Thursday, November 26, 2015

Neil Riley

December 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured Posts, interiors, landscape painting

Neil Riley Bexley Interior 2009, oil on Panel, 10 x 8 inches

I am often drawn to the intimacy and freshness of small alla prima paintings where you more directly follow the artists path in the brushstrokes and marks that translate their visual experience of that moment. Getting up close with small works allows you to own the painting for a minute, only room for one nose at a time to engage with a corner of nature that caught the painter’s eye, like sneaking a peek into someone’s diary. Maybe all they did that day was to appreciate the afternoon light crossing a field on the way to the post office, forgettable and inconsequential but these universal visuals can often be what most brightens our day.

spring Interior 2006, oil on Panel, 10 x 8 inches

I’m touched most by paintings, like Neil Riley’s that have no agenda other than to directly and honestly paint some found beauty, a view the artist was compelled to translate in the language of paint because some grouping of trees or light through a window demanded to be made into a painting.

Late Winter Aspens 2009, oil on Panel, 7 x 7.5 inches

Hopefully this won’t sound too sappy but his work recalls to me the famous poem by William Carlos Williams, “Between Walls” that seems relevant somehow to Neil Riley’s work in that it too finds quiet, hidden beauty in the unsuspected.

the back wings of the

hospital where nothing

will grow lie cinders

In which shine the broken

pieces of a green bottle

Neil Riley said in an article; … “When you see a painting that moves you, I think it moves you because you believe in the authenticity of the person who did it, that they found a correlation between what was inside them and what is outside them” he also goes on to say “My paintings are like the stuff that you go by on your way to someplace else,”… “They are sort of places between things.”


Also in this article Neil talked about his painting, “Shelves”; “It’s very hard to explain why you would do a painting like this: hopefully, you would have to do the painting to explain it. I’m reluctant to say more than that, because I would fumble with the words. That’s why I paint. I think this is true of all artists. Their work is a way to make themselves feel connected. Painting keeps me in conversation not with me but with the world.” Neil also explained to me in an email that … ” I’m very fond of that time in the 19th century when the painting sketches were a bridge between drawings and the more (serious painting) to be done. I think I’m stuck in that middle stage.”

Neil Riley studied with Mark Karnes at the Maryland Institute College of Art and got his MFA from Boston University. He has been an associate professor of painting and drawing at Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio for the past nine years but also spends a portion of his time painting in Vermont. He has also been a lecturer at Dartmouth College and the Jerusalem Studio School. His awards include a Fulbright Fellowship to Italy and a residency at the Klots Chateau in Rochefort-en-Tere, France.

He shows with the Keny Galleries in Columbus, Ohio.

Here are several more of his works in no particular order that caught my eye.

December Barre 2006, oil on Panel, 5 x 5 inches

Snow Drift Field 2006, oil on Panel, 6 x 4 inches

Winter Danville 2006, oil on Panel, 6 x 6 inches

Early_Summer 2006, oil on Panel, 7.5 x 6.5 inches

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18 Responses to “Neil Riley”
  1. AM says:

    Gosh … these are super. And size notwithstanding, cheap!

    • Larry says:

      I know, I am thinking of getting one myself as I can actually afford it but all my favorites were sold already. I will keep an eye out for the next group of paintings that become available.

  2. John Lee says:

    I am very much a fan. A painting like ‘Shelves’ may be my favorite. I have been aware of Riley’s work for a few years now, and did get to see his slide lecture at PAFA a couple of years ago.
    Larry thanks for showing these, and that some of the reproductions are larger (as in the snow scenes), one is able to see more of the touch, the amount of paint in relation to the ground, etc.

