Interview with Rick Berry

ArtSake recently caught up with the painter Rick Berry to ask him about his work.

What artists’ work do you admire most but paint nothing like? Heres the problem. Any artist Ive ever admired, known or anonymous, has affected my work, my choices. Its impossible for me to not do things because of this. Heres an example: One could look at the paintings and say, Well thats nothing like Jackson Pollock, and not know about how often I sling turp and paint directly at the formative surface searching for lyric geometries; the painting may wind up sharply figurative but all that movement? Just go back to its initial musical chaos, and youll find a painter that I paint nothing like.

What is the most surprising response to your art you have ever received? Tears.

How do you know when your work is done? Sadly, I often dont and overshoot the mark. Theres a saying around the studio, just because you can, doesnt mean you should. Boy, is that true. A baroque display of skills doesnt make a painting. Ill see, be snake-fascinated by, something thats happening in the surface and begin to auger in. Im quite sure that Ive got chops that are going to make this area even better but the better I make it, the more it recedes in freshness and the marks lose their initial force and authority. Simply kills me.

The only recourse is to wreck the painting creatively; sling and scrape. Strangely, this often works but its painful to get there.

What do you listen to while you paint? Tons of rocknroll but hardly exclusively. I get on classical jags, folk and country, techno weirdness auto-hypnosis, you name it.

Lately, and I never thought Id say this, Ive been salting the mix with opera. This is in part because of being in embedded with OperaBoston but I was already knocked out by some things Id heard this direction. All this certainly can kick you into action. Quick incomplete list: Chris Whitley, The Pearl Fishers, Duke Ellington, Ralph Vaughan Williams, The Gorillas, Shostokovich, Billie Holiday, Red House Painters, Gary Numan You see how it is.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled: The Civilizing of Big Pink.

What are you currently reading? Bill Gibsons Pattern Recognition, McKibbons Enough, Gaimans Coraline

Do you have any pets? You know, there is something that deigns to live here. Doesnt come when you call and carries a full set of knives concealed within tempting pet-able fluff. We dont know why we like it but we do. The house imp, that knows all the secret places.

Seeing in the Dark: Pattern Recognition/Discovery in the Marks, The Figurative Works of Rick Berry opens today at the Sharon Arts Exhibition Gallery. The show runs through August 30th.

Image credit: Photos of paintings courtesy of Rick Berry.

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