Allen Boyer: “Portals” by Glennray Tutor

Editor’s Note: Glennray Tutor will discuss “Portals” with Deborah Freeland, and sign copies of the book, on Saturday, August 11, 2018, at 5 p.m., at the Powerhouse, as part of the Oxford Fringe Festival. The event is sponsored by Square Books. The “Portals” signing and discussion are free and open to all, and cocktails and snacks will be provided.

Portals by Glennray Tutor. Yoknapatwpha Press. 200 pages. $55

Glennray Tutor. Photo courtesy of Yoknapatawpha Press.

The hyperrealist paintings of Oxford artist Glennray Tutor are handsomely showcased in “Portals,” issued by Yoknapatawpha Press.

“Portals” reproduces 236 paintings by Tutor, spanning the years from 1983 to the present. The illustrations show what themes and subjects have featured in Tutor’s work across the decades – landscape details, store windows, cars, still-life collections of toys, candies, marbles, and fireworks.

In a long interview, Tutor speaks with uncommon directness about his work. A central declaration is that “my paintings consist of contemporary objects used metaphorically . . . . An object in a painting of mine is the tip of the iceberg.” He goes on to discuss how metaphors are included, or suggested, in his paintings.

“A person may look at a painting of mine and enjoy it simply from recognition of the objects presented. . . . It is important, though, to understand that what you see in a painting of mine is only part of what the painting is about. The paintings are about a lot of other things as well. And these things you cannot see. My paintings are made up of portals. What the viewer will see through the first portal will be objects he will recognize. The stores, people, cars, and such. I’m using these objects not only for what they are, but also metaphorically to express deeper thoughts and feelings. Consequently there will be other portals as well.”

A painting of a farmer or a truck gives the appearance that time has stopped, but the point of the painting is that action will resume, that work will continue. A youth and an old man fishing in a boat may be the same person, seen at different ages. Mason jars of canned vegetables stand for memories. Fireworks represent life, death, and resurrection: “When the fuses are lit, everything changes.”

Seeing so many of Tutor’s paintings side by side is worth a great deal. It shows how Tutor’s early work recalled Andrew Wyeth – that is, if someone could have tuned out the gray in Wyeth and turned up the color. It demonstrates how much time Tutor has given to the surfaces as well as the substance of his subjects. In his paintings of the Square, he lavishes less attention on the lines of the buildings than on their reflections in the windows of parked cars. When he paints a Mason jar of canned beans, the sheen of the glass is the greatest achievement of the picture.

If you paint a painting of a set of sunglasses, with a panorama reflected in each dark lense, Tutor asks, is this a still life or a landscape? With complete mastery of his technique, he makes an ironic artist’s joke. In some of Tutor’s paintings, inspired by Roy Lichtenstein, spherical marbles, painted with the sheen of glass, cast oval pools of dark color across the flat black-and-white surface of comic book panel drawings. Refracted through the marbles, white light has become color and light has become shadow.

This is not a catalogue raisonné. The collection of paintings is extensive but not inclusive, and Tutor’s book illustrations and dust-jacket covers fall outside its scope. John Worley supplies an introduction and Zach Tutor conducts the interview with his father. The preservation and high quality of the illustrations were assured by the work of Deborah Freeland.

The paintings in “Portals” show just how tirelessly and carefully Tutor has painted over the years. Not coincidentally, these are the same years in which Hollywood animators have worked to achieve the same effects, to perfect the representation of varied surfaces. It is remarkable how often Tutor’s achievement has outpaced Pixar.


Allen Boyer is the book editor of HottyToddy.com

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