Rose Umerlik is a contemplative, soulful painter in her mid 30’s; a visibly strong woman, in body and spirit, who appears to be one of the lucky ones who never had to search very far to find her voice. A serious injury, however, that led to surgery in 2013 forced her to find out what she was truly made of. Umerlik had to push through major physical and emotional challenges to keep working, and the result was a deeply personal collection of paintings that opened a new door for her.
There is a sweet sensitivity about Rose that makes her very accessible, but don’t mistake that accessibility for a lack of vitality. Her determination as an artist clearly trumps her fears and obstacles, and she uses her tools to work through them like a machete. Rose is receptive and open, and has obvious access to her “truth”. She paints the essence of what is happening in and around her, and we are left to interpret the beautiful forms she leaves behind.
Rose Umerlik starts her pieces with lines, loosely gesturing with a graphite pencil to capture the emotion she wants to relate. She absorbs the line – like breathing in an idea or a feeling – and then begins to layer the piece as the line dictates the soft forms that will become the skin. The lines appear, disappear, and reappear; they take us on a journey through the work. Sometimes an entire field of color will be covered with a new color, but glimpses of the line and perhaps the former hue that surrounded it will still be visible underneath. It is as if she is trying to show you where the story leaves off by first showing you how she got there. There are typically focal areas of tangle, tension, compression, and even chaos. These areas are tempered by expanses of soft color; and though these areas are resting places for the eyes, in Umerlik’s opinion, these spaces hold an enormous amount of the work’s energy. Her inclusion of black and grey, which she tends to use liberally, takes some guts, but she combines what can be imposing weight with her subtle palette in a way that is almost reminiscent of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work. The combination is arresting, and beautifully balanced.
Another interesting detail about Umerlik’s work is that she actually articulates the process of each piece in a sort-of “work diary”. In September of 2010, she spent a month in a residency program at the Vermont Studio Center. She found herself lingering in her studio with more time than she was used to having, and she began writing about the individual pieces. What started out as an effort to archive and catalogue her work evolved into more exploratory writing about it.
In her words, “For the open studio event at the end of the residency I wrote out these texts on paper and tacked them up next to each piece. This approach of pairing my work with the texts was well received. More people paused and spent time with the pieces. As the evening progressed, more and more people came up to me and said that they were making connections and seeing things in the work that they may not have without the text. This experience encouraged me to continue writing about my paintings after I returned home.
In the months that followed, keeping a painting journal became a natural part of my studio practice. Through the writing process, which encouraged self-reflection and honesty, I noticed that I was beginning to unearth the less conscious motivations and sources of inspiration for my work; ideas and feelings that I had not been as keenly in touch with before. I began to see that each painting has a story, a history.
These histories trace the forms, lines, colors, and drawings of each painting back to their source, creating a framework of its genesis. Fear, anger, helplessness, frustration, pain, love, family, hope, light, sincerity — these are just some of the “protagonists” shaping the storylines that thread in and out of my paintings. My decision to share these stories here came out of a belief that honesty is the deepest essence of any art form. I strive to paint with integrity, and I hope this is apparent in my paintings and their accompanying texts. By introducing these histories, my goal is to give the viewer new ways of understanding my work. “
“My art practice is inextricably tied to my personal history. Stories of family, relationships, and self-awareness generate forces of emotion fear, hope, loss, pain, and love that drive me through the creation of each painting.
From the beginning of each piece, I lay down shapes, lines and bodies of color. As I manipulate these elements, I intuitively recognize how the correlation of these elements mirrors my interpersonal relationships. At different times these lines and forms vary in the way they relate to one another. Sometimes they hold each other, or gesture lovingly; other times they oppose each other or interact aggressively; sometimes their relationship is uncomfortable or uncertain; other times they strive for isolation.”
ROSE UMERLIK – Oil and Graphite on Panel
ROSE UMERLIK – Works on Paper
“As I move through moments of personal recognition, these moments influence the formulation of the composition. I engage in an extended series of decisions and revisions; tensions undulate on the painted surface, layers of lines, pigments, and shapes are laid down, cleared, and then selectively restored. When a painting is realized conclusively, the surface is necessarily multifarious, the reworked layers reflect my ongoing struggle to accept my history, my present, and to be hopeful of the future.
This complexity of formal elements and process is present throughout my work. My aim is not only to mirror the intricacies of my personal story, but also to connect with the viewer, to echo the personal, emotional struggles that resonate with each of us, and that are present in the collective human mind and heart.”
Read this wonderful article from ArtScope Magazine:
And another by Britta Konau, for Maine Home and Design Magazine
“Taking Shape” Anne Bryant, Portsmouth Herald, November 1st, 2009
Grants, Lectures, Residencies, Awards
Artist Residency and Fellowship
The Sam and Adele Golden Foundation℠ for the Arts, Inc., New Berlin, NY.
New Hampshire Charitable Foundation–Piscataqua
Region Artist Advancement Grant, 2009, 2011, 2012
Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT
Full fellowship awarded in support of a month-long residency.
Berlin Art Now
Portsmouth Public Library, Portsmouth, NH, November, 2008
Lecture given on contemporary art from Berlin, Germany.
Co-sponsored by the Portsmouth Public Library and
Funded by the NH State Council on the Arts
Takt Kunstprojektraum Artist Residency
Takt Kunstprojektraum Gallery, Berlin, Germany, June-July 2008
ManyMini Artist Residency
The Berlin Office, Berlin, Germany, July 2008
NH Cultural Exchange Grant
NH Department of Cultural Resources & Park Street Foundation,
NH State Council on the Arts, Concord, NH, March, 2008
Best in Show Award, “New-In Exhibition”
Hun Gallery, New York, NY, March, 2008
* Bachelor of Fine Arts, Syracuse University, College of Visual and Performing Arts 1998