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RONALD BLOORE: NEW DIRECTIONS

Sulas77

Untitled, 1977, oil on masonite, 122x234cm (reproduced with the article)

by Theodore Allen Heinrich
artscanada magazine, May/June 1979

“a superb abstraction of 
a different order”

Abstraction in modern art is most commonly a rational reordering of observed things, as in a Cubist still life. It can at another extreme be rearrangements of formalized concepts, such as the elements of Euclidean geometry. Like other types of painting, abstractions can also be drawn from memories, recalled experiences that may have happened just now or long ago, have lost their clarity, combined or otherwise become different from how they first met the eye and the senses. Here the unconscious may play a part equal to or greater than that of intellect.

Ronald Bloore is a romantic Euclidean, interested in constant speculation rather than a final order. He is also a teacher and talker with positive, sharply defined, tersely expressed opinions. These often display a nice balance between humour and scorn. He also has a strongly spiritual side of Emersonian cast but tinged with non-rational mysticism. It is this very private sense that nourishes and perhaps at bottom inspires his art, an art that might be uncomfortably austere were it not warmed and humanized by memories.

Sackville3x6

Untitled Sackville Series, 1979, 91 x 122cm, oil on masonite, click to see larger.
This work is in stock at the Wallace Galleries in Calgary and showed there in 2016.

Abstraction can proceed from colours as well as shapes. Bloore has preoccupied himself for years with the nuances of that abstraction of all colours as mixed light that we call by the flat word, white! He uses, by his own count, 26 varieties of white, playing one against another, varying them with textures and the shadows of their edges as well as with tones. His whites may occasionally be those of eggs or snow, skin or fur, linen or stone, and other palpable things but more essential are the whitewashed sculptures that are the midget churches of Aegean islands and certainly the walls and fissures and fleeces of clouds. But this cloudbank of abstracted cloud whites is made of the residue of big and thick clouds belonging to the daylight hours furthest removed from the excesses of dawn and sunset, untroubled by the exaggerations of tempests, untouched by the moon, but no less romantic for all that; in choosing his palette he is more the Van de Velde than the Descartes and not at all the Mondrian.

We have rarely been permitted a glimpse of Bloore's working methods, but a fresh departure has persuaded him to share a bit of the process along with a striking example of the finished product.

Oil on Paper sketch

May 21, 1978, pencil, ink, oil on paper, 46x61cm, reproduced with the article
This work hung in the Art Company small works show of 2003 on the site here.

The Byzantine Light series came to an end after some 70 paintings and countless drawings.* As is shown here (above), a new kind of drawing or sketch has been 
emerging since the summer of 1978 and these 
are already leading to a different sort of 
painting from anything previously seen in his 
career. They are still white on white, but 
with a strikingly altered and fresh imagery. 
New ideas are flowing out of the artist's 
unconscious. He finds himself putting them 
down in their first tentative form at six in the 
morning (and is impatient for the end of his 
classes at York University and the beginning 
of an uninterrupted summer of painting). 
These sketches alone are significant enough 
to justify comment on a selection from 
among them.

These works in ink and oil on paper have 
more the character of drawing than painting, 
suggest something of the quality of studies 
but nonetheless are complete statements. A 
number of them have already been transformed into paintings with relatively minor 
modification. Bloore is not one to analyze his 
own works, at least for quotation, so one is 
free to make of them what one may. The majority happen to be horizontal, but neither 
they nor the few vertical sheets work except 
in the direction indicated by the artist. This 
strongly suggests that the degree of 
randomness or chance in his method is at this 
stage very slight. All make use of a small 
number (two to four) of nonrepresentational 
shapes or fragments of flat shapes. These 
appear, sometimes in positive-negative 
associations, with or against tonally inflected 
but mainly depthless grounds.

Nickle Oil Sketch

May 26 1979, pencil, ink, oil on paper, 46x61cm, Nickle Arts Museum, Calgary
Five other such works in the Art Gallery of Peterborough can be seen here.

The shapes and the methods, almost 
automatist, are unlike any work of recent 
years. Gone are the definite geometric 
figures, the clusters of short parallel raised 
lines, the stars, the mammary allusions, the 
patterned silences. There are now surprising 
disharmonies of ectoplasmic curves and 
jagged angles engaged in dialogues variously 
of argument or restless movement. 
Something is happening, but we don't yet 
know quite what from these disconnected 
frames. There is the fascination of an 
unfinished serial, complicated by the 
unexpected presence in several of them of 
subliminal hints of either reclining figures 
with upraised knees or the heads of birds. 
Most of these amorphous shapes begin and 
end outside the picture plane, many have 
fully defined edges more related to direction 
than to description, but some are incomplete 
and indicated by startlingly hesitant lines. Their relations in depth can be extremely 
ambiguous, for space is frequently implied if 
formally annihilated. Here they differ 
markedly from the paintings, since the 
method prohibits the relief which is integral 
to the large works. Some of the figuration 
looks like fragments of the big, extremely 
complex wheels that, often in pairs, 
dominated his paintings of nearly 20 years 
ago (1960- 61). But where those wheels were 
as fixed as the wheels of the stone chariots of 
the sun god at Konarak, these fragments are 
actively going somewhere, like the micro- 
organisms that move with such inexplicable 
but compelling force on a laboratory slide. In 
one case there is a sense of joyous, all-out 
running of the kind Picasso abstracted in an 
absolutely different way in the period when 
he was so closely associated with ballet and 
between-rehearsals romps on the beach.

791028a

A smaller example from Oct. 28 1979, pencil, ink, oil on paper, 23x31cm, click to see larger.

These works on paper have been issuing in 
a steady stream since last summer. The large 
untitled new painting illustrated below, a 48 
by 92-inch oil on masonite, may show where 
they are tending to go. It is certainly not a 
summary of previous work, but a very 
Minerva of apparently parthenogenetic 
marvels. It testifies of course to Bloore' s 
unaltered faith in the inexhaustible expressiveness of whites as both faintly tinted light 
and as shadow-casting pigments. It is in that 
sense one of his most fully definite works to date, but it is redefining in new terms his 
unique fusion of spirit and substance. Here there is a remarkable balance of stasis 
and flux. The calm space is dominated at the 
left by a floating pattern of overlapping rows 
of softened meanders that form themselves 
into a slightly flattened diamond. This is 
positioned somewhat as Robert Goodnough 
places his dense, shapeless swirls of leaflike 
fragments, but has an entirely different effect. From it two narrow streamers of 
unequal thickness stretch out horizontally 
and parallel all the way to the right edge. 
These figurations have a perceptible 
thickness in ivory and fleece whites against a 
smooth, grayed-white ground. It is at once 
serene, inevitable and as compact with force 
as a flight of northward-migrating birds 
without in the slightest representing such an 
observable event. It is a superb abstraction of 
a different order, a symbol of contained, 
purposive energy, a shapely diagram of what 
civilization aspires to be within a natural 
order that appears immune to reason.

Sulas77

Untitled, 1977, oil on masonite, 122x234cm, reproduced with the article in artscanada
This work hung in the “Not Without Design” retrospective and is also on the site here.

* - It is true that in 1977, “the Byzantine Light series came to an end after some 70 paintings,” but there were not “countless drawings” in that series at all, in the sense of independent works - in fact only one is known of. There were a few maquettes (one is viewable in high resolution here) and many, many idea sketches on random paper such as the four in Peterborough shown here.
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