To create an enigmatic image from a few random marks is certainly a daunting task, but for New Mexican artist, Ian Ratowsky, spontaneity is essential. Drawing inspiration from photographs of people—individuals he’s met or intriguing characters from magazine pages—the artist builds up expressive, large-scale portraits. Using initial gestural strokes and scattered dots, Ratowsky moves his entire body to delineate, then revisit, areas of his body-sized mixed-media works, composed with conté, charcoal, sumi ink, acrylic, pastel, and Flashe, until he’s satisfied with the final result. His surface of choice is Tequila Paper©, his own creation, which is comprised of agave fiber from Jalisco, Mexico. “The surface of my paper is like no other—it offers the perfect tooth,” Ratowsky explains.
“Faces are in one position, yet in many positions,” says Ratowsky of his current show, “Dual Realities,” at New Mexico’s Zane Bennett Contemporary Art. “There is a mood, a stare, a moment that seems frozen, but stays alive.” For example, Silencio, a mostly charcoal, seven-foot piece with pops of red and pink acrylic paint, features two eyes peering from the center of the image, though the contour of the face is not defined. Instead, numerous impressions of white lines are left behind from earlier attempts to define a forehead or chin, allowing for a sensation of movement throughout the image. Another piece, Ghost Horse, leaves a silhouette of a horse, defined by a simple black outline, with traces of earlier drawings visible just beneath a coat of white paint. In these painterly portraits, Ratowsky celebrates the freedom of movement inherent within his physical process.
“Dual Realities” is on view at Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, Apr. 25th – May 24th, 2014.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory