Greco, Stephen, “Roy Fowler: Paintings and Watercolors”, Catalogue essay, May 2005
Roy Fowler: Paintings and Watercolors
By Stephen Greco (Catalogue excerpt)
The subject of Roy Fowler’s paintings isn’t nature, exactly. It’s a premise about nature: the artist’s being in it, painting outdoors, then working in the studio to reproduce not simply images from nature but images about the experience of taking nature in--observing it, thinking about it, enjoying it, co-existing with it. The present exhibition affords a broad view of the scope of Fowler’s work: plein air watercolors and oils, bracing and essential, and large-scale oils created in the studio from watercolors, in witty equivalents that recapitulate (as opposed to mimic) the freshness and energy of the smaller work. The challenges involved in creating the larger works are great. Colors in oil don’t mix like those in watercolor, after all. The whites in each medium result from very different conditions and produce different visual effects. Thus the creation of Fowler’s large-scale oils involves thethoughtful translation of hues, shapes, tonalities, and voids into new entities, and creating new balance among them. “What I’ve been trying to do is transpose the watercolor compositions to oil without changing the feel or structure of the original,” says the artist. “I like the oil paintings to comment on the originals. I have a style of collecting information in the watercolor--that’s become the subject of my work.” Shells basking on a tabletop in the fast-ascending morning sunlight; butterflies trembling at temporary rest in a grove of eucalyptus; a massive wave rushing inexorably toward shore. For Fowler, nature seeks to involve the mind and body as one substance, much as they do in classical Japanese art.