(1) ""Evolution", oil on panel, 18 x 23 5/8", 1991.
(2) "Noise", oil on panel, 13 x 14 1/4", 1993.
(3) "Ajax: A Popular Tool", oil on panel, 15 4/5 x 21", 1990.
(4) "A Site to be Holed", oil on panel, 17 x 36", 1992.
by Nancy Kay Turner
"Still life is perhaps the most artificial of all artistic subjects and the one most concerned with the making of art. Still lifes do not pre-exist around us; the artist invents them. . .the artist stamps his or her presence through an overlay of roles: as conceiver, selector, arranger, transformer and finally as painter."
(Art Institute of Southern California [AISC], Orange County) The trompe l'oeil tradition of creating an illusion so real that it totally fools the viewer goes back to antiquity. There is the famous story of a Roman still life painter whose painting of grapes deceived even the birds, who swooped down to eat them. What separates trompe l'oeil paintings from mere realism is the intent of the artist to deceive by denying the flatness of the picture plane.
Ron Rizk's small troupe l'oeil oil paintings on wood panel owe a debt both to the nineteenth-century American painter John Frederick Peto and the twentieth-century Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte. Like Peto, Rizk renders objects meticulously, playfully including wood frames or boxes that function as framing devices. Also like Peto, Rizk sometimes places objects against a shallow wooden surface.
In Evolution (1991) Rizk hangs old tools, which look like the antecedents of modern scissors or pliers, in a wooden box. The content and structure of this image pay tribute to Peto's radical rack paintings, which were extremely modern in their utter flatness and strong abstract qualities. Rizk's work is less emotional--it has more the studied coolness and odd pairings of disparate objects found in Magritte's still lifes.
In the tiny (13 x 14 1/4") Noise (l993), Rizk creates the illusion of a shallow, peeling, painted wooden box, which is brightly illuminated as if by a spotlight. This highlights the quaint flea-market musical instruments which appear like characters, frozen in a moment on a stage. Like Magritte's mesmerizing still lifes, the viewer here must create the story out of these narrative elements.
The painted box, the unusual old-fashioned objects, and the intense illumination are again present in1992's A Site to be Holed. Here a toy wooden gun on a stand is paired with a battered bullseye, swimmers' goggles, and a torn piece of paper with an eye on it.
At first the target seems bullet- riddled until one notices that the gun is actually a catapult. Rocks strewn on the ground clue us as to the real nature of the gun. Visual and verbal puns (site sounds like sight, holed sounds like hold) are activated by the title. Things are not what they seem.
The dynamic Old Cracker (1991) is a stunner with it's ambiguous space and broken frame stripped away to reveal a similar structure underneath, like an infinity of mirrors. This compositional device reinforces the illusion of depth and three-dimensionality, while the smooth, hard and highly varnished surface screams flatness.
Rizk is a technical wizard who clearly relishes recreating with great exactitude the very nature of different materials. These paintings are like brain teasers playing with our perceptions of space, materials, relationships. They ultimately ask us to question the reality of illusion.