MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Austin Romanaux is only 20 years old, but he’s already in the midst of his second solo art show, currently on display at the Grover House Gallery in Caldwell. The Maplewood native is a painter whose work has been shown in galleries since 2015, including at the South Orange Performing Arts Center. The Caldwell show began in May, and will be up until Aug. 23.
“It’s most of my work from the last year,” Romanaux, who is studying fine arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, said in a phone interview with the News-Record on July 6. “I was working on my techniques and practices, trying to change what I was doing. Before, it was more graphic and more illustrative and now I’m trying to be more painterly and loose.”
Romanaux said he is trying to expand his style because he had early success with older work and didn’t want to get trapped in that same style. It was time for a change.
“I fell into this pocket where I had a few successful pieces and I didn’t want to change anything,” he said. “Then I didn’t want to fall into only one thing, because I’m too young to be doing the same thing all the time.”
Romanaux took art classes at Columbia High School, beginning with Art 1 and moving through the levels to AP Art, also taking photography and Photoshop classes. By his third year of high school he knew he wanted to be a professional artist, and he started applying to art colleges.
He ended up at SVA among art students from all over the world. It’s a small school, not like the typical college campus, and Romanaux said this allows every student to have a different specialty.
“It’s a lot smaller and there’s less of a social life,” Romanaux said. “Everyone is more serious about making work. There’s kids from all over the world and it feels like an academy. Everyone has a secret weapon that you just have to wait to find out about it.”
Romanaux also draws, but he’s primarily a painter. His paintings feature a lot of color, his favorite element.
“When I started, I was into collages and would hide things in pieces,” he said. “It would be kind of a game. Now it’s less personal. I like color and the raw magic that can come from that and the raw emotion that you can get from that. When you mix colors, it’s amazing.”
Skulls are also often featured in Romanaux’s work, but not because they look macabre. He likes to incorporate them into paintings and then brighten them up with color.
“It’s not really about death so much as the inside of a human head,” he said. “Then I make it colorful and play with the juxtaposition.”
Romanaux is taking a bit of a break from painting during the summer before he heads back to school. He is spending time with a sketchpad, drawing what he sees.
“I’ve been doing a lot of drawing, but I don’t want to be doing cartoons,” Romanaux said. “I want to draw things the way they actually look.”
He has tentative plans for another solo show sometime in 2020, and is enjoying the gallery time he’s getting now.
“It’s been a constant blessing with these people wanting to show my work,” Romanaux said.
Photos Courtesy of Austin Romanaux