Heather Horton is a Canadian figurative artist painting mostly portraiture and still life. She is represented by the Abbozzo Gallery, the Loch Gallery and the Kurbatoff Art Gallery and many of her sold and available paintings and illustrations are on display on her website. Today’s review is dedicated to the artist’s portraits.
The artist utilizes portraiture to construct an effective and flexible tool of psychological analysis. Three major trends, which may also be viewed as distinct stages in each particular analysis, emerge as the tool’s core components: profile, en face and close-up portrayals. In some cases the latter conjoins with the other two as a formal auxiliary element, bringing the model farther from or closer to the viewer but, it assumes an independent role, not dissimilar to that of a sub-genre, when radically foregrounded. Combined, these categories constitute a conceptual blueprint — an artistic framework with the outspoken purpose of variety and the underlying purpose of systematic psychological excavation.
The endeavor to create a phased, relatively three dimensional replica of a model reflects the desire to present her or him as a nuanced and complex human being. Interestingly, more often than not, a single model would enjoy only one of the stages. It doesn’t matter: the artist’s method should be seen as a grand scheme for tapping into the human condition as a whole rather than into a particular individual psyche. I think it is up to the audience and other artists to decide whether this method has a universal value — but it’s individual worth for the artist is unquestionable, as the portraits consistently display a spectrum of mental and emotional experiences, from ironic self-awareness to quiet and timid introspection, from embarrassed self-consciousness to spontaneous expressions of joy.
Settings and accessories play an important part in adding psychological bulk to viewer’s mental image of the depicted, particularly because many of the portraits, and especially the self portraits, appear to be carefully staged. The artist’s choice of subject matter in this sphere leads me to conclude that her models concern themselves with transitions. For instance, the bed as a place of transition from the state of waking to the state of sleep — or from life to death in a more generalized interpretation (which I prefer). The wedding dress may symbolize a transition from loneliness (or solitude) to a communal form of living, from hiding to sharing, and so on. It’s easy to see that these common to all mankind themes resonate with that “grand scheme” mentioned above.
Although it may seem that the craft itself becomes a secondary element for a portrayal of human experiences, it is in fact the carrier, or the host that indeed fosters the artist’s conceptions into actual realization. To my mind, the artist possesses both the vision and the means to express it — and it is these qualities together that make her portraits such deeply telling images.