Review: Charlie Risselada at McDaniel College by Laura Cox

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Without ever picking up a brush, Charlie Risselada is able to create beautiful painted works. Risselada’s show “Poured Paintings,” is on Display at The Rice Gallery at McDaniel College from February 23 through March 13, 2009. The poured painting technique Risselada developed while studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art allows him to use paint in a manner like no other. His style of paint manipulation can be compared to a composer and his orchestra. Risselada adds, removes and manipulates colors, but in the end he lets his orchestra of paints work together to create a beautiful harmony.

Risselada’s large-scale pieces are almost as much sculpture, as they are paintings. The wooden panels that are the backbone of his pieces are augmented with sections of wooden laminate, which give his pieces yet another visual layer to draw in viewers. They also act to block and redirect the flow of paint over the surface, which creates the swirls and pools that make up his compositions. Risselada allows the paint to manipulate itself with occasional nudges of artistic direction. He creates a give and take flow between himself and his medium. When the new colors are added to the surface, Risselada allows the paint to incorporate itself into the composition. It is like a mystery unfolding as some areas of paint seep and mix together while others sit on top. With all the layers and formations, Risselada’s pieces become very tactile and they draw the viewer in encouraging him or her to discover the mystery of the application itself.

Risselada’s compositions are not completely at random. He is greatly inspired by topographic maps and most recently has been incorporating visually stimulating areas of the Chesapeake Bay into his formations. These landmass and water formations can most easily been seen in pieces Number 35, Number 36, Number 38, Number 39, and Number 43. In several of his pieces, such as Number 35, Number 36, and Number 39, Risselada allows a singular color or closely related colors to dominate one of the levels of his pieces aiding the two levels in looking unique and distinctive. This technique helps to feature the distinction between waterways and landforms. His color palettes are bold and to the uninformed eye somewhat nonsensical, although I am sure Risselada’s colors choices and combinations are far from random. The nature of the paint application allows for incredible amounts of movement and rhythm to be portrayed in each piece. The viewer can follow each color and see how it swirls through the composition and interacts with each additional color as it flows across the wooden panel. Although symmetry is obviously not a primary focus of Risselada he is still acutely aware of and able to maintain a wonderful sense of balance in each of his pieces. In pieces such as Number 30, Number 32 and Number 33, the colors and formations create a chaotic yet unified story within the piece; there is direction and purpose to every aspect Risselada incorporates. On such a large scale Risselada’s paintings can be somewhat overwhelming, but because of their scale, each piece is just more image for the viewer to be blissfully lost in.

Risselada had created the kind of abstract art that most people can appreciate and fall in love with. At first glance each piece seems to be a haphazard mixture of texture and color, but upon closer inspection the wonderful nuances of each piece become apparent. Without much direction from the artist audiences can get a sense of the topographical formations that Risselada is emulating. The meaning and subject matter behind his pieces is deep enough that Risselada is able to encourage the viewer to get close, explore, and become lost within the world of interactions he has created.

The author of this review, Laura Cox, is currently an art student at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD.

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