Ohio-born Ron Hicks is a mid-career, American painter with a long string of exhibitions to his name. His subject is the figure and the medium is oil. His mature style exploits to the full the aesthetic pleasures of his technique. He relishes the possibilities and outcomes offered by emphatic handling, graphic composition and textural manipulation.
The focus is the head, a fixed point around which the material of the painting is orchestrated. The body is often less detailed, more loosely sketched, subtly indicated by clusters, patches and scumbles of mark and colour. The surface is fragmentary and abstracted, punctuated by stainings, smudges and traces that have been brushed, scrubbed and drawn to evoke an aura of intense activity. The subjects appear out of these delicate collisions and accumulations. They are paid careful attention, delicately scrutinised to describe expression and personality. Their faces are densely worked, with softly-rendered skin tones framed by vividly crafted traceries of hair.
Dynamic and harmonic arrangement is achieved by assiduous selection of gesture and pose.
These pictures suggest several art-historical references. Hicks's, mostly female, subjects are subject to a Klimt-like assimilation with the decorative elements on the picture plane. There is an air of fey, late nineteenth century european Romanticism and also something of the swagger and poise of Sargent's society exquisites. They appear to be heroines (and some heroes): isolated, possibly alienated, individuals, self-absorbed and self-consciously posed in attitudes of indifference or disinterest, wary of, and, in turn, weighing-up, the viewer. The artist's models, drawn from his somewhat different, contemporary world, make surprisingly common-cause with those of the past.
These are allusive and captivating images, open to various interpretations and correspondences; as discursive and enquiring as the masterful handling of the artist's ever-mobile and interrogative brushes.