Morning on the Seine, pastel on paper
Hour of Gold, pastel on paper
One of the most astute comments which this writer has encountered regarding artist Ray Hassard was overheard at an exhibit containing several of his paintings: “He must surely be a happy man.” Certainly making inference from the work to the man could prove a dangerous practice, but Hassard’s paintings, particularly his pastels, do exude a joie de vivre that could hardly seem the product of a morose temperament. This results in part from the artist’s compositional skill and his handling of the paint. He crams the pictorial space with objects and figures which are never sufficiently defined to allow our eye to stop moving. The surfaces of his painting sparkle in the brilliance of his colors and in their rich textural effects. Although “textural” may seem an odd term to describe a medium as intrinsically “flat” as pastel, Hassard’s broken and overlapping colors suggest a depth and texture to the paint surface itself.
But the exuberance we feel in the presence of Hassard’s work also results from the attitude which the artist forces us to assume toward his subject matter. The viewer cannot maintain his distance from the subject; he must become a witness or spectator. In Hassard’s work we continually look at others in the act of looking. Whether his subjects are choosing their lunch, picking spring plants, or viewing paintings at a gallery exhibit, we observe their amusement, their boredom and, most of all, their intensity. His “bronze workers,” for example, fill our viewing space, each unaware of our presence and concentrating all of his energies on his small piece of the overall composition. It is a study in intense concentration, and the intensity is infectious. In “Holiday Windows,” the actual subject is only implied; what we watch are the watchers. We watch over their shoulders as Hassard’s subjects go about the business of life, and we relish their dedication to simple tasks. The images cropped at sides and bottom, the foreshortenings, and the unusual perspectives reinforce the fact that what we are viewing is merely an segment selected from life’s continuum. The exuberance one feels in viewing Hassard’s paintings has nothing of the glorious or the contrived. It is the simple joy of finding meaning right under our noses.
Jeremy and the Country Girl, pastel on panel
Along the Paria River, pastel, 9" x 12"
Teruel Cathedral, pastel, 9" x 12"
Watching the Boys Swim (South India), pastel, 18" x 18"
Path to Giverny, pastel, 10" x 12"
(winner of the Gold Award in Pastel Journal's Top 100 Pastel Paintings from 2013)
Bump II, pastel on board
La Maison du Claude, pastel on paper
Three Figures, pastel on board
Bronze Workers, oil
Gallery Opening, pastel
The Food Court, pastel
Spring Comes to the Suburbs, pastel
Holiday Windows, pastel
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