Edifice Complex – New Paintings by Edward Rice
You don’t have to be a genius – or an architect, philosopher, or even a painter – to appreciate that an edifice’s most interesting elements are its openings. Windows, doors, porticos, balconies, porches, carports, hatches, the notches in a crenellated battlement are always where the action is. They admit (or bar) light and fresh air; they are our passageways (or barriers) to shelter and safety, freedom and adventure. Once upon a time, we launched lethal arrows and poured hot oil upon our enemies through the lofty gaps in defensive parapets and still today stylize the towers of our humblest churches and most spectacular cathedrals to remind ourselves that our God is like a mighty fortress. They epitomize the tension between here and there, us and them, same and other.
Of course these are obvious truths to Ed Rice, the noted South Carolina painter who has built a reputation and career of capturing the nuances of Southern vernacular structures.
When Ed invited us to visit him in North Augusta last winter to see a body of not-yet-shown work, we were more than intrigued – sight unseen, we were determined to persuade him to debut these new paintings at The Fire House Gallery.
In his ever genteel manner, Ed greeted us and took us on a tour of his studio – a modest building that was once the home of his grandparents, where, as a little lad, Ed drew his earliest drawings, and which he has lovingly and respectfully reshaped to his own artistic purposes.
What we saw there floored us.
Walls, easels, tabletops, portfolios, and cabinets, filled with paintings, large and small, exhibiting a seemingly infinite array of technique and color, of one, single edifice – the three-tiered, crenellated façade of a fortress ruin Ed had discovered and photographed on a trip to the Georgia coast. He showed us a slide of the original, holding it up to the light.
“It is no wonder …” wrote Milan Kundera in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, “that the variation form became the passion of the mature Beethoven … those sixteen measures and the inner universe of their infinite possibilities.” In just the same way, by binding himself to the strict limits of this iconic edifice, Ed Rice has freed his remarkable creativity to explore the very essence of edifice.
G.K. Chesterton repeatedly extolled the power of limitations to unleash art, as here in Orthodoxy:
"Anarchism adjures us to be bold creative artists, and care for no laws or limits. But it is impossible to be an artist and not care for laws and limits. Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If, in your bold creative way, you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe."
In Edifice Complex, we have time and space – and a masterful guide – to explore the artfully permeable manmade surface that opens and closes us to all of human experience.
Helen Aikman, co-executive director of The Fire House Gallery