Saturday, April 14, 2012

Brad Pasutti at Winchester Gallery by Philip Willey


Back in the summer of 1985 a group of people started a magazine called Random Thought. The Victoria music scene was active at the time….bands like Day Glo Abortions, 64 Funny Cars and No Means No were creating new musical paradigms. There was writing by people like Clint Burnham, Matthew Mallon, Marcus Pollard, Sook Yin Lee and Paul McKinnon. Allen Ginsberg did a reading at North Park. Michael Williams was busy renovating buildings on Johnson Street. It was an exciting time. Like a brief echo of the Sixties. There was quite a lot going on in the visual art world too. Artists like James Lindsay, Joe Average, Michael Lewis and Roy Green were all very active. Brad Pasutti had just shown some work at Open Space with Yumi Kono. I’d reviewed it for Issue Magazine. Somebody suggested I interview him for Random Thought. So I did.

We talked about the Kootenays, studying at U.Vic under Don Harvey, meeting Jack Kidder and making trips to Mexico, the influence of Velasquez and Diego Rivera. I got the impression of a young man serious about his art. Words like metaphysical and ethereal came to mind to describe his paintings. I noted the elusive quality of Pasutti’s work, the ambiguity, the use of reflection. Other writers subsequently improved on my efforts.

Here is Robert Amos talking about a show at Fran Willis’ North Park Gallery in 1987…
‘…the delicate balance between an indistinct play of light and precise bits of imagery is all Pasutti’s own, and therein lies his strength.’

Frank Nowosad writing for Monday Magazine in 1990….
“It is intriguing to see how cleverly Pasutti has stated his precedents and yet managed to stay aloof. His touch is delicate, his effect fleeting. He dusts his work with intelligence and feeling.”

And Augustin Luviano-Cordero in ‘La Rosa’ from the same year…..
‘Though Brad describes his work as a struggle – a struggle to free the vision inside of him and to develop it visually, a struggle to find the appropriate form and colours - there is a consistency and a magic to his work that makes viewing it a pleasure. In all Brad’s work there is a blurring of the boundaries between reality and imagination.’


Pasutti’s work isn’t easily categorized. One detects something of Bosch, Matta, de Chirico and perhaps Neo Rauch. Certainly it leans to the surreal but he seems mainly concerned with time, space and the realization of elusive ideas. Finely focused ambiguous objects and vaguely defined areas create a tension between foreground and background that goes beyond dimensional restrictions. He doesn’t plan paintings. They develop at their own pace. And he doesn’t see explanation as his responsibility. He’s right not to be too analytical. I don’t think he’s being deliberately obtuse. He’s a painter not a writer.

Christine Clarke caught this reticence very well in a recent article for Focus….
“The intention is not to be finished by Friday, but to explore the developing relationships, both on the canvas and between the artist and his painting; when it comes to explaining the meaning behind his work, Pasutti is tight-lipped, but not at all coy. He says, ‘I don’t want to know too much about relationships sometimes…maybe I’m lazy. I don’t want to know. I want it [the painting] to grow—to have a life of its own. I want to discover things. It’s what keeps me interested.’”

The thing that I’ve always found most striking about Pasutti’s paintings, apart from the technical quality, is the way they transcend regional elements. His references are mostly literary and historical …the result is a fusion of post-modern ideas with an underlying classical sensibility. It’s a combination of which both Hilton Kramer and Matthew Collings would approve.


Pasutti’s work has always been mature. These new paintings at Winchester are colourful and confident. Any hints as to his intentions are in the titles…Tower of Babel, The Texture of Time, An Echo In The Architecture Of Thought. Details vie with less resolved, almost abstract areas, objects drift in and out of focus, as they do in life, suspended in time and space, they allow us to forget about meaning for a while. Using oil paint for the most part Pasutti achieves the subtlety of his fondly remembered pastels. It’s a virtuoso performance.

Random Thought? It was short-lived. The realities of publishing…printer’s bills, advertising, distribution etc…could not be ignored. Maybe 10 issues were published before the editors called it quits and went their different ways. The dominant culture survived. Brad Pasutti I’m glad to say is still alive and painting. His new work can be seen at Winchester Gallery until April 28th.

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