When Hadley Rampton travels to countries like Budapest, Turkey, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Armenia, she says “I am drawn to the old places. There is history there. When I travel that is what really intrigues me, that is what really excites me… and I also really love history. I want to get to what the truth of these places is and that is what excites me when I travel.”
There is something very special about humanity, that through wars, recessions, famine, natural and human caused disasters, we can still, through it all, look to art and the messages it speaks, and at these peak times of turbulence, most often it will be about what it means to be human: truth. More so is the phenomenon of the artist who herself, not a spectacle, is very private and personal, who through necessity, not self-imposition, lives a life that is the search for truth. This is the undisclosed distinction of Rampton whose art is her means to find, to express, and to learn “about what it means to be human.”
Says Rampton, “These are parts of the world that were under communism and have strong senses of themselves. Then you look back over the centuries and their history of invasion, by the Byzantine Empire, and then it was the Ottoman Empire, and then the Russian and communism, they all still have their own pride in who they are.”
For Rampton, these travels “are a better way of understanding the rest of the world than through the headlines. I like to take the trains, I like to get past what is put on for the tourists, and to really get into what the real feel of the country is, what the real people are thinking there, and what their lives are. I feel like for many this would be something very advantageous.”
It is decidedly advantageous for Rampton whom works in two primary modes. The first is watercolor, which is the produce of her travels. Watercolor has a magnificent history from major artists and artist travelers whom enjoyed the practical as well as aesthetic benefits of it. Its malleability of application as well as practicality are very desirable for those who can appreciate milder tones and enjoy their structural interplay and relationships allowed. These requisites define Rampton’s work who is an avid colorist and uses pen and ink to define all structural edges thus adding immense dimension and making the whole piece “pop!” Her colors do not get lost at a distance but in her method stay true and strong, no matter haw far away the viewer may be standing.
What a fine piece of Rampton’s oeuvre is “Adhan, At Dusk, Istanbul” watercolor and ink 12” x 16”. One sees the 6th century Hagia Sophia presented in the distance under the late afternoon sun. Truly an iconic image. In this seminal work the viewer may see through the eyes of the artist. This is not a Byzantine Empire or the world of Constantinople. It is not the Ottomans or a country stifled by communism or any other totalitarian regime or Empire. It is an old world. But it is a post-Modern world like the rest of the world.
One can see in this painting the signs that Rampton sees, the bright colors of the automobiles, the youth with vivid nylon backpack on their backs, women walking about freely together with varying degrees of dress, a kiosk with a bright top serving refreshments for a hot late afternoon to a population that one cannot be sure is Turkish. Where is Istanbul? There is Hagia Sophia but what else is there to document Rampton’s travels… to tell her “I am in this great land of the Turks.” The reply is unequivocally “Where is the truth I seek?”
This great work of Rampton’s predates her current body of watercolors. “Early Evening, Budavari Palota,” watercolor & ink, 12 X 16 inches, may lend an initial impression, that this, like the others in the series, is a romantic composition. But any viewer, upon closer look, would be wrong with this inference. Rampton’s color palette has changed, it is less Raphael, in his academic use of color willfully working with combinations and relationships, such as “The School of Athens,” as seen in Rampton’s early markedly stronger realism. The new has playful tones of Watteau conducive to the grandiose settings. To realize these watercolors is to recognize the realism that they convey and appreciate in their subtleties.
In this plaza, with its historic monument and late-neo-Classical edifice, it almost resembles a history-piece, but not too distant from the frontal plane, sitting on the rim of the plaza, are two young women with their backs to the viewer, who are unmistakably 21st century in hair and dress. This, as well as the exaggerated pen and ink that is Rampton’s signature method, is far more liberally applied here creating greater depth to crevices and breaks in masonry in and around the plaza creating the history in the past tense.
As exquisite as Rampton is with watercolors, she is equally adept with oils. Her ubiquitous subject when she returns to her home in Utah is nature, primarily landscapes of aspen groves with a singular style, and as we will discover, approach. She states, “this kind of energy, this excitement that I feel when I am traveling, as much as when I work with oils, I feel the same. It’s exciting and I am energized and I want to do something with it.”
This excitement felt for the vestigial remains of ancient civilization’s … this is the same for a grove of aspens? How can this be? Says Rampton, “Whether I am traveling or up in the mountains and it is gorgeous, it is the same. I grew up here, our nature is a huge part of who we are.”
In the dusty streets of Armenia, Rampton shies from the touristy brightly lit bistros and experiences the most essential Armenia she can. What is essential about Utah to Rampton? It is our nature. It affects all who live or visit here and the honest manner that she employs in her brilliant work is true to the nature of Utah.
Rampton’s approach is not to paint the structure of a particular tree, one defined against the next, to form a grove. Far from it. Just as in her watercolor, Rampton is fascinated with color harmonies, contrasts, groupings, and looks to the light of day and the saturation upon the grove, to create a composition that when looked at, without the spindly delineated line of the tree, would be entirely abstract.
Says Rampton, “I am very much drawn to the abstract expressionists and their way of thinking, for example, this is paint on canvas, so I am drawn, especially with the newer work, to heavier brush strokes, much more broad so you are really thinking about color relationships and how to create these strokes, not blending.” Further, “A lot of it is that I really enjoy different ways of applying paint. I do love color so both in my oils and watercolors my color is enhanced, not in a fauvist kind of way, but I am always interested in color relationships.” These very real aspects of painting are very much the proto-Modernist way of thinking, about considering the reality of painting and the reality of paint, as opposed to trying to fool the eye with illusion, using the same formulas the academies have taught since just after the Renaissance.
As Rampton seeks reality in her travels, with every fragment of truth gained, she can learn about the people she meets and their ways of life, as much of this remains indigenous. Rampton does not stop being a seeker once she returns to her home. Her methodology to her painting of wild life seamlessly grants her recourse to her unending search for truth and deeper understanding of the world she exists in. More importantly, and more fundamentally, she finds in her search, a greater manifestation of her personal, very private, very real, and honest reality.