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Paul Jorgensen - Paintings Without Borders

By Robert Amos December 15, 2003

} Paul Jorgensen - Paintings Without Borders This evening, December 4, six downtown Victoria art galleries are staying open late (5-8 pm) for a Gallery Walk. I suggest you start your tour with a look at Paul Jorgensen’s paintings at West End Gallery. Last week I met Paul Jorgensen in the vaults below West End Gallery. He had just delivered 22 of his new 'paintings without borders' for his show which opens tonight (1203 Broad Street, 388-0009, more pictures at www.westendgalleryltd.com, until December 18). Jorgensen has a Mickey Rooney boyishness which belies his 55 years. There’s a charming trace of innocence in his manner. He seems to find it hard to believe that after years of struggle he has been accepted by a prestigious gallery and is popular with a growing public. 'I’ve always painted,' Jorgensen began. 'My dad was a house painter.' As a young artist he progressed from an early passion for paint-by-numbers to the learn-to-paint books of Robert E. Wood. Building model cars, boats and ‘planes trained his hand and eye. Upon graduation from high school, he studied commercial art at the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr Institute). After graduation, 'I worked for a year or so for a magazine,' he went on, 'but I thought, 'I can’t make a living out of this.' With his wife, Nancy, he settled into life in Nanaimo where he ran a tropical plant store, a cafeteria restaurant and worked in a bakery and deli. But he never gave up painting, exhibiting in his studio and wherever else he could. 'Painting has always been the goal, ' this artist concluded. Jorgensen is of the opinion that it was Yellow Point artist Nixie Barton who called Dan and Lana Hudon at the West End Gallery and told them to take a look at his work. The artist admits that at that point his painting was 'all over the place,' in regard to subject, style and size. Of the six paintings which he brought to West End, the Hudons chose three views with a sort of bird’s-eye perspective, a point of view looking down on fields and rooftops. The gallery sold them before the week was out, and called for more. Many paintings in the current show are also seen from above, looking down on Jorgensen’s imaginary townscapes. His quaint buildings are stretched way up vertical, like bean sprouts reaching for the sun. Bulbous hedges (a la Stanley Spencer) and polka-dot meadows fill in the space. Matchbox cars and birdhouses indicate someone is at home, but mostly the people are keeping out of sight. 'I used to work from photographs,' Jorgensen admitted. But he prefers to add and subtract from his subjects at will. 'This way I have so much more freedom to create an eye-catching landscape.' Those sunset skies he favours certainly are eye-catching. 'I want to be dramatic,' the artist insisted, 'without being...'. He paused to consider. Without being what, Paul? 'They’re not profound or thought-provoking,' he continued. 'I want them to be pleasant, yet you can always look around and find new things.' Jorgensen doesn’t aspire to be part of the avant garde, or to break new ground. His goal is to create something which will attract people and make a decorative statement. He says he wants to leave viewers 'pleasantly buzzy'. Not to say the man isn’t extremely creative. His new crop of images includes some very appealing ones which show his toytown world as seen from ground level looking up. Peering up from the pavement we get a looming view of an old car’s grille, a chance to savour the wooden moulding under the eaves of a nearby house, and consider the overarching presence of the trees. These views are unexpected. 'They’re views you never see,' Jorgensen explains, 'unless you fall down or you are in an airplane.' He paints on panels of Masonite, a common pressed wood-fibre board. These panels are beautifully mounted and are undercoated with glossy black acrylic paint. With chalk he lays out his composition and then begins to colour the areas one by one. 'I do them in a paint-by-numbers way,' Jorgensen jokes. The flat shiny surface allows him a great deal of freedom the 'push the paint around', moreso than the toothy weave of canvas. He employs an apparently endless range of paint applications, whether the passages of his paintings be dry-brushed, sprayed on, dripped wet-into-wet or glazed in transparent layers. When I asked him about this, he offered that he 'just let the paint do what it might.' Jorgensen went on to note that he uses a technique of subtraction. As important as putting the paint on is his skill at taking it off with a bit of paper towel. This approach may seem tentative, but it acquires a brilliant finality when sealed beneath an unctuous layer of glossy acrylic varnish. Jorgensen’s confidence is growing fast, and he has allowed himself lots of room to grow. While the toytown elements link this pictures to the nostalgic heart of his audience, these are in fact impressive abstract paintings. The future looks good in The Land of Borderless Painting. ___________________________________________ Copyright © 2003 Robert Amos Robert Amos is an artist and art writer who lives in Victoria, B. C.. He can be contacted by e-mail and you can view his paintings at www.robertamos.com