Rainy Moments: Paintings by Rachel Brask, article by Paula Martisian

BankRI Galleries featured Rainy Moments: Paintings by Rachel Brask on exhibition March-April 2018. The following is an article written by curator Paula Martesian.



It was love at first sight, or at very least painterly desire.  East Providence artist Rachel Brask rounded the corner, entered her studio and there it was­– a window fogged with rain and glimmering with color from the autumn leaves outside.  Thankfully Brask always keeps a blank canvas ready just in case an idea strikes.  She quickly picked up the canvas and a brush and began sketching out her ideas.

That was several years ago.  What started out as a single moment of inspiration has turned into an obsession.  Brask has devoted the greater part of the last two years to making her rainy day paintings emulating the foggy, drippy and translucent surface of the window with a technique she developed using paint and stand oil.

Born in Pawtucket, Brask grew up in North Attleboro and Seekonk.  She left the area to attend Houghton College where she majored in art with concentrations in graphic design, painting, and photography.  Later, she moved back to the area, married and set up her studio in East Providence.  Juggling a dual job as a graphic designer and education outreach manager with her painting has been challenging, but Brask has found a way to make it work.

Always a positive child, Brask recalls “collecting colors.”  “When I was very young, I used to pretend I was stealing colors from pretty colored houses and putting them in my invisible pouch.”  Her abstracted rainy day paintings spring from that simple idea.  Each painting is a study in a specific color field – warm blues melting into cool gray lavenders, deep rusty browns dissolving into warm oranges.

Brask developed an unusual technique to mimic the foggy window that so inspired her.  First she peppers her canvas with thick dots of oil paint.  Then she takes a jar of stand oil, a viscous warm-colored thickened version of linseed oil, and applies it heavily to the top of the canvas.  Over the course of the next several hours, the oil will slowly make its way down the canvas, engaging the paint and causing it to morph into different shapes.  Brask helps the process along with her brush, smoothing and encouraging the pigment. Over the course of several hours she continues to carefully watch the progress of the oil, coaxing and smearing the paint into the weave of the canvas.  Finally she gives in to her body’s need to sleep and reluctantly leaves the painting.  Overnight the most dramatic changes can occur.

“I either gasp in joy or dismay,” Brask says when she finally sees the overnight progress. All in all, the stand oil has 72 hours of continuous movement.  The paintings take several weeks to reach the tacky stage and months to dry completely.

Although Brask hasn’t always worked abstractly, she is focusing now on these abstracted painting of rainy days.  “I have the urge,” Brask says, “to work through a single idea.”

The BankRI Galleries featured the artworks of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts contemporary artists and are curated by Paula Martiesian, a Providence-based artist and arts advocate.