Arts Visual Arts

Externalities, Surrealist Art of Nick Raynolds, at UNCA

By Owen Hahn

Externalities, a show by local artist Nick Raynolds, is coming to the campus of UNC Asheville. The exhibition of recent oil paintings runs from Tuesday, August 1, to September 29, and will be on display in Ramsey Library’s Blowers Gallery.

A 10 and a half by 11-foot mastodon, the eponymous triptych of the exhibition, comprises three paintings finished early this year by Raynolds. Each piece has the paneled layout of a comic book, although the glowering alien landscape, with slack tubes and tree limbs breaking past the panel margins, belies the order this design would impose.

Externalities: Moon. Nick Raynolds, artist

“The basic format of a triptych and the comic book panels implies a linear narrative, but as you’re trying to find one, you’re like, ‘wait, what?’” says Raynolds. “That’s a standard sort of surrealist tool, to get you grasping—you see something, and you’re like, ‘I think it’s that, but I don’t really know.’ So you’re left in this really weird, uncertain place.”

After becoming discontented with his classical art training, Raynolds took an interest in surrealist techniques. He found painting in its automatic style, without the preparation and strained consciousness demanded by an orthodox approach, to be more fitting to the spirit undergirding the art. “This idea of automatic painting, of seeing what comes out and getting out of your own way, has been a revelation,” says Raynolds. “That’s generally the way I try to work these days.”

Along with a surrealist bent, Raynolds brings an odd bunch of other inspirations into his art. Growing up with a love for comic books and movies not only occasioned the arrangement of the triptych in panels but can be seen as well in paintings like Drawing Down the Moon and Confounding Fathers, which pay tribute to silent films and early science fiction. His classical foundations appear more prominently in older portraits, but his newer work still bears traces of a strict adherence to form, though it is caught up in a swirl of perturbation.

Externalities: Garden. Nick Raynolds, artist

“It was always this weird mishmash,” says Raynolds, describing his artistic influences. “When I was a kid I wanted to make monsters for monster movies, but I would also have books on Rembrandt, Leonardo and Goya.”

Raynolds remembers spending much of his childhood wandering through the woods around his home. These memories, along with the resource-based community on Vancouver Island he grew up in, have contributed to the underlying environmentalism of Externalities and informed the show’s title.

Having in mind the disastrous results of clearcut logging and commercial fishing he has seen firsthand, Raynolds portrays externalities in the economic sense—the side-effects of industrial practices, such as pollution, on parties considered external to those practices. At the same time, he criticizes the external outlook which regards the natural world as being apart from us, rather than us being a part of nature. For Raynolds the environment is not only vital to us, but it is us, and we are it.

To see more art by Nick Raynolds, follow him on Instagram @raynonmars. For Ramsey Library’s hours, go to Owen Hahn, a summer intern with The Laurel, is a student at UNCA and a music enthusiast.

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