What I admire in contemporary landscape painting is when an artist can find a unique voice within that history, telling us something about the world and their singular perspective. John Ribble has been able to do that, sharing his particular view of the Wisconsin countryside. Let’s not underestimate how difficult that is. The history of landscape painting is as long as it is diverse. Every style, media and location and has been explored. But after spending time with Ribble’s work you will recognize another piece of his clearly when you see it, and bring that vision back with you to the outdoors. On a day with intense greens and blues and big clouds billowing by you will say to yourself, it’s like a Ribble painting out here.
One of my favorite pieces from the current show, “A Good Drive Spoiled”, is “Solitude”. It is one of the larger works in a show full of pieces that give us a sense of vastness, even within the confines a rectangle on a gallery wall. I could argue that even John’s smaller pieces seem large. There is a sense of movement and energy that let us know this is not just capturing a specific place, but also a specific day, hour and temperature. What sets “Solitude” apart is that although large in size it is more subdued and quiet. There is a magical quality that draws the viewer down off of the road into the valley. John has created a place his own, but I also feel it’s a place I have been, a place I want to return to. The leafless trees in the foreground are animated and seem to invite the viewer in like friendly relatives of the trees from The Wizard of Oz. The sky is alive with movement contrasting the smooth mossy greens of the grass which make a perfectly secluded place for the lone cow to find rest. It’s the sort of place we pass on a weekend drive in the country but rarely take the time to stop and linger. In this current show John helps us do that. It’s a good thing for us he has spoiled a perfectly good drive over and over again.