Novatny’s paintings are a tour de force of expertise wherein imagery is astonishingly rendered through a technique of smudging, imprinting and smearing oil paint with unconventional tools, such as plastic wrap, rubber gloves, and so on. The use of a narrow spectrum of color, relying on tonal fluctuation of rich black, white, grays and earth tones results in a dramatically mysterious and ghostly portrait.
"Brian Novatny... turns any standard for technique on its head. The Yale educated, Brooklyn-based artist was praised by the New York Times’s Roberta Smith for the technical prowess he showed in his 2011 drawing exhibition, “Picture FIshing.” His understanding of oil is radical — the paintings don’t even look like oils. He pushes paint around the canvas, bleeding, scraping, and feathering it to create an effect more akin to watercolor or a monoprint. ...silhouetted ghost ships tossed by stormy waves and obscured portraits of fictional officers — the works possess the hazy quality of early 19th-century photographs. ...the figures’ faces are treated with a refined, soft, blended hand, and then mutilated to obscure what could have been photorealistic perfection. Novatny uses paint to create the illusion of a photograph marred by time or disaster. ...capture violent, spontaneous energy that is to be applauded for emerging from a medium that requires incredible patience and time." BLOUIN ARTINFO Alanna Martinez, June 11, 2014
Novatny was born in Wadsworth, OH in 1964. He earned his BFA at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, OH in 1987 and his MFA at the Yale University School of Art in New Haven, CT in 1990. His work has appeared widely in solo and group shows in galleries and museums nationally and internationally including New York, New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Boston, Richmond, St. Louis, Novi Sad, Serbia, Berlin, Frankfurt and Beijing among others. His work is in numerous museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, TN, the Knoxville Museum of Arts, TN, and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.