  3. John Lee says:

    Hello Larry,
    I was also wondering if you talked with Neil Riley in conjunction with posting these? I am specifically wondering if these paintings (all or any) are alla prima (meaning completed in a single session)? I do recall in his slide talk that Riley said that he would spend ‘a long time’ on these works (though they are small in size). I am not sure about these paintings, they look like one-shots, but wondering? Thanks

    • Larry says:

      Hi John,
      I emailed Neil both to let him know I was wanted to post about work and then again to let him know the post was up but I didn’t specifically ask if all the work was made alla prima. Perhaps he’ll comment and let us know. I admit that was just an assumption on my part but in any event the work has the freshness and spirit you often see in alla prima work…

  4. I liked what this painter said about being in conversation with the world. That’s probably the underlying reason that most of us get into this racket. The one small quibble I have with this post is the idea, advanced near the start, that paintings like this have no agenda besides an innocent bit of beauty demanding to be recorded. The quickest sketch from a painter of any worth consists of dozens if not hundreds of decisions made or rejected, and, if not a conceptual basis, then at the very least many many assumptions accrued from years of practice. The ability to make it look spontaneous is no accident or happenstance but often the result of much pounding of heads against walls…I may be splitting hairs or misunderstanding, but wanted to clarify this point a bit…

    • Larry says:

      Dmitry, you make excellent points. I also particularly like the way you put it by saying the spontaneous is no accident. I probably didn’t make myself clear when I said “there was no agenda”, of course I didn’t mean to imply there weren’t significant cerebral activities along with making the visceral visual. You are right to say that there is a lot of thinking behind these works. What was on my brain at the time was that there wasn’t an agenda involving some political-psycho-sexual-racial-etc creed that stuff was supposed to represent. It is just wonderfully sensitive celebrations of our visual world (which, of course, can also evoke strong feelings, create meaningful associations and thoughtful poetic contemplations)
      But for me, I mainly get off on just wonderful drawing, color and paint.

      • Larry says:

        I just got an email from Neil Riley that I will quote part of here… for John Lee and anyone else interested.

        Please tell John Lee that I did do a lot of these quickly. It seems to make more sense for what they are about. Also I like those extremes of laboring on something over and over again and also doing the opposite. Somehow they both get at aspects of experience and what makes things feel real.

  5. Philip Koch says:

    I loved Dimitry’s line about the spontaneous panting resulting from much pounding of heads against walls!
    Is there a painter alive who doesn’t know first hand what he’s talking about? Funny business painting- sometimes it flows so easily and then other times it just refuses to budge.

    Neil Riley was a student in one of my classes many years ago at MICA. Obviously I didn’t damage him too much.

  6. John Lee says:

    Thank you Larry and Neil for the clarification

  7. Hunter McKee says:

    On Dimitry’s point ( head banging), a painter friend of mine says, “How long did that take? About twenty years plus an hour.”

  8. The difference between much of the work discussed on this site and conceptual art of course is that, whether painted from direct observation or sketches, the springboard for the former is the seen world whereas for the latter it’s an idea that after miraculously occurring to the lucky recipient, must then, unfortunately, be fabricated. It’s always chafed me, as it has many others here no doubt, that paintings done in reaction to our surroundings are assumed to be thoughtless baubles created for the edification of the idle rich. To anyone that’s ever tried it, it quickly becomes clear how many conceptual hurdles one must clear in order to achieve anything beyond mediocrity in this little corner of creativity. If anything, it’s the idea art that’s often light on much to provoke thought, and, with what’s usually a contempt for any sort visual complexity, leaves the viewer free to think about something else…

  9. Katerina says:

    I love them! Since I saw these paintings here I come back to look at them again and again.

    • Larry says:

      Glad you like them Katerina. I keep thinking about them as well. I confess that I hardly ever actually buy artwork – spending most of my money on art supplies and art books, besides the paintings I most love tend to be way out of my price range. However, Neil Riley’s work is still affordable enough and something I’d cherish forever, I have my eye on his galleries website so that I can hopefully get one from his next showing of new work.

  10. Katerina says:

    Do you know when his next showing of new work is?
    All my favorites seem to be sold too.

  11. Allison Nutting says:

    I love his colors.

  12. Hi,

    If you would like to see more contemporary interiors look to the site of painter Bergian: amazing!!

    He is also in the London Art Fair in januray ’11,

    I was supprised!

  13. Bill White says:

    Neil’s work came to my attention from my friend Gillian Pederson-Krag and his works have an intimacy and sensitivity that seem so clearly authentic to the source. I find the works very sensitive and deft in his touch of material and tool. It is wonderful to know his work is getting this attention.

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