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on May 16, 2017 in | 0 comments

(Click to Enlarge)
Acrylic on Canvas
18 x 24 inches
Good condition with stretcher indention upper left
Signed Partoll lower left
Signed Erna Partoll and titled “Dunescape” Acrylic on attached card en verso
Estimated from the 1970s
Her works appear at the Berta Walker Gallery in Provincetown, MA.

Ideas of size and scale lose meaning in the seductive presence of artist Erna Partoll’s vocabulary of angular, curved and rounded shapes.

By Susan Rand Brown

Ideas of size and scale lose meaning in the seductive presence of artist Erna Partoll’s vocabulary of angular, curved and rounded shapes.

Like an Alice stretching and shrinking as she makes her way through an unexpected wonderland, to stare into one of Partoll’s symbolic landscapes — magic potions on paper or canvas — is to be equally surprised by the unexpected.

The eye follows a pathway through a highly stylized, compressed lifetime of experiences, a Commercial Street as recalled in a dream, brightly colored doors and windows beckoning us to enter, blues and greens of a rippling stream in the foreground and a hot sun floating high in the picture plane.

A sample of Partoll’s new paintings in acrylic on canvas, whose lighter palette and airy, less detailed images will surprise followers of her work, plus all of her highly compressed ink drawings on paper will open July 11 at the Berta Walker Gallery, 208 Bradford St., Provincetown, with an artist’s reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Painters Donald Beal and Nancy Craig, and sculptor Douglas Culhane share the opening. The Walker Gallery, where Partoll has shown work for over a decade, is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Born in St. Gallen, Switzerland, the tri-lingual Partoll left home to pursue the life of the artist, in London, Paris, Montreal and Toronto. She has painted in Provincetown since 1970, following a decade in Manhattan studying five days a week at the famed Art Students League. Her teachers, who include Theodoros Stamos, close friend to Mark Rothko (who painted in Provincetown), were working in the color field style, using carefully balanced forms and rich, luminous washes of color rather than recognizable objects to achieve depth and movement. In her new paintings, Partoll layers color over color, adding glazes to build the surface of the canvas until satisfied with what seems like an inner glow.

Partoll’s first year in town was spent just looking at the ocean, then returning home to record the hypnotic, life-altering experience. The result was “The Beach Drawings,” where she explored the potential of the wave as shape and archetype. Today the wave is one of the elements she turns to again and again. From Provincetown printmaker Seong Moy she learned the technique of white-line wood-block printing, a medium well-suited to Partoll’s confident handling of shape and color.

During a visit to the artist’s inviting East End studio, paired pieces selected for the show are placed on an easel where a strong afternoon sun plays on their surface. In the pastel “Mid-Day (Portals),” a dark band pulls across the upper third of the canvas, its curves echoing waves in the foreground. A central portal pulls upward toward concentric circles, traditional symbols of fulfillment and completion.

The muted palette of the horizontal “Green Dome (Portals)” suggests the landscape seen through the filter of moonlight. A band of green and red ribbons, or waves, floats in the forefront. Pale concentric circles to the upper left exert a gentle pull, while a cluster of the slightly rounded door-like shapes Partoll refers to as portals hover around their peachy-yellow companion.

“I especially love the symbol of the portal,” the artist says with excitement about this element suggesting motion into the future. “It’s so mysterious. There’s always something beyond the portal. It’s inviting, but also forbidding. It could be closed, or, to me, most likely something is leading to something else. It’s the expectation, the wonder and the mystery” that keeps this European-born Provincetown painter close to home, exploring a seemingly endless world of color and form all her own.