Rick Gruin

Artist Bio

Born in Queensland, Rick’s first contact with artists was at Jon Molvig’s figure drawing evenings in Spring Hill in 1962. He graduated as an architect in 1964, moving to Balmain, Sydney where he completed a second degree at the University of Sydney. After extensive world travels for two years, including drawing and art studies in London, he established his home/studio in Deia, Mallorca, Spain. It was a vibrant and diverse art community of many artists, writers and musicians. 

In 1973 Rick built his home and studio in Paddington, Sydney. In 1974 he held an exhibition of paintings at the Bonython Gallery in Sydney and later at his studio in Foxground. He travelled and lived between Spain and Sydney for several years and held exhibitions at galleries in Mallorca. His paintings are held in private collections in England, Europe, USA, and Australia.

 In 1985 the family returned to Brisbane where he completed numerous commissions for private clients. From 1990 until 2003 he re-commenced his architectural practice, building a residence and studio complex in the Sunshine Coast where he and his ceramic artist wife, Yeats, reside.

 Rick’s development as an artist has been strongly influenced by contact with contemporary artists and the great modern art museums of European. His paintings are usually regarded as figurative, but also expressionist with a style referencing many of the major modern art movements of the twentieth century, noting in particular artists such as Matisse, Fairweather, de Kooning and earlier, Francis Bacon.

 He brings to his art his own personal interpretation of the modern world as portrayed in his solo painting exhibition “Traces of China” where the vitality and exuberance of aspects of Chinese life and culture are reflected in the colour and movement of the paintings.  A newer element in these paintings is the division of his paintings with diagonal and horizontal marks, enabling further analysis of perceptions of our world. Having always had an interest in the pioneering photographic work of Eadweard Muybridge this exhibition marks the beginning of another phase in his personal journey as an artist.

Artist Statement

My raisons d’etre for creating artwork derives from my need to express my thoughts in a tangible form.  My friend the poet Robert Graves often introduced me as “the architect who didn’t think there was enough art in architecture!” Art happens to be the medium that finally chose me although the worlds of words and sounds have equal claim on me. I believe the creative impulse is transferrable to all mediums. I have played a musical instrument of some kind most of my life; music is essential to my art practice, sometimes a Schubert quartet, Dylan’s “Hard Rain” or a classical guitar solo help me express my thoughts.

Making marks of some sort has been a means of expression since ancient times as rock art testifies. The concept of verisimilitude is relatively modern, a few thousand years perhaps as new technical means of making art were evolved.

During the 19th century European traditional artists started to “express” themselves as the power of institutions and academies lessened and more was learned of other cultures. Academic art at the time was finally rejected by these artists. One hundred years ago an artwork was created via telephone instructions from the artist to the craftsman three thousand miles away who was producing the object. This was more to prove a point than a “new wave” but it presaged digital art of today.

In the modern era the practice of art has rapidly evolved; even a thought, concept or gesture can be expressed electronically or transposed to a tangible form without the hand of the artist touching the end product.

“Abstract” is a word with hundreds of meanings but as applied to fine art it can be defined: “to create abstractions suggested by a (concrete or natural object)” – one of many, many definitions. There are now, or have been recently, many “-isms” in art (dozens) but “abstract expressionism” has been a term widely applied for eighty years to art which is both “expressive” and yet “abstract”. It has almost lost its meaning but is a convenient basket to pop so many artists into for want of further analysis. When does art go from being “abstract” to “abstract expressionist” art or something else?  The artists don’t care.  All artworks are expressive signs made by artists of some kind, all following a need or an instruction to make a mark and thus leave a tangible semiotic reminder of their presence.

My work is no different and the means of expression can be widely varying, one minute so-called “abstract” (no obvious references to the object-world,) and then perhaps “abstract expressionist” or “something else”. Books of travel drawings share space with all manner of artwork in my studio.

An art work can speak for itself and if it can’t I don’t consider it a work of art but “something else”