impending presence

current works of ron clark

One need only look with care at Ron Clark’s delicately nuanced oil paintings to realize the artist is captivated with the perception of ideational forms. When one peers into Clark’s private world, what becomes immediately apparent is that two different types of sight coalesce as one in these visual works: An internal one which is apprehended through visionary experience, and another more outward seeing that alludes to the subliminally mimetic, referring to nature or its aspects that reside in the world of lived experience. The near impossibility of wrenching one system of sight from the other is at the core of this work’s mystery and beauty. With this realization in mind, it becomes evident Clark intends to engage his viewers with the suggestive potency of symbolic material which refers to the antitheses of spirit-matter and matter-form; contrarieties always seeking synthesis yet somehow always eluding it.

Perhaps the first operative illusionistic level with which we must contend is the fastidious ordering of the surface tension through a feathering of hundreds of incrementally layered passes of paint to create saturated and luminous passages. Naturalistic surfaces and textures are alluded to, as are organic ones. The radiant, gossamer quality of Clark’s tiny fused marks create glassy fields which resemble seamless wave patterns, or microcosmic energy vortexes that appear to ebb and flow on the residual larger forms while resting within them. They are fascinating to behold; a prism of the phantasmagoric, which recalls the boundless and the universal. These patterns and textures allow the inner eye infinite access to a limitless and transcendent pictorial plane. The larger contrasted forms shimmer like apparitions within their overall spectral force fields.

Three dimensions are insinuated, but they not stressed, as size and scale become sublimely indeterminate. The dream-quality pervades the artist’s effort; within the work one can discern near-figural or biomorphic forms that hover, tremulously, over the surfaces. These forms resist interpretation as they flitter as spectral beings in and out of view. Clark’s synthetic investigations in form and color address issues that preoccupy the best artists working today: Displacement found in dreams and in the waking world’s naturalistic cycles. In this sense the artist’s pictorial associations on evolutionary process, form, surface and optical formations and his attendant symbolic interfacing with disciplines outside of the area of art and myth-making – for what else is Art than a collective dream, or hallucination – can be likened to Umberto Eco’s definition of an encyclopedia: A network without a center.

Clark’s image-making is driven through with ambiguity and harmonious dis-equilibrium. The tactile flair and sumptuous surfaces in Clark’s work is part of the reason one takes notice of such works. The considerable skill of the artist lies in two realms. The first is in his elusive capacity to generate a sense of potential onto the pictorial plane. Enigma is the result; a bountiful, inexplicable and bedeviling component that lurks always at the core of great art. The second is the artist’s evident satisfaction in bridging the gap between his own playful (read creative) tolerance for ambiguity in an effort to tease our own “effort after meaning” to use an Ernst Gombrich term. As the historian once put it so famously; “I am not quite sure we are ever quite sufficiently surprised at our capacity to … decipher the cryptograms of art.”

Ron Clark (as was the eminent art historian himself) is an evident amateur (it is, after all, the Latin word for “lover”) of form and its permutations. He toys with our love (it is a demanding one) for illusion. The appearances of his image-making are elaborations of infinite form that recall infinite elaboration, transformation and metamorphosis. The artist’s design genius seems to have subconsciously fused together an array of forms and tonalities which embody in pictorial form his speculations on transpositions between the symbolic and the imaginary. Clark’s work suggests (if we may refer once again to the artist’s concerns with the organic) the transmutation of elements from water and smoke into fluidity and back into the imponderable.

Furthermore, the artist’s generative spatial forms and atmospheric conceits have analogies with the relationship between organisms or objects in space and in light. We personify such forms, giving them an organic authority through which we measure our own relationship to time and its duration. How authentically Henri Focillon’s remark – “A certain of forms corresponds to a certain order of minds.” – resonates as we peer into Clark’s generative mark-making, surface and tonal configurations.

The naturalistic inferences that we perceive in his work are seen through a variety of constraints in terms of time: Chronological or isochronal. These measurements (or our perceptions of such systems) become measured according to our need and capacity to accept interlaced levels of illusion. The contours of these illusions become ours in a process of somatic (and psychic) identification with the artist. The artist’s asymmetric vistas of the mind keep us suspended, in equipoise, between the edge of chaos and the brink of lucidity. Out of such concerns the visual poetry in Ron Clark’s work emerges. Through it an impending presence of pure becoming keeps its hold firmly on the viewer.


by dominique nahas

Dominique Nahas is an independent art critic, curator, current New York editor of D'Art International magazine and a regular contributing critic with Art in America magazine. He is a member of the Association Internationale des Critiques d'Art and former Chief Curator of Contemporary Art at Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. As a current art professor, he has written over 200 major reviews and articles on contemporary art for magazines and periodicals such as Art in America, Sculpture, New Observations, The New Art Examiner, Art-Asia Pacific and ArtNet Worldwide.