Fine Art Connoisseur
January - February, 2013


Neil Riley: The Places Between Reality & Imagination

Allison Malafronte Reporting
Editor, Fine Art Today

One of the artists featured in the Perceptual Painters' current Real and Remembrance exhibition, Neil Riley, takes us to the places between the seen and the unseen. 

 Neil Riley's paintings contain a quieting calm and an endearing beauty that conjure up memories of our own long-forgotten moments or observations. Many of his paintings are small, in the 10 x 8-inch range, which helps them retain a freshness and spontaneity reflective of his painterly and expressive nature. It is clear that he does not overthink his subject matter or belabor technique when deciding what he wants to capture on canvas. Each painting feels intuitive, like a quick but heartfelt snapshot of some fleeting sight, sound, or feeling worth remembering and holding on to. Riley predominantly paints interiors and plein air landscapes, but it is his interiors that offer the more intriguing invitation into his thoughts and perspective as a painter.

"When you see a painting that moves you, I think it moves you because you believe in the authenticity of the person who did it, that they found a correlation between what was inside them and what is outside them," Riley stated in an interview with Painting Perceptions ( "My paintings are like the stuff that you go by on your way to someplace else....They are sort of places between things." When he is painting those in-between scenes, Riley's style can take different shapes and forms, depending on the subject matter. Sometimes the paintings are tonal and atmospheric, with soft edges and diffuse light. Other times, as in the painting "Guemene sur Scorff," we see an almost monochromatic study of strong value patterns and clearly defined shapes. In either case, we're given an intimate look at the artist experimenting and exploring ideas on a non-intimidating small scale. "I'm very fond of that time in the 19th century when the painting sketches were a bridge between drawings and the more serious painting," Riley said. "I think I'm stuck in that middle stage."

Riley is currently featured in the Real and Remembrance exhibition at 39th Street Gallery in Columbus, which was curated by artist Matt Klos and features 16 painters from the Perceptual Painters group. The show focuses on paintings that construct a larger whole through the combination of direct visual experience and imagination and memory, the perfect context for the paintings from Riley's oeuvre. On view until April 20, Real and Remembrance also features Victoria Barnes, Dave Campbell, Tom Conte, David Jewell, Matt Klos, Aaron Lubric, Scott Noel, Andrew Patterson-Tutschka, Carolyn Pyfrom, Erin Raedeke, Brian Rego, Peter Van Dyck, Tom Walto, Mark Karnes, and Charles Ritchie. 

Riley studied with Mark Karnes at the Maryland Institute College of Art and received his M.F.A. from Boston University. He has been an associate professor of painting and drawing at Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio for the past nine years but also spends time painting in Vermont. In addition, Riley has been a lecturer at Dartmouth College and the Jerusalem Studio School. His awards include a Fulbright Fellowship to Italy and a residency at the Klots Chateau in Rochefort-en-Tere, France. For more information on Riley, visit




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