Los Angeles

Donald Borthwick

Santa Barbara Museum and Gallery de Silva

Donald Borthwick’s paintings are fresh and in­ventive, full of whimsy, humor, pathos and pain. Some of his canvases are abstract, many of them have literary references, and others are filled with figurative and realistic material.

Studio Assembly is divided into areas of concentrated movement and activity fused into spatial relationships that are evocative. Model Walking is a carefully drawn chair with an elegant textured drape calculated to emphasize the movement of the model walking away.

Others, such as Plan for an un­painted title painting, or Essay on the Nature of painting, have typed literary references cut up and glued onto the face of the picture. They read “a truly admirable type woman promising true love and great glory,” or “a landscape seen through here that only an Impressionist brush could marry to canvas,” or “an unknown and uncircumscribed spirit ascending the stairs.” These comments, incorporated into the drawn form, give some additional in­sight into Borthwick’s mystique and his ability to lead the viewer into the pic­ture in search of shared images and ex­periences. In his paintings are the visu­al impact of moments one has not quite grasped or been able to hold on to, fleeting scenes, impressions, the kaleidoscope of events, emotions, peo­ple as they move into and out of one’s consciousness.

Borthwick was born in San Diego and studied at the University of Califor­nia at Berkeley and at San Diego State College. After receiving his M.A. in 1960 he studied abroad at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts at Ox­ford University, England. There is some contemporary English influence noticeable in Borthwick’s work, but he is primarily rooted in the American scene and environment. In many of his paint­ings he breaks his canvas up into rooms, circles and spaces with small figures and symbols, paintings within paintings, and scenes relating to each other visually, an interplay of form and space. Many of the vivid colors he uses serve to focus from one area to another or spotlight a dramatic movement in the painting.

The shows have also included some new developments in polychrome re­lief in which cardboard, plaster and paint combine to build up a bold high relief pattern and then incorporate the movement of color and shapes across the face of the relief. He is remarkably successful in establishing a strong uni­ty in handling of these materials. Borth­wick’s confrontation with his discipline is perceptive and discriminating; he knows what he’s about.

––Harriette von Breton