Gordon Rayner (1935-2010) is best known for his physically immediate approach to painting and lavish use of colour. Part of the Isaacs Gallery stable of artists which included Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, Dennis Burton, Richard Gorman, John Meredith and Robert Markle, Rayner took a particular interest in American colour field painting, in particular de Kooning.
Gordon Rayner was born and died in Toronto, a city he loved, but also loved to wander from. He travelled the world and also spent much time in the Ontario bush country, whose mysteries inspired much of his work.
“Mnemonica,” his essay for the 1979 retrospective, is an engrossing personal history and reflection on his early artistic influences and methods of working.
However, Rayner painted vigorously for another three decades, moving from abstract to figurative works, from oil to acrylic and back to oil again, exploring many subjects and ending up with a series of lucid, unsparing self-portraits.
While he was criticized by some for being always unpredictable, he had many ideas and too much curiosity to rest in one place. He loved the work of Morandi, who timelessly repainted the same bottles and jars, with mere variations of configuration, but such was not Rayner’s way. It was important to step into the unknown. “What matters, but risk,” he would say.
He liked to work in series, such as his “constructed paintings,” birds-and-bush paintings of the 80’s, the fantastical Oaxaca Suite and related paintings of Mexico, the portraits of artists and the final self-portraits.