Each morning, while the rest of us are rolling out of bed and rubbing our eyes, George Nick is already on his way to a painting site, sometimes traveling an hour and a half to reach it. He sets up his easel and makes the most of the early morning light. He heads back after lunch, only to work on still lifes in his studio. The next day is like the preceding one, and on and on.
Painting is hard work for Nick and hed have it no other way. If hes figured it out, hes already moved on; the moment something has become formulaic, he turns to a new challenge. Its a mantra we hear every time we visit the studio.
This is hard work, Nick remarks.
I wrestled with this painting for months.
If I figure it out after one go or after eighty goes, Im happy.
You see this new tone? Its almost right.
After 90 years of life he still struggles with each painting.
Nicks 11th solo exhibition at NAGA
is as idiosyncratic as ever. Quirky and decrepit machines, some unrecognizable as to their intended purpose, are positioned against rich skies of blues and grays. Gargoyle 19 May 2015, a favorite still-life of Nicks, depicts an Alessi metal tray on which sits a modern, metal teapot and a black ceramic milk carton. The surface of those three objects is enlivened further by a wooden figure casting a long reflection.
Gone are the brownstone facades of the Back Bay, replaced instead with numerous rocky seascapes, just as layered and chunky and stacked as the stone in his buildings. Rockport Quarry 8 Sept 2017 is an example of the subtle tonal variations in rocks. Nick explains, Sorting it out makes this painting. The world is so rich that when I try to match that color, right away Im in trouble.
The title of the show is taken from an excerpt in a book by Frederick R. Karl, Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives.
The imaginative process, whatever it is and whatever form
it takes, may be like dreams, that is, not at all straightforward
or predictable, surely not linear, but misleading, deceptive,
suggestive of condensation and displacement. Like the dream,
an individuals imagination reveals as much as it veils.
Whenever we follow a particular thread or line, we may be
losing an even more important clue; for we are pursuing
something that is essentially irrational in the light of our
present tools to understand it. But as with dreams, the
imagination will suggest recurring patterns, schemas,
significant statements as well as evasions. It is a coded
process which we can pursue at least part of the way.
Blurring the line between realism and expressionism, Nick has described his painting style as intuitive and inventive. What we see between the frames is not a moment frozen in time, but a collection of moments that unify in our minds eye. Nicks paintings are complicated: he is constantly running in circles, following ideas that lead to moments of clarification which, in turn, give birth to a new set of problems and intangible thoughts waiting to be chased down and painted.
In the back room is an exhibition of carved wooden figures by Andy Buck, a professor of furniture design in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Each of the wooden figures stand in front of a panel, laser-engraved and hand-painted with excerpts from poems written by Oregon author Carl Adamshick. After Buck and Adamshick met in Portland, Oregon twenty years ago, Buck carved the figures then sent them to Adamshick to create a poem to bring the figures to life, giving them each a name and story. Out of this collaboration came a book, Receipt, which refers to the names of the figures, as in your name is your receipt.