Nature's Seduction, 2017
On Holden Pond, 2022
Ries was featured in Summa Gallery exhibition, "Lighting Up Your Life"
After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Akron, Christine Ries has exhibited her paintings widely in Ohio, most recently in the "Faces of Akron" invited exhibition at Summit Artspace and in the members' show at the Akron Soul Train, where she was Operations Manager and worked to bring diverse artists throughout the region together with the community. She is represented by galleries in Akron and Cleveland and her work is part of corporate collections
such as PNC Bank headquarters in Pittsburgh and the B.F. Goodrich headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.
Materials: Oil on canvas diptych, 60" x 80”.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, ground floor, Main Street hallway, northeast corner.
This landscape diptych — a work made up of two connected parts – is based on a vista in one of Summit County’s Metroparks. It demonstrates Christine Ries’ love of unusual color combinations and use of flattening as a type of abstraction. The beholder can appreciate the particular natural forms that the artist suggests here — yellow blossoms, moss-covered rocks — and then take a step back from the work to enjoy the overall composition of lighter and darker areas as well as the flow of color, such as the pinks that cascade from the upper left across the two panels. In this, the artist continues a tradition of Impressionism in landscape painting. Additionally, the movement from dark foreground to bright, sunlit background suggests a hopefulness that recommended this work for acquisition.
But she goes further: Ries has said that she paints landscapes that have meaning in her life, going back to early childhood. She conveys an appreciation for contrast and motion in the vibrant, areas of patchy, modulated color against which delicate linear forms of trunks and branches (white, blue, grey, black) appear to float. And she suggests movement into deeper space beyond the depicted forest by the dazzling sunlight where the two panels come together. Enter and enjoy the journey…
Work title, date: On Holden Pond, 2018
Materials: oil on canvas, diptych 56” x 84”
Location at Summa: Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, ground floor, main lobby
About the art and the artist:
Contemporary artists often choose the diptych format – in which two panels function together to become a single composition – in order to create large works that nonetheless can be easily broken down for portability (in contemporary life, that would be in personal vehicles). Modern polyptychs, or multiple panels works, often have the same rationale. Christine Ries depends on the strength of her composition to bridge the vertical gap between the two large panels: Lines set up by the edges of the pond (at the Holden Arboretum up in Lake and Geauga counties) recede at gentle, continuous diagonals, reinforced by color continuities of the sort that the artist loves to explore.
Ries identifies as a colorist, one who takes her first and most fundamental impulse for a work from her response to its color possibilities. Locations and views that have meaning in her life, what she calls “life documentation,” become the subjects of her paintings. She makes reference photos to work from, but the art she creates comes from knowing what colors can do to transform the view.
This work feels almost as though it has no foreground: The deep purply-blue of the waters in front seems to recede, to retreat, into the painting’s middle ground. It’s in that middle ground, where the lily pads increase in number and brighter hues, such as the orange flowering grasses and the almost-white surface of another lobe of the pond, advance or feel closer to us as beholders. And before the artist uses deeper greens to entice our eye into the very depths of the forest in the background, she first introduces more grasses – tall and bright with violet flowers -- that march almost horizontally across both panels. These are intensified, at the far right, by foliage of a bright green seen nowhere else in the work and a yellow-orange tree that, when we think about it, stands at the opposite end of a diagonal starting in the dark purple-blues of the lower left corner (yellow and purple just happen to be opposites on the RYB color wheel. Christine Ries has almost magically floated us right into the middle of Holden Pond, onto Holden Pond, through her expert use of the properties of colors, singly and in combination, all the while letting us think that this landscape is simply what she has seen.
Materials: acrylic on canvas, 36” x 36"
Location at Summa: second floor, green neighborhood, wall adjacent to information desk opposite bridge
This work was acquired for the Summa Health System — Akron Campus Wayfinding Project.
About this work:
From the moment when an artist chooses what material to use as the ground for a painting (it could be canvas, as in this case, but also wood panel or board or glass or metal) and what dimensions that ground will take (in this case, a square), certain design elements have already come into play. Traditionally, a square format is somewhat unusual before the 20th century: If you go back to survey those paintings on wood panels from the later Middle Ages onward (before canvas came into wider use), they typically are longer in one dimension, due to the way that a plank of wood has been sawn from the trunk of a tree. The square format subtly calls attention to itself – that was also true of painting on parchment in classical times – as a kind of conscious variation on the expected.
In this case, Christine Ries’ Willow, there is a kind of logic to the square format, since willows typically spread out to be about as wide as they are tall. The artist may not acknowledge that the choice of a square format for this subject is a big deal, but it does reveal that, at some level, she has always been attuned to all aspects of her subject matter and so chose technical details that underscore its form.
Water-loving willows are celebrated in this acrylic painting, as is their shaggy, textured foliage and irregular wood skeleton of trunk, limbs, and branches. We admire Ries’ brushwork, which vigorously conjures up the elongated shape and texture of the willow’s leaves, as well as their movement in a gentle breeze (and look at what she had done with them to create a jagged upper outline!). While green dominates the leaf palette (this work was chosen for the Green neighborhood of the Wayfinding Project, after all), it is liberally modulated by yellows, browns, and even orange that accentuate shagginess and the sense of exuberant growth.
And if you do get lost in following the artist’s brushwork, don’t miss the intriguing negative space in the heart of the dense foliage: She provides us with unexpected sky-blue shapes between leaf and limb right where the leaves might be thickest to conceal them.
Christine Ries delights here, as in so much of her painting, in color: Notice that bold patch of orange in the left background (Is it another distant tree or the willow’s foliage? Is autumn on its way?). Then, beyond leaves, discover the purple for the trunk and the intense blue-black in the water shaded by the tree. We can take joy in Ries’ attention to effects of light and air on what turns out to be a portrait of a majestic tree.
Where to see more of this artist’s work:
After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Akron, Ries has exhibited her paintings widely in Ohio and is represented by galleries in Akron and Cleveland; her work is part of corporate collections in Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C.