In Greg Ragland’s exploration of the natural world, abstraction and realism find an unexpected but harmonious balance. In a field of vibrant red, a female ruby hummingbird pauses in front of a small, target-like abstract splotch of violet. Nearby, a snowy egret and his reflection wade serenely through a wash of glowing crimson. A small covey of quail forage a creamy foreground, while above them waver elegant smears of reds, greens, blues, and purples. One could read the shapes as the quails’ perception of flowers and leaves, but they also resemble the quails’ own bobbling head plumes. The piece, as is true of all of Greg Ragland’s work, is open for the viewer’s interpretation.
Greg grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He studied architecture at ASU, received his BFA from Art Center College of Design and his MFA from the U of U. After living six years in Los Angeles and seven years in New York City, Greg currently resides in Park City, Utah.
One day I was sitting in the yard, and a bird was flying over. And it was beautiful, but I realized the bird wasn’t the most important thing—the background and the bird were in competition for attention. I’m a huge fan of the color painters, so I decided to take the abstract background, and then shove in this whole other idea: the realistic bird. I wanted to take two completely different philosophies, and make them work together.
Process and Media
Working in acrylic on canvas or panel, Ragland begins with the background. Working the movement and pigment to create a piece that could stand alone as a beautifully composed color field takes the lion’s share of the work. The final 10% of the process involves the careful rendering and placing of the birds. That final moment, the addition of the bird, will either ruin the piece– at which point Ragland starts the process over, or it will be the spark that brings the painting to life.
These paintings are freeze frame glimpses of nature’s creatures in abstracted color compositions. I experience nature by watching the flight of birds moving through the sky, listen to leaves moved by the wind and the songs of birds. With time spent in the outdoors watching the clouds and listening to the wind, it is nature that has fueled a never ending passion of color and movement. This series of paintings is a contemporary take on a typically traditional subject matter. The detailed rendering is cast into the minimal abstract composition of the highly developed complex surfaces. They are abstracted, voyeuristic portals to nature’s amazing visual gifts. These paintings bring nature indoors and give the viewer the opportunity to get lost in the calming simplicity and the seductiveness of nature.