Tonalism: This body of work is the result of my desire to create paintings that reveal a living presence.  I drew inspiration from iconography as well as the work and writings of George Inness.  Inness said that “the true end of art is not to imitate a fixed material condition, but to represent a living motion.”  The intent behind every mark I make is to give life to an idea, to instill a living presence within each painting.  My hope is that life is always evident in the work I create.

Allegory: My artwork is the material representation of the process within me that seeks to understand reality.  This is an ongoing process of discovery that is never completely realized.  My search takes shape in both concept and form through a juxtaposing of contemporary and historical symbols and techniques.  The result is allegorical images that look like they are from the past, but speak a language that could only come from the present.  I consider them to be amalgamations of the entirety of human history, culminating from the past and filtered through the present.


Artist reaches to the past to connect with the present

"What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough." (Eugene Delacroix)

Joshua Risner is a local oil painter who insists he was born in the wrong century. “I’ve always felt more of a connection with the artists from the past, artists like Delacroix, Raphael and Rembrandt. So many great artists have come before us, each adding to the vast knowledge that came before them.  I think in our rush to advance our fields today we often seek the shiny new idea and mistakenly overlook the value that can be gained by understanding the ideas that already came before us”, said Risner.

Risner embraces his heritage as an oil painter by researching traditional techniques while at the same time continuing to experiment and push beyond them. He mixes his own paints, builds his own frames and often paints on panels created using age-old techniques. “In some cases I try to emulate the painting style of master artists as a way of not only understanding their techniques, but also their mindsets”, said Risner.

Even though his paintings look like they could have been painted many years ago, Risner sees his paintings as having relevance for the present. “Prior to modernity, the symbols used in paintings were understood through convention and tradition. For example, artists would paint a symbol referenced in the Bible whose meaning would be understood generally by everyone participating in society at that time. My images are not as easily interpreted. I add meaning to the traditional symbols by placing another layer of meaning on them that usually comes from my own contemporary personal understanding.”  In this way the content of Risner’s paintings speak to the angst of living in a world with unstable and unreliable communication. 

“My goal as an oil painter is to add to what has already been done, not to re-invent the wheel”, said Risner.  He believes that it is common today for artists to use irony and skepticism for the motivation of their content, seeking to push a political view or agenda. Risner tries to avoid these approaches seeing them as destructive and instead chooses to continue the path began by artists from the past who sought to add something to their heritage rather than break it down.