by Elena De La Ville
I have been actively seeking perspectives of artists living outside the United States who work in encaustic. Some I have met at the International Encaustic Conference on Cape Cod and others through my travels. As I talked with each of them, my interest was renewed in finding out the different ways of working in wax and how their different styles came into being.
Accessibility to classes or teachers, materials, and peer groups seem to be some of the most influencing factors in this equation, though strong work goes beyond boundaries and languages to form part of the ‘what is going on’ in encaustic at this time, from beginners to accomplished artists on both sides of the pond(s).
When asked if he felt some responsibility to offer educational opportunities for artists, Richard Frumess of R&F Paints said in an interview recently, “Oh, absolutely! We used to say anybody could figure out how to use a paint stick, but nobody knew how to do encaustic. There was no literature. The schools didn’t really teach it.”
So, one of the most common links among the first three artists in this series is their perseverance in finding out how to work with the medium. In their countries, they are pioneers in their field.
Reiny Rizzi-Gruhlke from Luxembourg depicts portraits, isolating her subjects against a colorful backdrop, highlighting their particular features, clothing, and demeanor, to produce a frank and intimate image. Her color and subject matter are refreshing.
Rizzi-Gruhlke, who has been working in wax for several years, paints mostly figuratively. She says, “I think, first of all, encaustic is fairly new in Europe and its many possibilities are not always known. We as European artists are mostly self-taught and work alone, as there are nearly no classes available. In the United States there are classes and a big conference held, and many artists are showing the possibilities of working with wax. That’s something missing over here. If you want to be a serious encaustic painter in Europe, you need to research a lot on the web and in books, and experiment on your own.”
Lora Murphy, who lives and works in Killarney, County Kerrin, Ireland, creates complex, strong faces with textures and masterful handling of the central important features. She also brings a sophisticated sense of technique and composition. She says, “I think there is much more figurative and representational work done by artists outside the United States. The majority of North American artists seem to work in abstraction if they are painting with encaustic. Artists in the U.S. have much more access to all things encaustic: exhibitions, classes, workshops, materials, other artists!
“I am deeply inspired by the interconnectedness of all beings, the human journey that has brought us thus far, and the realms of consciousness and imagination that can be explored. I paint my responses to the world around and within me, the people who inspire me, and the elements of life that ignite my deepest passion. Beeswax becomes not just the medium of expression but also a symbol of transition and transformation connecting me to a world of emotions and feminine energies. My work is often layered with symbolism, and my studies in Jungian and Archetypal Psychology and Alchemy find constant echoes in my painting.
“My current body of work, Sinner, the Lie of the Land, has emerged from a visceral response to the tragic events that have been uncovered in Ireland over the past few years. Countless young women and children have suffered at the hands of the Magdalene Laundries. These were laundries run by nuns and staffed by women who were essentially slaves. The women of all ages could be committed by their families, the courts, the police, other institutions, or even by kidnapping. The babies of pregnant women were taken from them and often sold for adoption. The women were incarcerated for years, sometimes their entire lives, and have only recently gotten an apology from the State. The last operating Laundry closed in 1996! Punished and humiliated, they still receive no recognition for their loss. These paintings tell the story of life, struggle, death, and transformation.”
Myriam F. Levy, living and working in Israel, works geometrically with mastery of the medium, using wonderful combinations of colors and textures that bespeak a fluency with contemporary abstraction. Levy employs simplified, color-dominated fields in her reductive paintings.
“My work is experiential, meditative and intuitive,” she says. “In my work process, I am adding layers of material, scraping, concealing and revealing underlying layers of material in various states of solidity. This allows me to explore textures and rhythms which evolve into various time sequences. My challenge is to achieve simplicity and harmony that exceed materiality in a world full of opposing forces, inner and outer, private and universal.
“My work moves between the lyrical, meditative and the defined geometrical divisions. I am interested in time, space, color, and texture. The first time I was exposed to artwork with wax was in 2006. I was participating at the Art Expo in Toronto and came across two artists working in encaustic.
“A few months ago, I moved to a studio located in an artists’ village. This gives me the opportunity to participate from time to time in group exhibitions which are organized by the village gallery.”
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As an international artist myself, I am actively looking to compile a list of artists worldwide who use this medium. I want to create a link, as it were, to support each other as artists, to connect the different expressions, and to ‘bridge the gap’ so that it benefits all global professional artists working in wax. I am in the process of curating an online exhibit of artists living outside the United States who work in encaustic. This will be published at the beginning of October. If you would like to be considered, please email me at email@example.com. Send name, link to web page, and a short paragraph describing your work. Put ‘Online Show’ in the subject line. Thank you all. I am looking forward to working with you. No attachments, please. – Elena De La Ville