Richard Gabriele and the Rise of Reverse Impressionism

Kristin Sancken


It is safe to say that when the term Post-Internet Art was coined, Romance officially died. The majority of contemporary artists seem to be fixated on the artistic relationship between craft and social media. Web-based commentary and emergent technology have overshadowed the frivolity of emotional experience. Despite this obsession with the digital experience, it is still refreshing to encounter art that utilizes emotion as a source of aesthetic expression.


Philadelphia-based painter Richard Gabriele has emerged in the New York City art scene as a symbolic figurehead, reminding us that Romance does exist, even in our generation. Art has always been a part of Gabriele's life. He began drawing at an early age and kept sketchbooks throughout childhood and high school, traveling extensively to gain the experiences and stylistic influences depicted later in his paintings. By the time Gabriele realized his dream of becoming an artist in college, his techniques were nearly perfected.


An easy word to describe Gabriele’s work is dreamlike. His visionary paintings consist of pre-determined figures or symbols emerging from a celestial field of color. The subject matter is a mixture of the artist’s imagination and traditional, often spiritual or metaphysical, influences married together as fragile visual components. Images such as ghosts, angels and birds serve as narrative symbols that render deeply personal to the artist, yet arouse a sense of common cognitions among all viewers.


Stylistically, Gabriele’s work is based on the idea of extroverted vision and has been referred to as “Reverse Impressionism.” The Impressionists utilized colored dabs of paint to capture the way outward vision takes shape from a distance and breaks down into abstraction close-up. Conversely, Gabriele focuses on the same visual discernment, yet his images - which appear to be faint abstractions from afar- materialize as the viewer gets closer to the surface. This effect is achieved through the artist’s process of applying layers of watercolor paint on thin, handmade paper sourced from around the world that create rich color combinations. The figures and symbols are then rendered with a thin set of lines that offer the viewer an intricate look into the artist’s process.


As Gabriele puts is, “This style is my way of showing that the visions were experienced inwardly. From far away you see a luminous haze and the faint suggestion of something more inside.  It’s only as you move closer and enter into the painting that the subtle forms crystallize and become visible. “


Recently, Gabriele’s work has moved from figurative to purely abstract. In his series “Above Reason” he visually designates a tangible form to represent his inspiration. Through a sequence of brushstrokes, he captures the rush of energy that sustains his creative process, turning what painting means to the artist in on itself. In turn, the works reflects the process instead of a separate, more cerebral, part of the artist. “One of the beautiful aspects of symbolic art,” he says, “is that our interpretations can evolve as we search for meaning within our perception of the world.”


While Gabriele’s work could be considered more visionary than romantic, the concept of the artist being able to produce art through "creation from nothingness" sustains a parallel with the genre. No matter how isolating or enigmatic, Gabriele’s use of expression as a personal response to life resonates as an intimate experience indicative of the transitoriness in human life and evokes a longing for nobility. When asked about what he wants to achieve in his work, the artist referenced a letter he wrote in 2008 and stated, “I want to discover the divinity in man and exalt it in paint.” Indubitably, he has already achieved this.


Author Bio:


Kristin Sancken is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.





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Richard Gabriele
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