Page 1

Michael Roque Collins RELIQUARIES



Michael Roque Collins Reliquaries

October 25 - November 30, 2019

Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 | cover: Sailing with Yellow Bird (detail), 2018-19, oil on linen, 66 x 60.5 inches

Michael Roque Collins: Reliquaries The “Reliquaries” series represents a fusion of aspects of both classicism and romanticism where dreams, memory, and the mystery of ambiguity enliven creative discoveries. Michael Roque Collins Grandly eccentric, the extraordinary work of Michael Roque Collins achieves its greatness not only in single paintings of enormous imaginative and technical distinction, but most of all in the collective whole of a career that has served to produce works whose uniquely powerful and evocative imagery provides needed disruption to the ordinary in life. In his newest series of paintings, entitled “Reliquaries,” Collins distills the insurgent imagery of his dreams into a creative metamorphosis of memory, imagining, and technique to result in paintings of extraordinary aesthetic distinction. His work acquires its genius through a creative ethos that dwells in the felicitous interruption of the everyday linear order of things that occurs from these works of largely unconventional, powerfully expressive, and imaginative imagery. The fantastic and provocative imagery that fills Collins’ paintings originates largely from the artist’s dreams of ethnographic objects that were his childhood companions. Collins has long attributed inspiration for his work to images and narratives that appear in his dreams, including particularly scenes featuring the iconic Mesoamerican, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic, and African artifacts collected by his father, a sort of Indiana Jones. These ancient objects were his childhood companions and their cultural and spiritual meanings fascinated the young Collins. They became deeply ingrained in his psyche and today stalk his sleeping and waking dreams like tigers yearning to escape the ring. His vast intellect and endless curiosity enabled him to learn much about the ritualistic meanings associated with them. Their metaphorical significance became nearly sacred for Collins. It is thus that paintings such as Riding Past Giants, Colima Dog, and Behind the Hidden Door, among others, now act as visual reliquaries storing and preserving their timeless importance on canvas. Through a progression that begins in these dreams, Collins translates imagery from them onto canvas using his prodigious imagination and painterly skills. The paintings have the effect of awed fascination and stimulate in his viewer a deep and intuitive emotional and intellectual


experience. That experience is possible from contemplating the mythic forms, rich colors and lush textures that comprise his work. These paintings have the capacity, like good poetry, to clear the mind of the existential fears abounding in everyday life and offer from serious regard of them a transcendent and more intense participation in the life of the spirit. From his dreams of these things, and his visionary capacity to extract from them meanings and connections with the contemporary world, Collins creates paintings that poetically converge the enigmatic with the epiphanous. These are paintings chocked with mysterious images and evanescent figures, rendered in bold colors and thick paint that insinuate allegories and mythic references. What Collins does should not be confused with automatism; his use of dream content is not by means of suppression of conscious control over the making of his art; indeed, where the dream ends is precisely where Collins’ conscious mind takes over. The resulting scenes are inventions of Collins’ extraordinarily intense imagination. They can startle and fascinate, both of which function to interrupt the ordinary and reorient the viewer's attention and thinking to new and possibly significant ideas and directions. In Dream of Spindle Twigs, Collins transforms his painting studio into a spiritually charged, Gothic realm where artifacts from his childhood and icons of his personal mythology seem to come to life. From studying a Collins’ painting, the viewer is offered the opportunity to stop – even for just a while– the usual flow of thought and be transported to a different and enlivening experience. In considering these amazing paintings, interpretive certainty and its attendant risk of stultifying banality is replaced by an invitation from these works for indirection and intuitive thinking. With a Collins painting there is no right or wrong. The viewer can experience the joy of being in a refuge of mystery, of independently sensing meaning rather than being told what that meaning “is.” Just as other art forms, such as music, "disrupt" our ordinary flow of consciousness to disengage us from stress, worry, and hurry, so arguably dreams disrupt us even more. They introduce images of objects and experiences that might never have entered our consciousness but for their appearance in our dream. Though Collins has lived with his ethnographic objects for years, it is only in his dreams that they come alive and attain the meanings and significances 3

