Christopher Rico’s ink and acrylic paintings dance across the surface of the paper with a controlled energy. See more of his portfolio on his website.
I’m interested in unknown places and uncertainty. I thrive off those things, perhaps because as a child I grew up in lots of different parts of the United States and that constant sense of unfamiliarity became part of me somehow.
So, I want the work to be, at least in part, about unfamiliar spaces, whether they are from myths or legends or old stories. The worlds of my paintings are close to but somehow not completely of this world.
I became fascinated with sumi-e and calligraphy many years ago. As I was forming my own ideas about painting, and what painting was and could be, I identified with the intentionality and restraint of these art forms and their mark-making.
I try to remove anything extraneous from my pictures. I want there to be a minimal amount of visual information; enough that the composition holds together, but not so much that it offers any conclusions or overt positions.
That is not to say that my art is apolitical, or that it is about nothing. To the first point, I believe all art is political—that the act of making art is, in and of itself, a political act. Second, while my work is non-representational in that it doesn’t depict a particular thing, place or person, it still has content, and that content hopefully evokes feelings and impressions from the viewer.
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I tend to work on the floor or a table. Anything that has a horizontal surface. I lay a foundation—usually an iridescent color—and then work up to gestural forms done in ink. I like India ink, but I will often mix in mars black acrylic to give it some body and form.
After the initial gestures, I begin removing and disrupting the medium so that there is a distortion in imagery. Over time, my level of control has increased and it’s definitely more improvisation than chance.
I started collecting giant calligraphy brushes made from horsehair a few years ago—some are nearly four feet long—and I actively use them in my practice. I’ve used mops for really large paintings; anything to carry large amounts of my ink/paint mixtures.
There’s an energy in my gestures that I really work to preserve. It feels spontaneous, but of course it’s a controlled spontaneity. I practice on small works on paper, and what is important to me is internalizing the gestures into my body so that when I take it to a larger surface, I have something to recall. It’s muscle memory, and I have to take my conscious mind out of the way when I paint in order to allow for the immediacy and freedom of gesture.
I want people to take away meaningfulness from my paintings, but not worry about meaning. I like the idea that we are sharing stories; the stories I’m telling but also the stories they bring themselves to the work.
Artist Christopher Rico invites you to follow him on Instagram.
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