Artwork by Harold Barling Town,  Gaiety

Harold Town

oil and lucite on board
signed and dated 1960 upper left
30 x 30 ins ( 76.2 x 76.2 cms )

Sold for $21,600.00
Sale date: December 3rd 2020

Canadian Fine Arts, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Gerta Moray, “Harold Town, Life & Work” [online publication], Art Canada Institute, Toronto, 2014, pages 31 and 62
Iris Nowell, “Harold Town”, Vancouver, 2014, page 103
Bold colour and the thick application of paint typify Harold Town’s approach to abstract painting in Canada during the 1960s. The heavy application of black paint creates a visual vortex of depth while the use of bright orange, blue and pink pop from the inky space in organic forms. Juxtaposing the intense darkness of the background with bright
organic shapes in candy colours was a particular strategy Town often employed to play with perspective and the flatness of the image plane. This practice would later blossom and evolve into the artist’s “Tyranny of the Corner” series of the early 1960s with a layering of ‘doughnuts’ on blue-black backgrounds. “Gaiety” serves as an excellent example of the artist’s early development of visual patterning in abstract art.

Moreover, significant attention is paid to the corners and edges of “Gaiety”, as Town experimented with the importance of compositional weight at the edges of the work, exploring the boundaries of the image plane. Town described his move away from the dominating central image, favouring the corners which, “in most paintings are like uninvited guests at a party, uneasy and unattended... I have invited the corners to come early to the party and tried, if anything, to make all the elements of the painting that arrived later a trifle uncomfortable.” Using bright bands of jagged yellow and a checkered pattern at the lower edge of the artwork- a nod to the modernist grid- the artist immediately forces the viewer’s eye to the peripheral edges of the composition and invites consideration of these spaces as equal players in the compositional layout. There is an oscillation between intention and chance in the work. The elements seemingly exist by happenstance on the image plane, but indeed were very intentionally placed by the artist to challenge our expectations of both composition and abstract painting.

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Harold Barling Town
(1924 - 1990) Painters Eleven, OSA, RCA

Born in 1924, Harold Town lived most of his life in Toronto. He studied at both Central Technical School and the Ontario College of Art and, upon graduating in 1945, became an accomplished illustrator for advertising agencies and magazines such as Macleans and Mayfair. Town was a founder and member of the Painters Eleven, a group of Toronto abstract artists that exhibited together during the 1950s.