Sunday, December 22, 2013

“Northern Light” exhibit by Bill Porteous reviewed by Debora Alanna

There is no more steely barb than that of the Infinite.'

~ Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), French poet. Complete Works, vol. 1, "Shorter Prose Poems," ed. Gérard le Dantec; rev. Claude Pichois (1953). The Artist "Confiteor," La Presse (Paris, Aug. 26, 1862).

‘The cultivated man of today is gradually turning away from natural things, and his life is becoming more and more abstract. Natural (external) things become more and more automatic, and we observe that our vital attention fastens more and more on internal things. The life of the truly modern man is neither purely materialist nor purely emotional. It manifests itself rather as a more autonomous life of the human mind becoming conscious of itself. Modern man – although a unity of body, mind, and soul – exhibits a changed consciousness: every expression of his life has today a different aspect, that is, an aspect more positively abstract. It is the same with art. Art will become the product of another duality in man: the product of a cultivated externality and of an inwardness deepened and more conscious. As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form. The truly modern artist is aware of abstraction in an emotion of beauty; he is conscious of the fact that the emotion of beauty is cosmic, universal. This conscious recognition has for its corollary an abstract plasticism, for man adheres only to what is universal.’

~ Natural Reality and Abstract Reality, Piet Mondrian, 1919

‘I remember Schapiro telling us that before Cézanne, there had always been a place in landscape painting where the viewer could walk into the picture. There was an entrance; you could go there, like walking into a park. But this was not true of Cézanne’s landscapes, which were cut off absolutely, abstracted from their context. You could not walk into them — you could enter them only through art, by leaping.’
~ Kafka Was the Rage: a Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard, Crown Publishers, New York, 1993, pg. 59

Denoting northern light, Bill Porteous’ Northern Light series shown in his studio gallery earlier this month, all work titles referential to this series title designates emotional illumination through his unconditional love of colour and abstract form, an enduring respect for historical context, paintings with the qualia of northern light as his focus. Alighting from Los Angeles to Canada in the 70s, Porteous paints with a surveyor’s eye, exacting boundaries, establishing structural arrays and emotive conditions of light, of existence. Porteous’ processes are direct and authoritative mental and physical strokes, substantial and meticulous attributes of light, ostensibly British Columbia light, but more, these works expound Porteous’ exuberance.

Manifold light perspectives are either rectangular or square works. Straight or curvaceous, broad or measured painterly and critically brushed weighing musters and entices, shapes structure that provides compositions laden with integrity, confidence. Porteous’ series is tenacious, tense, yet he paints with alacrity, his crisp yellows and ceruleans sharpen, instruct with a lively willingness to substantiate light introspectively. With his robustly renegade, blatant pungency of colour and exhorted form Porteous shows he can punctuate universality utilizing bands and isolated colour bars with a sagacity as aplomb as Soulages , or Motherwell.

In a few works, a membranous shrouding of mottled surface underplays are mantles of memories. The responsibility to remember extends over the surface, dimming sheaths provide tender illumination, challenging as a Robert Irwin scrim within an affecting treatment that resolves as one of Porteous’ sorrowful perceptions of light, aptly filtered.

Dark borders enlighten the passage between a life lived and now, the destination, a precarious presence. Dark centres are disclosure or a prevalent void, even necessary fulsomeness. The darkness Porteous paints is luminous and triumphantly difficult surrender.

Porteous constructs are calmly faithful to painting. His work solidifies values that sustain earlier traditions. Whether there is orientation to a Morandi palate or a nod to Olitski oranges, Diebenkorn conscientious geography, or a play of Rothko mesmerizing, consideration of Hoffman delineation, Porteous rightfully acknowledges abstract traditions’ impetuses, delivers the formality of abstraction, and articulates his deliberations with precision, even when he employs graffito scratch marks. His candour embraces and expounds delicious, immeasurable green horizons or infinite tertiary greys, importune juxtapositions that enlivens the abstract experience - generous edification. Porteous’ enlightening possesses the constitution of intangibility, the experience of light; his light and translates this significant cogent consistency as vivid, illuminating vigour.


1 Bill Porteous - North Light Series Acrylic on canvas 3 x 4 feet 2013


2 Bill Porteous - North Light Series Acrylic on canvas 3x 4 feet 2013


3 Bill Porteous - North Light Series Acrylic on canvas 12 x 12 inches 2013


4 Bill Porteous - North Light Series Acrylic on canvas 12 x 12 inches 2013


13-15 December 2013

Bill Porteous Studio Gallery

2960 A Jutland Road

Victoria BC V8T 5K2



Debora Alanna -

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