An aura of serenity pervades Richard Bruland’s most recent series of paintings: mysterious surfaces characterized by soft, modulated gradations built of complex textures and a palette paradoxically vibrant and muted at once. Bruland’s latest paintings invite the viewer in, pure abstraction steeped in nuance with a building intensity at the borders, as suggested by the show’s title, “Peripheries.” From a distance, the works seem almost granite-like, comprised of diffused combinations of color and light. Up close, the paintings are revealed to be complex multi-layered textured compositions with intricate “peaks and valleys” and colorfully “chaotic details” carefully orchestrated by the artist.
The series leverages the unique properties of the acrylic medium through an elaborate method devised by the artist. Bruland begins with gesso, followed by a layer of gel mixed with pigment, which he manipulates into a complex honeycomb texture. This pattern has a personal symbolism for artist, referring back to his service in the Navy as a young man, “swabbing the deck,” when he found inspiration from the fleeting patterns of the soap bubbles on the floor. These works are the products of the artist’s informed intuition and willingness to let go of what he learned in art school. “The more I gave up control, the more the paintings started looking like me,” said Bruland in a private walkthrough of his exhibit. Evolving from a multi-step process, the paintings involve a sequence of layering to build up and sanding to strip away, culminating with fine details added with a brush. On top of this textured surface, Bruland drags successive colors between strips of masking tape affixed horizontally and vertically in turn, producing what he describes as a, “subliminal suggestion of some kind of underlying structure, a tilted grid.” It’s the tension between the calm enigmatic façade and inner layers of frenzy that gives these paintings both contrast and intrigue.