that he then expresses in his paintings. In this way, the dream disrupts ordinary thinking and propels these objects into exaggerated, even phantasmagorical, presences and transmogrified meanings. Out of the disruptive dream comes creative thinking. (In another context, the idea of disruptive thinking as the key to revolutionary change has been a mantra of contemporary business gurus for decades.) Collins’ paintings, to paraphrase the 19th century German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, are born first in his dreams and then reborn again at the hand of the artist. These works amaze precisely because so much of the imagery is unfamiliar. So powerful, in fact, are many Collins’ paintings that upon initial viewing they give the impression of inscrutable monumentality, the sense of ineffable mystery and awesome portrayal. They may seem beyond the reach of full comprehension by the questing mind. But their perplexity – their glorious departure from the ordinary – can also be their appeal. Upon close study, a Collins painting can offer the viewer a paradoxical experience of being both overwhelmed and at the same time exalted. It is perhaps the paramount importance of his work that, in the face of an era of digital overload, an environment in peril, and a political system in chaos, a painting can still interrupt the tumult and madness of contemporary life to wrestle away the imagination and convey it to a place of meditation and transcendence. Remarkably, when contemplated carefully, Collins’ paintings can convey an intimacy of meaning, a sense of spiritual energy that awakens the mind and offers the possibility for what the Greeks called “ekstasis,” or a sense of the divine, felt as transcendent of the frenzy and banality of ordinary human life. Regarded long enough, a Collins painting can operate through the eyes of the viewer to engender a sense of the sublime – what the 17th century French poet, Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux, described as “a marvel which seizes one, strikes one, and makes one feel intensely.” The realm of dream is inherently disruptive to the linearity of ordinary bridled thought and in it Collins’ subconscious mind is free to unleash visual forms redolent with symbolic and metaphorical meaning. From the content of these roiling dreams – including his lucid dreams – Collins coalesces remembered images into his pictures, detached from the restrictions of the


material world. The Weeping Chair, for example, features imagery of an expressively painted, glowing red chair, which evolved from memories of his father but here becomes an evocative, associative vessel for the viewer. Between the recognizable and the inscrutable in his paintings Collins creates space for the spiritual to come alive and, through his pictures’ obscurity, chaos, magnificence, and lush grandeur, there is charted a course toward the sublime. Collins says, “I find dreams to be a mirror upon the soul, and the reflections found there are cryptic and inspirational. They suggest a never ending resource for artist and viewer.” Collins’ dream paintings mirror the ability of dreams to disrupt the flow of ordinary thinking precisely because they spring from a realm beyond the reach of the waking, rational mind. Just as dream serves to disrupt one’s waking conscious, Collins’ paintings act as psychological imprints of this disruptive wisdom. The disruptive content of his dreams offers the opportunity for abandonment of the stale and a stimulus for the creatively new. Beginning with chiaroscuro underpainting, Collins builds his paintings using bold gestural marks, successive layers of pentimenti, intense color and hue, with paint richly modulated and thickly applied. His pictorial techniques allude to the conceptual themes of his work: natural cycles of order and disorder, memory and history, enlightenment and darkness––root aspects of the human condition, the collective unconscious, and the machinations of dreams. “Painting can provide illumination, a certain enlightenment to others, and even reflecting the tribulations in life,” Collins says. “You do your job as an artist to communicate those tragic glories.” In the tradition of the European Romantic painters such as Casper David Friedrich, and the British Landscape artists like J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, Collins also makes effective use of dramatic and mysterious landscapes and solitary figures to conjure the ineffable feeling of awe in the presence of the grandeur of nature with the artifacts that occupy his imagination. The result is his singular aesthetic of the sublime. Once a dream experience is translated by Collins onto canvas, the idea of fortuitous disruption continues. It is here that the focus changes from the potential of dream to disrupt the stasis of artistic thinking to the impact of the creative making on the observer. Close contemplation of Collins’ visionary paintings serve to interrupt one’s intellectual, even emotional, routine, and


awaken the possibility of conceiving things in fresh ways. Collins’ often enigmatic, ambitious, or even uncomfortable imagery can act disruptively to what one expects to find in a painting. And as with the sand that disturbs an oyster, this disruption can give birth to a beautiful pearl. In large measure the uniqueness of Collins’ post-symbolist painting lies in its extraordinary power to go beyond the particulars of its visual content. In this regard, his paintings are illustrations of what Odilon Redon meant about allowing the visible to act in the service of the invisible. High-keyed colors and mystifying imagery coalesce into a synthesis more powerful than any of the parts. The completed paintings resonate riveting intensity. They transcend the limitations of what can be observed in the painting to enter upon a wholly different realm – beyond the purely visual – erupting with thoughts of an imagined infinity. The effect is what Kant meant by “a faculty of mind transcending every faculty of sense.” It is here that a Collins painting acts to open the door to transcendence and beckons the viewer down a contemplative path to the exaltation of the sublime. Kenneth R Marvel


Garden of Cures, 2018-19, oil on linen, 60 x 50 inches

Colima Dog, 2018-19, oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches 8

The Weeping Chair, 2018-19, oil on linen, 70.5 x 60 inches 9

Gauntlet II, 2018-19, oil on linen, 40 x 30 inches 10

Dream of Spindle Twigs, 2018-19 oil on linen, 100 x 72 inches 11

Morning Shore, 2018-19, oil on linen, 66 x 60 inches


Wooden Birds, 2018-19, oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches 13

