Ray Turner - In Context

Joanne Artman Gallery
Sep 19, 2018 3:12PM

In modern and contemporary portraiture, one of the primary objectives is the visual representation (or documentation) of a shared exchange between two subjects, be it the artist and sitter, or the artist and the self. Unlike a photograph, a painted portrait is created over a period of time, the final image an amalgamation of small environmental variations, as well as changes in psychological states such as general temperament and momentary moods. Due to the nature of the work, portraits are subjective portrayals, reflective of the artist’s state of mind. Even when portraying the same subject, each iteration is a new investigation.

Francis Bacon, Three Studies for a Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1963

(Image courtesy of WikiCommons)

The relationship between artist and model is another important aspect of contemporary portraiture, with visual representation acting as a lens into an individual’s psychological state, but also often reflecting the artist’s as well. The work of figurative painters such as Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon delves into such explorations of mental states, developing a continued dialogue between art historical context and potent emotions as a means of connection and exchange. Bacon was inspired by the work of Old Masters, and utilized internal conflicts as a means of artistic development. Freud’s thick impastos often examined the relationship between artist and model in a penetrating examination in extended and often arduous sittings.

Ray Turner, Epicurious, Oil on Canvas, 12 x 12 inches

Other artists employ a different approach. Early modernist and symbolic painter Vincent Van Gogh and the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, most closely associated with surrealism and magic realism, both created works of internal inquiry. Though the two artists are separated by the distance of half a century, their self portraits explored deep trauma and self reflection via symbolism in a similar approach. Van Gogh’s thick, gestural application of paint in a pattern of brush marks, and use of symbolic colors was expressive of his emotional states. For Kahlo, physical and emotional pain was transcribed onto the canvas via the utilization of symbolic imagery and compositional allusions.

Ray Turner, Mary, Oil on Canvas, 50 x 40 inches

In the vein of these artistic legacies, Ray Turner’s work can be seen as part of the lineage and trajectory of modern portraiture, a continuing investigation of the synthesis of subject and process. Turner has long held an interest in human facial expression and continues this exploration in his new show of portraits at JoAnne Artman Gallery (with an opening on Thursday, September 13th). The subjects portrayed are all of historical or fictional nature, their portraits self-reflections by Turner, as well as evocative statements on the imperfect permanence of history, legacy, as well as the passage of time. The work presented ranges from realism to formalist abstraction in the figurative range as Turner explores themes of identity and perception. In TITLE, Turner uses expressive strokes and strong color relationships in an appeal to our emotional states, while obfuscating physical facial features, while the black and white portraits such as Mary, and Catherine, lean more towards realism.

Joanne Artman Gallery