WSG Gallery showcasing insightful painting of Ted Ramsay
This University of Michigan emeritus professor’s one-man acrylic painting exhibit at Ann Arbor’s prestigious downtown WSG Gallery features a subtle expressive figuration whose homage to silence is so complete, you can almost hear a pin drop.
As Ramsay says in his artist’s statement, “In my figure paintings I strive for an aura of magic and mystery tempered with a subjective, but believable dose of reality. Painted elements suggest but never tell the complete narration as in realistic painting.
“The viewer senses a comprehension of human anatomy, but finds that the aesthetics of paint dominate the visual image. The placement of animals, human forms, or objects framed by architectural or natural structures function for symbolic and compositional reasons rather than for realism’s sake.”
These words describe a deeply expressive silence; mingling the notions of “magic and mystery” with what can be called the subjective. Yet this inward stance wouldn’t be complete without a healthy dose of figurative representation. And it’s here that Ramsay’s innate sense of quiet infuses each composition.
Each of the accomplished artworks in this set of paintings displays an ambiguity that indicates the narrative alone is not sufficient to give the work its meaning. Instead, each Ramsay painting on display expertly pivots at the moment where a single breath carries the work one step further.
It took two millennia for photography to grasp the immediacy of this kind of wistful artfulness. But Ramsay conjures this same kind of anticipation with the additional liberty that painting allows him.
There’s no other way to account for the exhibit’s first among equals: “Bedroom Place — Mental Space” because this unqualified masterwork is as emotionally rich as it is inspired.
Ramsay catches his demure model looking pensively out a window sitting on the side of her bed in a smallish room. And the work is ostensibly nothing more nor nothing less than this.
Yet this single pose in its intimate environment reflects a keen understanding of human psychology. For the marvel of here is that Ramsay can — through that mysterious quality of facture — craft a touch that goes significantly beyond composition.
The model’s expressive juxtaposition of facial pigments lends her just enough contrast to give her a gravity that’s both elusive and expectant. And by further juxtaposing her against a dark blue wall, focusing her firmly in the work’s foreground, Ramsay crafts a just enough of an abstract painterly shift in his palette to heighten her thoughtful pose.
Private enough to seem as though we’ve tripped upon someone caught in reverie and unaware of our presence; yet accomplished enough to speak volumes of his talent as an artist, Ramsay’s “Bedroom Place — Mental Space” is a very special moment of a silently spirited introspection.
“Ted Ramsey: Spatial Narratives in Paint” will continue through March 23 at WSG Gallery, 306 S. Main St. Gallery hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; noon-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 734-761-2287.