HAROLD BARLING TOWN, R.C.A.
Roald Nasgaard, “Abstract Painting in Canada”, Vancouver/Toronto, 2007, page 104.
“Abstract” (1960) is masterful example of Harold Town's ability to reconcile seemingly contradictory elements in his painting. What appears at first glance to be a display of chaos and frenzy, a further look indicates control and a sense of planning and forethought seen in many of the artist’s works of this period. Nasgaard writes, “Town’s characteristic method of constructing a canvas is the contrast of opposites. His approach is not to take a single idea and lay it out. Instead Town employs a colour, a shape, or a texture and then introduces its opposite and its opposite and so on. From there on a struggle ensues whereby Town, to succeed, must wrestle apparent irreconcilables into visual coherence.” “Abstract” shows Town’s process of reconciliation within the confines of the canvas by pairing erratic brushstrokes and wandering lines within ordered collage-like blocks of colour, creating at the same time a frenetic energy and compositional harmony. Some areas of the canvas seem overcome with chaos but are compensated by adjacent strips of relative calm and subdued colours. The central focus, the star form, struggles to stay intact with its broken lines, edges that are almost consumed by the surrounding complexities of pattern and texture. However, it remains firmly grounded by Town’s use of strong outline colour and contrasting shapes. His technique of “synthesis, antithesis, and resolution seems…to account for the fact that a Town canvas often seems a contest, an argument, a clash of opposed wills.”