We chat with artist and ArtLink@Sotheby's Young International Art participant Michael Rich - whose work appears in a number of projects including the Jing-an Shangri-la Shanghai, Radisson Bucharest, Seabourn Ovation and Ritz-Carlton Herzliya - on his art, creative process and upcoming exhibitions.
Tell us a little about your work.
My paintings, drawings and prints derive from the landscapes of my experience. I grew up and live near the ocean and find endless inspiration from the light and weather of New England and the North Atlantic. The work is abstract in its outer appearance, owing much to the painterly language of the American abstractionists of the mid-to late 20th century. However, when I look at my paintings, I see overt reference to the sea and sky, weather and light. I’m interested in natural forces and finding some approximation of those forces in color and mark of paint.
How did you begin your work as a painter?
I have been drawing all my life but only began to paint while in college at the Rhode Island School of Design, studying illustration in the 80’s. My earliest works were figurative and at one point I wanted to be a portrait painter. A study in color and light led to landscape painting and landscape painting eventually led to large-scale abstractions, loosely based on the landscape.
Have you ever had a seminal experience that has influenced or encouraged you?
Travel always inspires. After some time of painting on my own, I began graduate studies in painting in Tuscany, Italy with the intention of painting the landscape. In my travels through Europe, I discovered the large, blue abstractions of Miro in Paris that deeply influenced a change in my direction toward non-objective painting ever since. My travels continue to inspire my work. Recently, I visited the glaciers of Alaska which I’m sure will find their way into my paintings in some form.
Has your practice or creative process changed over time?
I’ve had the same technical process of painting now for over 30 years. I always begin at the palette, without preconceptions of what the image might be as I mix and search for colors. I then apply the paint, layer after layer, until I arrive at an image that has resonance. Sometimes this happens quickly, sometimes the paintings take weeks or months. In recent years, I have added printmaking to my studio practice, both in intaglio and woodcut. Both media allow me to work in a graphic way that utilizes the same practice or layering color familiar to a painter. Printmaking shows me possibilities of image making and allows me to marry processes of drawing, collage and painting.
Do you have an artwork or artist that you find most inspirational?
I look at a wide range of artwork of all types but a couple of painters have inspired me for years – Joan Mitchell, Cy Twombly, Monet, J.M.W. Turner, Diebenkorn and DeKooning. I was fortunate to meet Helen Frankenthaler years ago, who was both inspiring and encouraging of my work.
What would you consider the most memorable project/exhibition you have worked on with ArtLink?
The most memorable was the first which was the International Young Art auction series in 2000. I was early in my career and to see my work auctioned at Sotheby’s was a huge boost for me and a very exciting project.
For you, success is:
Being blessed to get to do the thing I love, bring a little beauty into the world, while being able to provide for my family. Simple.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or event showcases this year?
My work will be featured at Art Market, San Francisco with Adler and Co. Gallery, April 25-28; Art New York with Steidel Contemporary, May 2-5 and The Other Art Fair, Brooklyn, May 2-5, 2019. I’ll have a solo exhibition as well in July at the Old Spouter Gallery, Nantucket