An Interview with The Artist
- George A. Rada Speaks Out -
by Palmer Poroner
Interview - New York Art World
© George A. Rada
Born in the State of New Jersey and residing for years in New York, George A. Rada studied art at the Art Students League and the Pratt Institute in that city. He has exhibited in the New York area since 1979, holding solos at Olympic Towers, Roger Smith Gallery, PDG Gallery, and at the Clayton Liberatore Gallery in Bridgehampton, New York. He has completed a number of portrait commissions, including that of James Beard, noted culinary expert, as well as a mural commission. Rada has gathered together a body of mature work, reflecting his personal aesthetic. Having made a place for himself as a figure among emerging artists, he is now ready to enter center stage.
Palmer Poroner: George Rada, in the development of art, great emphasis has been put on form for the past fifty years, on the features of space, color, light, composition, texture, line, as well as the process of making them. Subject matter and ideas about the subject itself were not stressed. How do you stand in regard to this tradition?
George A. Rada: My position is one of appreciation. My work encompasses what is achieved in this tradition, applied to the figurative manner.
Palmer Poroner: Have you found all this beneficial, useful to your art?
George A. Rada: A certain amount is useful, but the large scale freedoms that those artists appear to allow are objectionable to me. I see art as developing within the framework of a discipline that controls what is to be employed in a painting.
Palmer Poroner: I can see that your choice is in the direction of realism and of being representational. Can you say why you made this choice?
George A. Rada: First, intuitively! This is the manner I feel most comfortable in doing. It seems to give me the widest parameters of expression. During the course of my painting career, I've tried the abstract method, and it didn't say enough for me. In figurative work, I am confident that I speak a common language with my viewer. I find it easier to communicate, to promote our diaglog. I wish to set up images as guideposts so taht I can lead the viewer to understand what I wish to say, to my own feelings and what my reactions are to the subject. My goal is to touch the intellectual, as well as the emotional chords of the viewer.
Palmer Poroner: Where in your work do you develop an interest in process?
George A. Rada: I really get into the process of painting after I've laid out the painting, set up the composition (fairly deliberately), as well as my initial color palette, and selected my imagery. After that, as I develop thos e images and space, each of these elements takes on its own formal demands. The preconceptions give way to how the objects work in realtion to each other and their role regarding the space in whcih they are located. When I'm in the process, sometimes colorations don't work and need to be changed. Towards the end of the painting, the demands are made on my eye rather than on the subject matter.
Palmer Poroner: Going back to the origin of a painting, what motivates your choice of subject?
George A. Rada: I begin with a general topic that is on my mind and I search for how I can depict it visually, what objects, what scene would serve my purpose. For example, I wanted to show that even in the artificial environment of the city, the human beings have the need for contact with nature. I chose landscapes and cityscapes where nature is a needed presence. In paintings of Central Park in New York, buildings pop up over the tree tops or in street scenes, one can see the greenery in high rise gardens that city dwellers feel the need to create.
Palmer Poroner: We have the good fortune here in your studio to view works you produced over the past several years, the landscapes, the still lifes with dolls, the large portrait. The paintings aer very well achieved, even masterful. You might refer to these to ilustrate the points we are discussing.
One matter that is noticeable on first impression is that your choice of subject, and, no doubt, your manner have become more intimate. This is naturally so, since you move from more distant landscape to those close by and from landscape itself to still life. Why are you doing this? What other means are you employing for this new purpose?
George A. Rada: I am physically getting closer to the subject involved. What led me onto the doll subject, the "Past Present" series, was the long standing question of choice. Specifically, our lives swing in the long run on thechoices we make. Some of our past choices, after tiem, seem to matter little. However, they still have an effect on what happens to us today. What object or icon from hcildhood could I discover that is most meaningful in the choices one makes? I thought a toy, and in this series, a doll would be the best, the best metaphor for past choices.
I sought to develop this idea in various settings and relationships. I place the dolls to indicate that they are practically discarded, tossed into a corner, along with other discards and used up objects, such as old paint cans or a used sneaker.
Palmer Poroner: What proves that they are still influential?
George A. Rada: The fact that they are still around. Some of thse old dolls come from someone in my family who is now an adult. These dolls are almost forgotten, yet remain in the memory. What indicates their influence into the present how I highlight the livliness of the eyes and even the hands. I find that I am constantly articulating the hands of the dolls, as though they are reaching out to the viewer, as in "Past Present V. Their locations are both immediate and neglected, and dirty old floors and pitted plaster walls. My inclination is to give the dolls active poses, indicating that the choices are still acting upon us. Though the original choices have been made glibly, they have an impact over time.
Palmer Poroner: Your latest painting "Random Thoughts," by far larger, is a full length portrait of a young woman. It is more quiet and definitely more relaxed than the dolls. It is an arresting work, even compelling. My only explanation is that your concentration has been even greater than before, though each of your images are unforgettable. Does this begin a new series?
George A. Rada: Well, actually it developed directly out of the dolls, and it even has a doll in it. But this is zeroing in even tighter on what I want to say. When I felt I had gone as far as I could using the doll as metaphor, I brought in the human person to have a more intimate and direct dialog with the viewer. And yes, it is the beginning of a new series.
Palmer Poroner: It is even possible for the viewer to identify with her. In the process of doing the painting, you made many choices.
George A. Rada: Certainly, choices within choices. For example, behind the figure, I place a chest, which is my mother's hope chest. She acquired it when she became engaged to be married, and it represents the path she chose for the rest of her life, full of hopes and memories. In the end, it represents myself.
Palmer Poroner: How do you arrive at the emotion in "Random Thoughts", your most recent work?
George A. Rada: Starting with the painting itself, I create the atmosphere by the variation in the shadows, the colors, the expression on the face, and the posture of the figure itself. She is leaning forward in a somewhoat tense pose. She is thoghtful without being perplexed. She is reflecting, reminiscing over old memories of her inner life, as suggested by the doll she holds in her hands. The purple of the dress does hint at spirituality in her contemplation. The dress falling into deep shadows causes it to meld with the background, giving it somewhat comfortable atmosphere.
The emotions I want to evoke are not intense and direct. I want the viewer to find himself in a friendly atmosphere, whre he can relax and enjoy the experience of sharing little sensations with th artist.
Palmer Poroner: This attitude certainly runs counter to the confrontational mood of a few years ago. The feeling you achieve is a subtle one, and complex. That is why the colors, textures, and even compositions have different, sometimes even cross purposes. This is an indication of the humanity that you are seeking.
You seem to create places in "Random Thoughts," just as you did with areas in your painting of Central Park and continuing ever since.
George A. Rada: I very deliberately made progressive planes, to bring the figure very emphatically forward, into the presence of the viewer. The figure and the area where it sits is the picture plane of the composition. That is reinforced by the second plane going back, the area of the hope chest. That hope chest is in warm colors, yellow reds and burnt umbers, which contrast with the blue purple in the dres of the figure, and thus add to the forward thrust of the figure.
The third plane back, the wall, thogh gray, is made up of gray with viridian green. It contrasts with the colors of the hope chest, which pushes the chest forward, in turn projecting the figure into the space of the viewer.
Palmer Poroner: I can see you also vary your texture.
George A. Rada: Texture is also an important factor. The figure has smooth varied colors, as does the surface of the hope chest. The floor itself, old and worn, is rough and uneven, and the knots show up. Its roughness contrasts with the smooth texture of the figure and gives the figure a solid platform on which to hold it in space.
Palmer Poroner: You make many choices when you create a painting, and they show your skill and great experience, which you never forget.
Palmer Poroner is an art critic for Artspeak.