Rex Ashlock and the Sea at Carmel
Rex first came to Carmel in the late 1930s. He had grown up in Spokane, Washington and been working in Turlock, California – both inland places. The sight of the Monterey Bay – the light, subtlety of colour, texture and substance of a dancing medium which hinted at a richness of worlds below, suddenly and dramatically extended his visual awareness. He would paint the sea in every real and imaginative dimension all his life.
Early on, he set up his easel among the rocks and tide-pools near Tor Point and painted water-colors of the uneven coastline, cypresses, mists, the bay and its constant changes. Later on, in New York he expanded into oils, sea-scapes often distinguished by depths threaded with kelp-purple. In natural sequence, given his lifelong interest in the female figure, came a series of swimmers, cavorting – or teasing, almost hidden in the watery swirl. Later still, the sea, like the outer color-shell in one of his field-paintings, enclosed emerging islands, and in the 1970s it became the stuff of dream.
On a visit back to Carmel in the late 1990s Rex stood looking out at the Bay and said, This was the first sea – this was the sea I was always painting.
Margaret Ashlock Wilmot