Rueling the canvas: Artist Colin Ruel of West Tisbury

Colin Ruel in his studio. — Photo by Richard Saltzberg

For a painter to vacillate between styles is often a challenge. Colin Ruel does it with ease. A born Vineyarder who returns to the Island each summer from New York, Mr. Ruel manages to execute amazingly divergent paintings within the confines of modest studio spaces in West Tisbury and Brooklyn, spaces that are simultaneously occupied by his fiancé, jewelry designer Nettie Kent.

“Colin and I are so used to sharing a space in our daily lives that it just feels natural to work alongside each other as well,” said Ms. Kent. “Colin is so incredibly focused in his work that I find it helps me to focus on my own. I find it very helpful that we have a separate studio away from our home where we go with the intentions of focused work. Being a self-employed artist with the tendency towards work-addiction, I need that separation between my work and personal life.”

The focus Mr. Ruel musters enables him to create abstracts and landscapes with amazing stylistic differences. The abstracts, which echo 60’s modishness, Tole motifs, and Japanese folk paintings, feature shapes of leaves and plumage. In some works, they appear to be sprouting and twining, as if from a garden. In others, they hold to symmetries reminiscent of Rorschach blots. All the works are rooted in Mr. Ruel’s embrace of subconscious exploration.

“My paintings are representations of a spiritual conciseness,” said Mr. Ruel. “My work process and subject matter for my abstract work particularly are influenced by the shamanic practice of journeying. The journey is achieved by lulling your brain through repetitive drumming or sound. The process and result could be likened to that of self-hypnosis.”

Mr. Ruel’s landscapes, often better described as seascapes, appear heavily influenced by luminism. Many harbor colors are so soft it would seem they could only be achieved with pastels as opposed to the acrylics, gouache, and oils actually used. Their compositions are balanced to a fault, yet devoid of stiffness. They have a ghostly quality, one that doesn’t haunt but intrigues.

“These landscapes I’ve been working on have been a long time in the making,” Mr. Ruel said. “It’s hard to escape the overwhelming influences of the great painters on the Island — Allen Whiting, Doug Kent, Rez Williams — and work out a style that I feel is my own. The moodiness and the dream quality of the landscapes is still rooted in the spiritual aspect of the abstract work I do, but I give a finer point to the emotion I’m trying to convey.”

Fueled by the success of a similar event they held last year, on Friday, August 1, from 5 to 8 pm, Mr. Ruel and Ms. Kent will host a show and sale of their works beside the Bite in Menemsha (at Mr. Ruel’s grandparents’ shop).

“I use the show as more of a friends and family sale,” said Ms. Kent. “I offer my jewelry at a discount that I am unable to offer when I do an in-store trunk show. I will have my best selling pieces like the Compass pendant, Gates cuff and Slice of Sand necklace as well as some new pieces from my latest collection, Seven Sisters, that I haven’t shown here yet. I’m excited to see the reaction to some of my favorite pieces from that collection like the Iris pendant and the Callisto bangle.”

Mr. Ruel’s grandparents, James and Roberta Morgan, will also host a show of Mr. Morgan’s work (maritime art harkening back to the 1930’s) on August 15 from 5 to 8 pm in the same space.

Mr. Ruel’s admiration for his grandparents’ artistic talents is seasoned with respect for their humility. “I wonder if my grandparents have any idea how good their work with paintings and carving is,” he said. ”It has been really important and influential to me as my first concept of art and self-expression.”

This August, visitors to these shows can see both the fruit of Mr. Ruel’s self-expression as well as the familial tree that he feels bore it.

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