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Quicktime Video
Ron Kroutel explains his work along with a slideshow of paintings.

Ron Kroutel interview

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  • Ronald Kroutel, Professor Emeritus, Ohio University

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  • October 25, 2002
    An artist finds the line between man and nature
    By Andrea Gibson

    The term "landscape painting" conjures images of orange sunsets, docile brooks, and leafy trees. But that's not what artist Ron Kroutel sees when he drives around Ohio. His canvases reflect ghostly track houses framed by telephone wires, highway overpasses, and gnarled tree branches, all set against a foreboding sky.
    Click paintings to enlarge
    Chute/House (1996)
    Chute/House (1996)
    Athens County/Vines (1997)
    Athens County/Vines (1997)
    Watt/State (1998)
    Watt/State (1998)
    Outskirts (1999)
    Outskirts (1999)

    "Just to make a pretty picture doesn't really express the way I feel about things," says Kroutel, a professor emeritus of art at Ohio University.

    The painter's workshop on the outskirts of Athens, Ohio, is enveloped in woods, close to a state park and lake. But the bare winter trees reveal that modern life and technology -- utility poles, a busy highway -- are not far away. Kroutel's paintings pose questions about that intersection of nature and human progress.

    "The house seems to represent the safe haven where we live, but it's surrounded by a threatening situation," says the artist about his oil paintings, which often are about 4 feet wide and 4 feet high in scale. He points to the recurring images of power lines and the strange and portent skyscapes of yellow and green in his work.

    These paintings, which Kroutel has been creating for more than 15 years, are part of the collections of the Lanning Gallery in Columbus and the Bonfoey and Company Gallery in Cleveland. Most recently, they were featured in the Ohio Arts Council exhibit Coming of Age at the Riffe Gallery in Columbus. The curators selected his work based on his unique painting style and longevity in the art world, and because he is a past recipient of three council grants.

    Though these moody paintings speak to the uneasy struggle between man and nature, Kroutel only recently began to include people in his landscapes -- sometimes a crouching man, other times a face looming on the horizon. He isn't sure why the human figures, which seem to be responding to the environment in the paintings with fear, anger, or other basic emotions, are now appearing on the canvas. But art is an intuitive process, and Kroutel has learned to trust his instincts.

    That holds true for his choice of artistic expression as well. The artist, who once considered becoming a musician, previously dabbled in video, performance art, installations, and abstract works, but ultimately was attracted to the rich tradition of oil painting.

    "I thought painting had the deepest roots -- it goes back to the caves," he says. "Making an image on a flat surface -- there's something basic and fundamental about it."


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