Robert Hiedemann

When we look at Ray Byram’s work, in particular, his serigraphs, it is immediately apparent that here is an artist who wants to be taken seriously.

In contrast to many commercial artists whose works are characterized by superficial adherence to rules of composition and frequently sloppy execution, Ray works in a much more deliberate and conscientious manner. On the surface many of his landscapes are in the same vein; woodsy scenes with a meandering path defining the perspective. On closer examination, we note that his interest goes much farther than that. His paintings reflect the artist’s interest in the relationship and interaction of the different colours to one another.

On the surface, he appears to work in an impressionistic mode; indeed most of his compositions do in fact, show similar characteristics: the preoccupation with light and the discrete colour patches applied with a small palette knife. When examined even more closely, however, we notice a treatment and interpretation of his subject which gives his works an almost abstract quality.

This is particularly evident in his serigraphs which, in contrast to other artists’, are based on finished paintings. Ray eschews the slick commercialism normally associated with limited edition prints by creating prints which are truly original graphics. He personally hand cuts all of the screens, a very laborious and time-consuming process. The finished product reflects all of the vibrant colours individually applied which one normally sees in a finished oil painting.

The technical skill required for making serigraphs or silk screens increases in direct proportion to the number of screens, the size of the apertures, and the complexity of the composition. Very few painters make their own screens because they lack the skill and the patience required, qualities that Byram possesses to an uncommon degree. With Ray it is also a matter of principal and professional pride. “I do not want to sign my name to a silk screen which has been made by someone else or worse, by photo-mechanical means.”

Ray’s love for silk screens evolved over time. When starting out as a young artist, he experimented with a variety of media: oils on canvas, water colous, etching, and wood cuts. In the late 80’s he discovered serigraphy, which opened a new market, i.e., young professionals or corporate clients who wanted a signed original without going to the expense of paying for a painting. Ray’s skill in producing silk screens with all the rich vibrant colours normally associated with paintings won him almost instant acclaim.

Byram gets his inspiration from hiking in the Appalachain Mountains of northern Georgia and North Carolina. The experience of the outdoors assumes, at times, an almost spiritual dimension which he wants to share with others. That is one of the reasons why landscapes are his favorite subject. What sets his landscapes apart from those of lesser artists is the fact that the natural wonders are only a point of departure. The final painting bears only a superficial resemblence to the actual scene. The original image has been transformed through the intervention of the artist’s imagination which creates something totally different and unique.

With Morning Light and Autumn, Byram’s work has taken a giant step forward in his artistic development. Characterized by a panopoly of brilliant colours, these two works reveal an artist whose primary objective is to create a harmony of hues not unlike that of a musical composition. The tightness of his controlled composition (as in Autumn), balanced by the seemingly effortless spontaneity of individual elements result in a work which bodes well for Ray Byram’s artistic future.

Robert Heidemann earned his doctorate at the University of Michigan. In 1977, he was awarded a post-doctorate fellowship at Yale University’s National Humanities Institute. Since 1975, he has been assisting Fortune 500 companies with art acquisition and restoration programs. In addition, he has been a consultant to major publishing houses. Dr. Heidemann owns and operates a gallery in downtown Richmond, Virginia.