By Tom Wachunas
“The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt.”
– Henry Cartier-Bresson
“The countenance is the portrait of the soul and the eyes mark its intentions.” – Cicero
“Ah! Portraiture, portraiture with the thought, the soul of the model in it, that is what I think must come.” – Vincent van Gogh
EXHIBIT: “50: New Portraits by Heather Bullach” at Translations Art Gallery, THROUGH MARCH 1, 331 Cleveland Avenue NW, downtown Canton. Viewing hours Noon to 5p.m. Wednesdays- Saturdays. www.translationsart.com
Heather Bullach web site:
With this superb exhibit of 50 oil portraits (presented on 48 canvases) by Heather Bullach, Translations Art Gallery celebrates a milestone – its 50th exhibit. So here’s a heartfelt congratulations to curator Craig Joseph, both for his continuing dedication to consistently organizing exhibits of substantial aesthetic worth and his bold prompting that led Bullach to execute the hefty body of work we see here. A labor of love, really. For the full background, here’s a link to The Repository article from February 6 by Dan Kane: http://www.cantonrep.com/article/20140205/ENTERTAINMENT/140209660
I’m well acquainted with the purist dictum that “truth” in painted portraits must come from disciplined observing and working from life – from the model posed in real time. Fair enough. But I believe that disciplined observing can employ many methodologies toward the same end, including Bullach’s use of a computer to accurately structure and translate her original photos of her subjects into the painted picture plane. And to her method she brings a necessarily keen, sensitive eye for nuances of light, color and perspective, along with a remarkably adroit physical touch that gives a silken presence to her surfaces.
So what I find most compelling about these paintings is how thoroughly they eclipse my rational consciousness of their artificiality. These are, after all, less than life-size, two-dimensional painted canvases, and twice-removed from “reality” since they are “copies” of photographs. But their impeccably skilled illusionism is such that they transcend merely credible likenesses and exude lifenesses. Even the sepia-toned portraits seem to breathe, to speak.
And who are these people doing the breathing and speaking ? They collectively represent the ethos, the soul of the downtown Arts District in all of its aspects. Read the statements that accompany the portraits in this ambitious homage, and learn of individual motivations, contributions and influences.
That said, I am equally thrilled and humbled to be included among them. Seeing my excellently rendered portrait was a reminder of how oil paint adds ten pounds… Oops, wrong medium. Still, I must do something about this sweet tooth of mine…
But seriously, folks… Thanks to Heather Bullach’s dizzying work ethic and astonishing virtuosity with a brush, this exquisite collection fills the gallery with palpable joie de vivre and authentic reverence for the community that has done so much to elevate Canton’s cultural vitality.
PHOTOS, from top: Heather Bullach at work; Bullach’s portrait of Craig Joseph; preparatory drawings; installation view