"Phobias" by John Zinsser

Nicolas Rule’s studio, on East 2nd Street, is a quiet, spare space, its large institutional windows facing the street below. Late afternoon light rakes across a long black horizontal panel, a work in its early stages. The artist explains to me that his process is about “allowing a painting to describe itself, or its own condition.”

That statement could be taken literally, because Rule paints words, families of words, naming wor ds. (In the past, he has worked with genealogies and “bloodlines.”) These are rendered in elegant freehand applications of translucent India inks, brushed on in layers, which can drip down the face of the picture plane—or seem to dissolve altogether into atmospheric immateriality.

For Rule, the breakdown of language and meaning is as important as its assertion. This series, “Phobias,” borrows its lexicon from psychology. In a new turn for the artist, Rule executes the works in white-on-black, the designations of specific anxieties appearing and disappearing into a matte velvety half-light. (A viewer has the sensation of seeing a thought momentarily form in ionized space.) The conceptual gives way to the sensual. It’s almost a landscape. But that reading would take the paintings too far from the real. Rule gently admonishes: “Don’t think of them as night.” And, just then, the sun from the window fades away.

John Zinsser, New York, Spring, 2009

"After Lovecraft, Paintings by Nicolas Rule" by Max Blagg

“Many are the hours on which I have pondered upon the pictures hanging in this gallery. I trust my instincts are not awry when they prompt me to these remarks. You must imagine the time when they were first shown to me in the small lower East Side studio where Nicolas Rule has worked these past twenty years. What struck me, apart from their essential Englishness, was their narrow but powerful range, and the odd sensation of sentences peeling off the walls. Indeed their faint pit water smell is in my nostrils now as I write, the cloggy subterranean feel of the words as they seem to breed on the canvas, how one color lies exquisitely placed next to another, like the shades of blue in that Walter Sickert painting I was forced to sell.

“Rule’s manic compression invokes ‘infinite riches in a little room,’ a place where beauty and science meet and mate with strangled, muted moans of ecstasy and vertigo. The words, like hooks for the paint to show its weight, are themselves transmuted into the image, and then the image dripped, stretched, hovering at the edge of legibility, beautiful and incomprehensible as the calligraphy on a Persian vase. Cling peachy colors stabilize the visual drift, minute gradations of color anchored to an invisible grid.

“I look at them, and in looking, the Curtains of Impossibility that blind the mind are lifted, and I gaze into the unknown. Amid strange sentences I wander, and realize they tell the reclusive Rule’s tale far better than my own ambitious phrasings. These creations hang before you, their flawlessly inscribed patterns letting in light as subtly as the removal of one small serif might shed light on the page of a book.

“And should anyone fail to see, as I see now, their inner history, the maps and graphs and pathways to other worlds, the shadowy delirium that trembles beneath the elegant surface of each picture, the skull beneath the skin, then the mere paintings themselves, these beautiful objects, may furnish as great a thrill…”

Here the manuscript breaks off…

Max Blagg, channeling William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918), English author, photographer, sailor, body-builder, and friend of H.P. Lovecraft.

On the occasion of the exhibition: Nicolas Rule “After Lovecraft”, April 19—May 25, 2007, Dinter Fine Art, New York, NY

"Nicolas Rule" by Jerry Saltz

What a concept: Rule's spooky but alluring paintings spell out words taken from H.P.Lovecraft stories. Phrases like "untouchable," "Unplaceable," and "unanswerable" are composed of letters rendered in dripped blood-red inks and delicate blue watercolor stains. They could be fading tattoos, colonies of yeast, warnings from the spirit world, or indeed, the doodles of some brooding Lovecraft character. This rare, haunting exhibition demonstrates why, after nearly two decades for work, Rule deserves to stay around that much longer.

Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine, May 19, 2007