A Palette of Time, Discipline and Passion

Provincetown Banner – August 2, 2012
By Deborah Minsky

John Koch of Truro knows art and knows what he likes. A former Boston Globe arts editor, over his long career in journalism he was immersed in the arts and visited many studios and re- viewed countless shows. Now, in what could be called semi-retirement, Koch is rediscovering his artistic self, putting his own canvases up on the easel as he works at becoming the painter he al- ways wanted to be. Although he is rela- tively new to creating art, he shows a re- markable flair and innate talent.

He works in a range of media, often in unusual combinations of acrylic, oil, charcoal, pastels and oil sticks, all of which can be seen in his show “John Koch: Landscapes & Head-scapes.” An opening reception takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, in the COA Gallery at the Truro Community Cen- ter, 7 Standish Way, North Truro. The show runs through August.

In his studio just off South Pamet Road, he enjoys inspirational views from many angles. The summer home he has shared with his wife, Sharon, for the last 25 years rests snugly against Cape Cod National Seashore land where they will never have to worry about the encroachment of developers or the presence of too-close neighbors. That knowledge allows him to enjoy the timelessness of the surrounding wooded landscape without fearing for its impending demise. His paintings of those outdoor scenes reflect great joy in that security.

Koch has mastered the art of self- portrayal with no apologies for the vary- ing inner moods or outward appear- ances of his oft-used subject. His are not simply pretty images as commis- sioned portraiture tends to be; instead, he paints what he perceives in the re- flected face in the mirror. Through Koch’s artistry these self-images take on a life of their own, with distinctive, in- triguing personalities, not so much pic- tures of Koch at certain stages of his life, but engrossing, stand-alone images of a complex man with a story or expe- rience worth sharing.

“I don’t do them because of any interest in my own funny face,” he says. “I do them when I can’t really think of what else I want to do. I’m not interest- edinmeassuch.Idothemasanexer- cise.”

A gifted draftsman, Koch also draws exquisite sun-dappled trees and sketch- es figures in repose with great grace, but his most compelling and eye-catch- ing paintings are his semi-abstractions, where he gives himself license to exper- iment with tone and texture, to dig into inner symbolism and draw out unex- pected images. Koch has learned well the techniques of under-painting and how to draw the most effect from every inter-play of light and tone. He knows his color values. He is also very modest about his obvious ability, almost in awe of the painterly life as it unfolds to him.

Koch acknowledges local artists who helped him get started. At various times and places — including Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill, Provincetown Art Association and Museum and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown — he has studied with Robert Henry, Selena Trieff, Joyce Zavourskas, Eleanor Meldahl and William Papaleo, to name just a few. He credits artist Anne Flash for encouraging him to “mix it up,” and let loose with varying media and techniques, to really ex- plore his painting surfaces to see what they will reveal to him as the process unfolds.

“The COA exhibit is an astonishing opportunity that came to me out of the blue,” he says. “I owe it all to Eleanor and [her son] Malcolm. I just want to say, because it is true, that I feel very privileged to have this show.”