Memory Sailing, 2018-19, oil on linen, 40 x 30 inches 14

The Cure, 2018-19, oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches 15

Blue Room, 2018-19, oil on linen, 40 x 30 inches 16

After the Burning, 2018-19, oil on linen, 72 x 60 inches 17

Sailing with Yellow Bird, 2018-19, oil on linen, 66 x 60.5 inches


Behind the Hidden Door, 2018-19, oil on linen, 45 x 53 inches 19

Primitive Valley, 2018-19, oil on linen, 50 x 40 inches


Night Sailing, 2018-19, oil on linen, 70.5 x 60 inches


On the Red Table, 2018-19, oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches 22

Riding Past Giants, 2018-19, oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches 23

Remembrance of the Sculpture of Ichabod Crane, 2018-19, oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches


Yellow Bird, 2018-19, oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches


On the Red Table by the River to Paradise, 2018-19, oil on linen, 60 x 50 inches 26

Passport Flowers, 2018-19, oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches 27

Twin's Gift, 2018-19, oil on linen, 30 x 22 inches


Gift of the Songhai, 2018-19, oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches


From the Shore of the Wooden Birds, 2018-19, oil on linen, 50 x 40 inches


Morning Blooms, 2018-19, oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches


Michael Roque Collins

b. 1955 Houston, TX

EDUCATION 1998 Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, MFA 1984 University of Houston, Houston, TX, Post Baccalaureate Studies 1978 University of Houston, Houston, TX, BFA 1963-73 Lowell Collins School of Art, Houston, TX 1960 Museum of Fine Arts Art School, Houston, TX SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2019 Reliquaries, LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM 2017 Inland Mountain Journey, LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM Tides of Memory, McMurray University, Abilene, TX Salon Prive, Preview of The Inland Mountain Journey Series, Presented by LewAllen Galleries at Saint Street Studio, Houston, TX 2016 Works on Paper, LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM 2015 The Venetian Series, LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM Salon Prive, Preview of The Venetian Series, presented by LewAllen Galleries at Saint Street Studio, Houston, TX 2013 Beyond Earth’s Rhythm, LewAllen Galleries at the Railyard, Santa Fe, NM 2011 Tides of Memory, LewAllen Galleries at the Railyard, Santa Fe, NM 2010 Shadowlands, Richard Gallery, Berlin, Germany. 2009 From Ruins to Resurrection, LewAllen Galleries at the Railyard, Santa Fe, NM UAC Gallery (curated by Jim Edwards), HBU, Houston, TX 2008 Sojourn In the Shadowlands, G Gallery, Houston, TX Sacred Landscapes, Felipe Cossio del Pomar Cultural Center, San Isidro, Lima, Peru Sojourn in the Shadowlands, Munchskirche Museum, Salzweddel, Germany 2007 Memory Gardens, LewAllen Contemporary Gallery, Santa Fe, NM Gerald Peters Galleries, Dallas, TX Ritual of Memory, G Gallery, Houston TX 32

2006 2005 2004 2003 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1989 1987

Solo Survey, Montgomery College Art Center Forum Rituals, Corpus Christi Art Center, Corpus Christi, TX Recent Works of Michael Roque Collins, Bacardi Museum, Santiago, Cuba A Ritual of Memory, LewAllen Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM Tropological Landscapes, Ellen Noel Art Museum, Odessa, TX. Gardens of Mystery, Gallery 101 in conjunction with Red Bud Gallery, Houston, TX Retrospective solo exhibition, University of Saint Thomas Gallery, Houston, TX Michael Roque Collins, Edith Baker Gallery, Dallas, TX Gardens of Terrible Beauty, Virginia Miller Gallery, Coral Gables, FL Brookhaven College, Dallas, Texas Lowell Collins Gallery, Houston, TX Sacred & Profane Spaces, Virginia Miller Gallery, Coral Gables, FL McMurtrey Gallery, Houston, TX; also 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993 C. G. Jung Center, Houston, TX; also 1989 Framboyan Gallery, New Orleans, LA Hooks-Epstein Galleries, Inc., Houston, TX; also 1986, 1983

SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX Odgen Museum, New Orleans, LA Ellen Noel Museum, Odessa TX St. Thomas University, Jones Hall Gallery, Houston, TX Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL Lowe Museum of Art, Miami, FL San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, TX Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, TX Museum of the Southwest, Midland, TX Strake Jesuit Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX

33 33

Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 | Š 2019 LewAllen Contemporary, LLC 34 Artwork Š Michael Roque Collins

Profile for LewAllen Galleries

Michael Roque Collins: Reliquaries  

Michael Roque Collins: Reliquaries