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 Malcolm Rains  (1947 - )

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Lived/Active: Canada      Known for: still life painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Malcolm Rains takes his viewers on complex journeys in the contemporary still-lifes he creates. They are Zen like excursions that explore the relationships of how light reflects through a crumbled paper against and dark background or the dramatic travel of a leaf which may have floated down and landed from the stem of a pear. They are studies in order and chaos. They are overtly dramatic in their subtleties.

The oil paintings, which Rains creates, are both classic and utterly contemporary. His rich glazing and warm, precise lighting are reminiscent of the old masters, while the minimalist presentation of crumpled typing paper, fruits, flowers, and other objects is thoroughly modern. "Basically my works are based on perception and relationships. How does light affect the objects? The highlights appear cool in tone and the darks appear warm. The language of painting is like the English language. There is always a constant but it is ever evolving. Each generation leaves its stamp on it. I think that it is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The language of painting is similar. It is based on a sub-straight but each generation leaves their mark", explains Rains from his Toronto studio.

Rains was born in Bristol, England in 1947. His family, seeking better opportunities than postwar England could offer, immigrated to Canada in 1955. He became a Canadian citizen and still resides there with his wife and two children. Rains' early training was in architecture, which he studied at the University of Detroit and the University of Toronto. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1974, where he received a conceptual art education and concentrated exclusively on sculpture."My first works were in plaster. They were large three-dimensional sculpture. Over time the plaster works began to become more two-dimensional. My passion became more about the color of the work. I realized that my work was moving towards surface rather than form," recounts the artist.

His conversion to painting was dramatic. "One day, I methodically gathered up all of the equipment, tools, and supplies I used for sculpting and threw them away, saving only a few scraps of wood with which I built an easel," Rains details. Although he is now fully devoted to painting, his sculptural and architectural training is evident in the almost physical presence of the objects he paints. He cites Juan Sanchez-Cotan, a 17th-century Spanish artist who worked in a reduced, almost minimalist vein, as a source of inspiration for his own painting. Also important to Rains' aesthetic have been artists from Georgio Morandi to David Leffel, although viewers are just as likely to be reminded of Cezanne, or of the tableaux vivant of Magritte. Rains finds professional adventure in creating different series based on similar subjects.

After deciding upon a theme, Rains will do a number of paintings investigating the subject in depth. Each painting in the series is a study of relationships between light and shadow, tonal conflicts and harmonies and order and chaos. This method of working in series, combined with his practice of eliminating all unnecessary elements from his work, allows Rains to capture the essence of his subjects. He has made high art from exploring the play of light and shadow on such everyday objects as paper towel rolls and crumpled sheets of paper, as well as the more traditional fruits and flowers.

"The crumpled paper series originally came from my fourth year scholarship show in University. I created large crushed pieces of paper. I wanted to show the random acts in creating work. During my course as a painter, randomness and change have become pivotal in my work. In fact when you explore it further, randomness and change have become the hallmark of 20th century thought and philosophy from quality control to quantum mechanics. In the crumpled paper series, I have named the pieces after classic Greek sites. It is both irony and homage to ancient Greek thought. These paintings break from the thoughts of order, proportion and harmony," explains Rains.

These works of crushed and creased white paper seem contradictory to his paintings of flowers and pears. But on further exploration the similarities become abundantly clear. Rain's still-lifes are classic and often compared to the works created to works created by the 16th Century Dutch masters. Both series display Rains' trademark mysterious dark background. "I never use any black pigments in my work. My darks are created through the mixing of different pigments. There are really not any "blacks" per se, but I get the perspective of black through the tonal relationships on the glazing. An interesting point, Velazquez is accredited with a quote where he said that he had 37 different blacks, Rains explains.

Still-life paintings draw on a rich historical perspective. For many years still-lifes were based on fruits flowers and maybe bottles. Rains strive to create a still life that is contemporary with a 21st century thought of chance randomness. But this randomness comes from a curious process."I hate beginning a painting. Basically I don't draw or sketch out a work. I just begin. To me the most important part of the process is the set-up of my subject. I study the relationships in the arrangement. The way the pears' stems relate to each other or the light. I am never sure about how the subtle relationships develop. After a while the set-up falls away and the painting takes on a life of its own. It becomes a dialogue that I begin to respond to. It is an exploration into the richness of the details. This is not a fast way of painting. It is very slow and methodical."I have been painting pears for seven or eight years now. I am not even close to finishing the investigation of the inter-relationships of how they appear in my work. My perception is always changing and deepening. If you would put together my paintings created at the beginning of the series to today's work you would see and enormous evolution," describes the artist.

Malcolm Rains has many exhibitions over the past twenty years including a sold out show at Meyer Gallery last summer. His work has shown at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the most prestigious museums in Canada. His long list of collectors includes corporations with the likes of the Bank of Tokyo, Nabisco Household Finance, Xerox Corporation and Swiss Bank. It is no surprise that people are attracted to the unusually calming works.

Malcolm Rains take the viewer in a peculiar journey as they study his work. The ride moves from a Minimalist background to detailed paintings with subjects of calming simplicity, clarity and a classical sense of ordered symmetry merged with the drama of chaos and random chance.

Source: Kent Whipple, Art Professional

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