other while still fluid. I am focused on the fluidity of the paint (symbolic of organic form and motion), surface tension, and pushing beyond the edges. My use of color is sometimes playful and surprising but never haphazard because for me color defines the form, space and energy.
Vandormael: Do you believe art can bring people together and realize another way of communication far beyond our understanding?
RM : Yes. I believe art has the emotive power to unite people beyond verbal communication.
Vandormael: How important is art history to you?
RM : I’ve had a rocky road relationship with art history. In school, it never felt important or necessary if I knew what date a famous painting was created and where it was displayed. To me it was more important to understand how Rembrandt used brown. A wise teacher suggested I focus on looking at the photos and when I found one that moved me I would be motivated to read more about it. Nice, I liked that!
Vandormael: Who is your favourite artist and why?
Is there one or another country, culture or religion having a significant impact on your art?
RM : In the 60’s I began to visit the New York galleries and museums on weekends. When I saw de Kooning, Pollock and Rothko I was hooked. It triggered voracious reading about how they started, how they reacted to Picasso and the surrealists. This was the art of my time and I became an expert in 20th Century American Abstraction. Interestingly, the same passion for creating a unique American art form was happening in dance with Martha Graham and music with Aaron Copeland.
RM: Early influences were Claude Monet’s emotive atmospheric color and Matisse’s less modulated color that resonated with me. Compositionally, it was the emotional gesture and physicality of abstract expressionism that guided me - Willem de Kooning’s devotion to the human form; Jackson Pollock’s surface action and working on unprimed canvas rolled out on the floor that was a precursor to staining. More recently the more blended, spiritual color of Mark Rothko that became a bridge to the smoother poured and stained poetic images of second generation lyrical abstractionist Helen Frankenthaller have provided inspiration. Each used color to evoke an emotional and visual experience by adjusting weight and amount of color.
Vandormael: You won The Walker Art Award did this influenced your career as an artist?
RM : As I mentioned earlier, I was a late bloomer, not really deciding to be a painter until my 4th year in art school. Winning the Walker Award at graduation did influence my career because it was a validation. Two years later when The Philadelphia Museum of Art bought one of my drawings from my first exhibition I thought I was famous. A week later I realized I was not! I realized I still had much to learn and do to achieve my goal, or dream, to make a living as a working artist, rather than a teacher. I’ve worked as an apprentice to a mural painter for the mosaic murals at the National Catholic Shrine in Washington, DC; designed stained glass windows throughout the country; illustrated medical textbooks; worked as a professional photographer, graphic designer, art director and creative director in advertising agencies. My training as a painter guided each of these endeavors and has always been the central beacon of my work.
Vandormael: Do you have a particular dream ?
What is or what would be your most precious realization as an artist in life?
RM : I hope my contribution to the visual art world has enriched people’s lives in some way through beauty and poetry in an emotional way they never expected in this very fast paced disposable world we live in.
Vandormael: The famous artist Michelangelo said, ‘The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark?’ What do you think about this?
RM : I agree with this. When people ask me which painting is your favorite, or which is your best my response is I haven’t painted it yet!
BY Anne-Marie ( Annemie) Vandormael
Advanced Vision and Art
ADVANCED VISION & ART
Hollandsveldlaan 19 bus 4
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