Most abstract expressionists are landscape painters, and this affiliation is not as restrictive or tricky as many of the former would have us believe. The Toronto artist Andrew Rucklidge embraces both designations. For him, the process of painting is always partly predetermined anyway: there are, after all, limits to the subconscious, which tends to make forms representational despite the abstractionist’s (or his or her viewer’s) best efforts. Though Rucklidge obviously depends on instinct and accident (one can often see a splash of paint—a big bang—that has, presumably, effected the rest of the scene), he surrenders himself to a vocabulary of creation and tradition. Indeed, his painting is half-architectural not just because it ends up echoing industrial (or otherwise developed) vistas, but because it is foundational, based to a significant degree on craft and strategy. Rucklidge deals with the features of the rough terrain on which he’s chosen to build.
Encaustic is a finish on all of Rucklidge’s paintings, and also a girding. Swaths of it are applied after the initial oil work. The tactic is revelatory and showy—a depiction of experimentation, and an underlining and embalming of the paintings’ improvisational beginnings (Rucklidge has a background in science, and has called this exhibition “2 or 3 days spent in particle capture”). Sometimes the encaustic resembles tiles, but in most cases it is geological, flattened and stippled to suggest moving phenomena like lava, glaciers and water.
The most curious facet of Rucklidge’s practice, and a relatively new one, is the etching he does on the encaustic. This completes his cycle of labour: from paint-pushing to decoration and latticework. Naturally, the etchings recall blueprints; they are grids just starting to implode, composed of rounded rectangles that push against one another in what might be an interpretation of cellular or molecular networks. open pit traverse, the show’s grandest and riskiest piece, takes the etching further, breaking from the grid in favour of ornamental illustration. Here, little splashes are embellished with sinuous lines, and the larger splash from which they emerge is in one area adorned with a flower. Such fluid decoration is both a successfully realized whim and a logical conclusion. One imagines Rucklidge as an explorer, staking a claim to what he’s discovered and marking it for posterity’s sake with fine, beautiful lines.
New Contemporaries Artist, 2003
New Contemporaries is the leading UK organisation supporting emergent art practice from British Art Schools. Since 1949 New Contemporaries has consistently provided a critical platform for new and recent fine art graduates primarily by means of an annual, nationally touring exhibition. Independent of place and democratic to the core, New Contemporaries is open to all. One of only two open exhibitions in the UK, participants are selected by a panel comprising influential art figures including curators, writers, and artists often who have themselves previously been a part of the New Contemporaries, and a rigorous process that considers the work within a broad cultural context.