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Showing posts from 2014

Why I Don't Use Photographs When I Paint

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Went to an exhibition of paintings by a prominent realist painter who is known as one of the first committed photorealists, painters who consciously attempted to capture the look and feel of a color photograph in their work. The work had been executed with extreme care and was impressive for the amount of detail each canvas catalogued. 

But if pressed, I would admit my most favorite works would be from other painters from the museum's permanent collection.
The art I like best is about feeling and mood. They are highly interpretive.  And they're always surprising, you don't know ahead of time what the artist is going to focus on and what they're going to leave out.




Charles Burchfield, The Mysterious Bird, watercolor, Delaware Art Museum

Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield are two of my favorite artists, as long time readers of this blog know.  Neither of them used photographs as sources for their work, preferring instead the dictates of their own eyes, memory, and emotion…

Falls Road, A Trio of Baltimore Paintings

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Philip Koch, The River, oil on canvas, 20 x 16", 1980
There's always a lot of time spent casting around and considering which pieces to select when preparing for an upcoming exhibition. So it is as I get ready for my show at the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY (Feb. 14 - April 12, 2015). 
I ran across these three oils I painted over the span of some 34 years. Anyone who shops at the popular Whole Foods in the  Mt. Washington section of Baltimore will likely recognize these scenes. The River, above, is the earliest of this trio. With its olives and sliver greys it shows most clearly my roots in the traditions of America's Hudson River School painters. Today this scene remains almost identical to how it appeared over three decades ago.



Philip Koch, Jones Falls River, oil on panel, 12 x 16", 1985

Not so with this one, Jones Falls River. On the far bank is what is now the parking lot for the bustling Whole Foods grocery. Back then it was a field outside a facto…

Why I Don't Fit In

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Philip Koch, The Voyage of Memory, oil on canvas 38 x 38", 2008
I've come to the realization that I don't fit in on any of the branches of the art world. My paintings have been alternately described by others as both "traditional","realistic", "visionary", and even "tinged-with-the-surreal." I don't disagree with any of that.
It is not my intention to criticize the contemporary art world. After all, I am part of it. One thing bedeviling me is how much of contemporary art is so concept driven. It breaks down boundaries and grasps for the newest of new media. Often I find the work bewildering.  
Artists of course are thoughtful people. We have a lot to say with our work on multiple levels. But my hope for my paintings is to have all that cognition fade away to let the viewer lose themselves in my work. I'm after a visceral reaction to nature, not an intellectual discourse on it. My paintings are a celebration of how deeply natur…

The Secret Way to Enjoy Art

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Philip Koch, Uncharted II, oil on panel, 18 x 24", 2014, at Art Essex Gallery, CT
Everyone has had the experience of waking from sleep feeling we've returned from an incredible nocturnal adventure. We've been dreaming.

I want to do paintings with all the vividness of a powerful dream. Art is an invitation to feeling something beyond our day to day concerns. While it sets us to thinking, it's not primarily about ideas. Rather it's a sensation, an experience to be had and savored.

I wish people would approach art the way they approach food. Few people ask what their food means or ponder whether they "understand" their food. Instead they jump in and taste it. If it's good they'll ask for seconds. 

That's the way we should go to museums. Taste the work with your eyes. If a piece doesn't appeal to you keep moving until the flavor of a painting's colors slows you down and pulls you in for a closer look. 

Of course artists are thoughtful people.…

Two Thanksgiving Stories

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Philip Koch's easel set up with White Mountain Pond, vine  charcoal, 8 x 12", 2014
Two stories . Things that happened to me early in my four decades of painting the landscape out in the field. Both still make me smile. 

First the funny one, though in a slightly painful way.

In the summer of 1972 I was just about to leave Indiana University in Bloomington with my newly minted MFA degree in painting. I had been very happy living in an old army barracks that had been converted to married student housing. So for one of my final Bloomington paintings I was set up in a field painting the somewhat dilapidated building that housed my apartment. It was going well and I was pleased with myself. 

A young girl wandered by and stopped to see what I was doing. She looked for a long minute and finally asked me "Did you paint that?"   I readied myself for the praise I was sure would follow and pridefully responded "Yes."

The girl managed a sad smile and responded "Well…

Photo Survey Washington County Museum of Fine Arts Exhibition

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Here is a collection of photos from my current exhibition, The Mirror of Nature: The Art of Philip Koch at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, MD. The show opened with a spirited crowd on Friday, Nov. 7. I gave a slide presentation and gallery talk on Sunday, Nov. 16. The show continues through Feb. 22, 2015.






Normally on this blog I write commentary about my work and philosophy. Just for this time though I'd like to let the work speak for itself.






























































Returning

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Above is the view of one of the walls in the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts' Bowman Gallery hung with my paintings for their show that opened last evening, The Mirror of Nature: The Art of Philip Koch. The show will run in this Hagerstown, MD Museum through Feb. 22, 2015. Back in 1995 the Museum hung a smaller exhibit of my work in the same space. This new show included much more work and fills more of the Museum's galleries. Yet for me standing in the galleries last night I was struck with the sense I and my work were returning to an important chapter from my past. 

In fact one of my favorite paintings in the new show is titled Returning.

So often the world seems to bowl us over with a river of sensations. If we took in all of this deluge consciously we'd be completely overloaded.  I think we'd be unable to move. We had to evolve to be selective about what we notice.



Philip Koch, Returning, oil on canvas, 28 x 42", 2008
Instead most of what's going on aro…

My Art, My Celebrations

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Philip Koch, Under the Moon, oil on canvas, 24 x 36"

For much of the time we are absorbed by the little details of our lives. It is too easy to forget the mere fact of our being alive is completely extraordinary.

Yet to all of us come brief moments when the usual veil of confusion lifts. We suddenly grasp a connection between things that we'd thought unconnected. It's as if we begin hearing whispers of a previously secret conversation that has been going on all along. In moments like that we can feel a surge of gratitude. It would be foolish not celebrate the feeling. Seizing that and giving it a form we can share with others has been the task of artists through the ages.




Philip Koch, From Day to Night,  oil on canvas, 36 x 72"
Right now I am sitting in a room in my studio surrounded by my 32 paintings that will be headed out to Hagerstown, MD next week for my show at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. As I look over the pieces I fall back into thinking of the …