Martin Ries

Painter, Printmaker, Art Historian, Art Critic
Martin Ries


"Every intelligent painter carries the whole culture of modern painting in his head. It is his real subject, of which anything he paints is both a homage and a critique, and everything he says a gloss."

-Robert Motherwell

All art is a dialogue. At the beginning of my career I was painting Sacred Landscapes, Kings, Holy Men, and Halberds, with much symbolism and mythology. Later I used photographic silk screens of other artists' images to print into my own work. Some of the screens include reproductions of work by Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Andy Warhol, Carl Andre, and many others in order to explore my own unconscious. Each interacts with its neighbor to form new meanings, plus my own images and unique color field.   

As an artist and art historian, I borrow other artists' images and put them to different uses, in a new context, in relation to my own work. I am interested in incorporating "interconnected period statements," a kind of visual counterpoint which has to do with the consciousness of our own historicity.  

I work on hundreds of paintings, and parts of paintings; each painting is made up of different components that I attach in various ways. This process is not a variation of collage so much as it is a creation and discovery of the correlation among various art images in the history of art; their originality lies in the organization of heterogeneous allusions. The confrontation of these multi-images creates a psychic tension as the different artists' works are juxtaposed; it changes the "order of things," as T.S. Eliot stated about the perception of past works.  

Color is important and often I applied glazes and layer upon layer in various ways to create vibrant tonalities; it functions predominantly as a structural element, revealing over-lapping and under-painting, belying the complex process of building and revealing the composition.   

The titles of the works are important in that they are not mere appendages but are intricately and poetically bound up with the intent and effect of the picture. As Duchamp said: a title should add another color to the work.

Recently inspired by a long-forgotten study for a series of "Sacred Landscapes" painted in the early 1950s about the demise of civilizations, I applied layers of ethereal blues to create resonant abstractions, a series of "Mystic Landscapes" recalling Einstein's: "The most beautiful and most profound emotion one can experience is the sensation of the mystical." This is "mystic landscape" as a state of being, in topographical non-spatial terms, yet pertaining to the material earth, implying a chthonic and maternal metaphor.  

A work of art, beyond being a manifestation of what we see, or are unable to see, is also one of belief. Like Immanuel Kant's "moral law within," we know more than we can calculate. In a manner analogous to nature, which - from atom and crystal through organic life to the world of stars and planets - my new work is not "abstraction" so much as it is personal symbolism, and hopefully foretells landscapes of illumination, not the demise of civilizations.


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