Douglas Portway: Orange T - SOLD

Douglas Portway (1922 - 1993)
Orange T - 1965
Oil on canvas
87,5 x 114,5 cm
Signed bottom right, dated on back of canvas
Sold - 2011

Dr J.P. Hodin, art historian and critic, and author of Portway’s biography, commented: Portway’s style cannot be defined on the whole as exclusively abstract Expressionism, for this term always includes the notion of aggression and dynamism, but rather as abstract poeticism, the poetic approach being the primary approach to the comprehension of the miracle of Being .

When South Africa became culturally isolated in the 1950’s, Portway became more conscious of his homeland and the characteristics that set it apart from the European continent. He turned away from his Western influences and adopted a style which incorporated the ethnic design that surrounded him, although he later realized that he would always remain an outsider to a culture which was not fully his own. As a result of his study trip to the United States in 1952, Portway was greatly influenced by the intellectual currents of abstract expressionism and the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, and started exploring these new influences in his own work, writing: For me, abstract art is not a break with art – it is merely a continuation of the best aspects of art in a condensed, concentrated form .

As all the arts have their source in the human soul, man can experience painting as music, and poets can be inspired by works of art.

Being touched by a work of art on more levels than just the visual is a sign of an artist’s mastery in capturing and communicating the essence of an experience or concept. Portway’s analytical approach delves into different layers of his psyche, and through his own inward gaze he touches on universal questions of spirituality, creating art that makes visible what is secretly perceived . His objective was to develop a dialogue between the soul as an absorbent and receptive organ, and the reality surrounding it. Portway’s art became a voyage of self-discovery, not attempting to illustrate himself, but to discover himself. In time, he realized there are no definite answers and in response, stated my work is ambiguous .

Portway realised that finding answers to the universal questions about the meaning of life did not lie in physical conclusions but in self discovery, and that art has to have a mysterious and indefinable quality. Allowing the viewer to ponder on his own, and digest the poetic elements of a work, he intended his paintings to become objects into which one could float, as in water, so that one’s mind is hung, so to speak, suspended, and the emanation of the painting, the mood of the painting would penetrate into people’s consciousness .

J.P. Hodin, Douglas Portway: A Painter’s Life , Cranbury, 1983, pp 17, 54, 56, 60, 70 and 82
John Peffer, Art and the end of apartheid , University of Minnesota Press, 2009, pp 135-136