Brian Portman

Hiram Butler Gallery

Viewing Brian Portman’s drawings is like scrolling through a mine shaft. They’re big and black, and etched with luminous shapes that seem embedded in fossilized strata. Figuration is immanent but it never emerges enough to match recognizable terrestrial experience. The outlines of globs and carapaces, feathering webs, and ragged tendrils drift through phosophorescent fields and charred patches. The result is a tangle of subterranean abundance.

Portman’s new works on paper include an immense drawing, Bower, 1990, covering an entire wall of the big pitched-roof gallery space. Portman has covered the surface with layers of architectural details overrun with organic activity. Pierced at the center by a floor-length window, the embellished surface suggests a chapel wall framing an altar or gateway. On the left side hover clusters of spheres with the weighty presence of seated deities, surrounded

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