Exploring The Grid: An Interview With Ron Fortier
We are excited to feature this interview with Ron Fortier.
Immerse yourself into his endless possibilities of the grid.
Fortier’s grids can appear to be textiles, tapestries, or brick walls, showing the continuity of form across many linear systems of organization. He creates the lines between each quadrant either by adding or removing paint, playing with negative space to create the illusion of depth.
SG: Where do you get your inspiration from?
RF: Well, if the definition for inspiration is “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something; especially to do something creative” then, my inspiration comes from the process of composing a canvas.
Since abstraction is subjective, I don’t replicate or duplicate nature. My compositions create their own nature. Any features, whether inherent or, any characteristics of, or qualities in my work are purely compositional.
I approach my work, each canvas, sangfroid. Although there are many who have argued with me on that point. I don’t express anything in my work. Not happy. Not sad. Not mad. Yet, many acquainted with my work and even those closest to me, such as my soon-to-be wife Paula and my daughter Jennifer, feel that is not the case.
Paula says that they are full of passion and emotion. Jennifer can read a state of mind that I’m in by just looking at a piece. If it is as they say, it’s with no conscious intent on my part.
And, although I admire the work of Cy Twombly and Mark Rothko, there is no conscious effort on my part, to emulate them. A critical review of my work by Don Wilkinson of Artscope Magazine (Boston) said that my work was, “…a testament to the marriage of chaos and order… and nothing to suggest any connection to any other than the ephemeral.”
So, to me, inspiration is about being prepared to be overwhelmed by the sensation of fight or flight. Mary Esther Harding the psychoanalyst said, “Conflict is the beginning of consciousness” and, perhaps that is why I paint; not so much about conflict but a struggle to make sense of the chaos that presents itself in my compositions.
SG: What are you working on at the moment?
RF: Nothing, to be honest. Although I must admit, I’m always painting – in my head! Currently I am packing twenty new pieces for a show in Germany (http://www.ronfortier.net/galerie-atelier-35/) and, preparing to return to the States for an artist reception at the Colo Colo Gallery in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Paula and I are also getting married in Detroit in June! I go in spurts. When I enter a productive phase, I pretty much work non-stop. When I left off with the last piece for the show in Germany at the Galerie Atelier 35 in Landstuhl, I was entering a new phase and, for me, it’s sometimes best, to let it percolate.
In the nine months that I’ve lived here in Figueira da Foz on the Portuguese mainland, I’ve completed over a hundred works. Mostly in series of ten or twenty paintings at a time.
SG: Is there a specific theme or concept you keep in all of your work or does it change with each series?
RF: The only theme that has remained in my work is that of landscape. Since, it is almost impossible to use horizontal lines without conjuring landscape.
I’ve pushed the horizontal to “represent” a musical staff as a jumping-off point only because of the compositional rhythms that can be created. It is only the compositional aspect I am interested in. Perhaps because of the lesson I learned from my undergraduate painting instructor, Herb Cummings, at the University of Massachusetts.
The lesson was about the Six Persimmons, by Muqi Fachang a 13th-century Chinese monk who lived during the Song dynasty.
Most of the time, I go with the flow. When I approach the canvas, anything can happen. That’s why I like to work in series because it tracks how the work evolves during a specific period of time.
SG: If you could own one work of art what would it be?
RF: The Mona Lisa! I could stare at it for hours. It’s constantly changing with the light in the room or, your distance from it or the angle you’re looking at it from. It is by no means static! I think too many people never fully realize that they have never really looked at it or really seen it.
It still holds a lot of mysteries and the answers to unasked questions. It truly is enigmatic! To me, my work is enigmatic. It holds secrets. I’m constantly seeing things I never saw before. That makes me happy.
SG: What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
RF: One reason why don’t I give my work real titles is, what is a “real title” anyway? A clever turn of phrase, or whatever. To describe an abstract piece of work is, to me, a waste of time and misleading. I want the viewers to see the work as it is, not with a label.
It’s the same for wine. Drink it. Enjoy it based on the pleasure it gives you. Don’t rely on a label or title to tell you what you should expect or experience. My “titles” are actually just catalog numbers.
I still believe, as Picasso did, that I must be, “…always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pushing my limits. Not staying in a safe place. Allowing myself to fail!
That is the only way to grow as an artist; to give up on the illusion of control and to understand that success comes from facing the conflicts existing between our desires and reality.
For me, painting is about being and remaining as authentic as possible. That is a worthy and worthwhile accomplishment. As for the viewers of my work, I don't manufacture art. I experiment and explore. I only exhibit to show you what I've discovered so far.
Hopefully, what I made and what they’ve see and experienced wasn't a worthless pursuit for either one of us.
SG: What advice would you give somebody who has just started their artistic career?
RF: Don’t stop. Don’t listen to anything other than you heart. Don’t stay discouraged. You will be discouraged. It’s normal, natural and very human.
A bunch of us who graduated 40-years ago with our BFA diploma had a reunion. Two of the take-aways I found encouraging were: If we had to do it all over again; we would. The other thing, even when we couldn’t paint physically; we continued to paint in our heads. That was a revelation we enjoyed sharing!
That says something about our training and our dedication. Painting is not a life, it is life. But, as for practical matters, such as selling our work, yes, you do have to trust the people whose job is to sell your art.