Abstract Sensations

St. Louis artist Ron McIlvain began thinking about a career in art as a sophomore in college when by chance he took drawing and design classes while earning a BS in Education.  To his surprise, he was able to draw things realistically and finished an MA in painting and sculpture from the University of Kansas. It was during graduate school that he began to appreciate the significance of abstract painters like Richard Diebenkorn, Clyfford Still, and Robert Motherwell. These pillars of abstract expressionism would influence McIlvain's entire career, like these artists of the past his work entertains the intellectual nature of paintings formal capabilities to manipulate the senses through space, line, form, and color.

McIlvain's work builds on abstract expressionism through a lyrical exploration into the gestural quality of line and mark-making, producing work that is an investigation of the materiality of paint. By embracing experimentation and nurturing a painting from start to finish with suggestions from his wife who's thinking he trusts, McIlvain achieves an amalgam of painting languages that reveal the complexity of vision and its innate connection to feeling. In this sense, McIlvain's work appears similar to the practices of contemporary artists like Wallace Whitney and Diana Copperwhite. Like these contemporaries, McIlvain finds the abstract quality within the lived experience and uses complex combinations to interpret how the mind processes the outside world.

Ron McIlvain, “Boats at the Dock,” 2018, acrylic on canvas, 36” x 48”

Ron McIlvain, “Boats at the Dock,” 2018, acrylic on canvas, 36” x 48”

His painting "Boats at the Dock," which is part of our current "Members Exhibition," is an excellent example of a work of art that contains an inner tension that is almost invisible to the viewer but exudes irresistible energy. The painting is a large acrylic on canvas measuring, 3 ft x 4 ft and oscillates from thin washy strokes to thick bold marks. Soft-edged layers of pastel greens, yellows, and oranges float in the background and contrast with the paintings bright orange streaks. Slightly off center to the left McIlvain paints an area of high intensity that fuses black, orange, green, and white into a visual tempo, moving the eye throughout the canvas from corner to corner like a boat on the water.

The visual rhythm and improvisational push and pull of abstract painting can harness the natural movement and power of the physical world and its patterns that repeat from the very small to the very large. McIlvain's brand of abstraction fits nicely within this canon of abstract painting and exhibits both an intimacy and spontaneity in its formal execution. McIlvain says, "I have no psychological or emotional agenda when I paint. Since I don't know where I am going when I begin a painting, painting for me is an intellectual process of discovery."

Through this analysis, McIlvain's work moves past the abstract elements in our everyday environment and instead focuses on painting as an experience. Within the creative development of building a painting, McIlvain transmits a system of learning and connects with the viewer through a journey of visual problem-solving. Ultimately, there is a sensation to his work that connects with memory and provides a feeling of familiarity, a perception of a place that is both known and unknown.

To view more of Ron’s work visit his website: http://www.ronmcilvain.com/