Doris Paterson


It’s the last Saturday before Christmas and I went grocery shopping this morning with Mrs. Stepford. There is a big storm forecast for Sunday with little chance of a good road clean-up before Christmas, so we were both picking up things we would need for the festivities – that is, if any one can get here for them.

Between us, we filled up a grocery buggy full of food and we were both grateful to be able to do so. Our next stop on this very busys day was at an artist-friend’s house. She was collecting  gifts and household items for a women she is sponsoring who has fled family violence with her two teenage sons and is living in a battered women’s shelter. The contrast of our ability to go out and buy what we needed/wanted for the holidays with her inability to go out into the community for fear, coupled with her current destitution was powerful We were very thankful for our respective prosperity.

We stood in line for fifteen minutes, the lines were so long. The combination of storm warning and the seasonal festivities had increased the number of shoppers exponentially.

Once our two missions were accomplished, we needed to  grab a quick bite somewhere. We opted for a gas-station lunch counter reminiscent of the five and dime counters of the ‘Sixties. The fare was plain but adequate. We avoided our favourite department store lunch counter because the mall parking was crazy and there was a likelihood with all the shopping that the service would be slow. We had a destination to make by two.

The event was a talk by Doris Paterson about her life and her work at the Maple Ridge Art Gallery. I’d seen the work a few days previous and found them most interesting. Where the average time for viewing a work in an art museum has been calculated at three seconds, I found myself taking five minutes in front of one and then the next of these very vibrant images. I convinced Mrs. Stepford that we had to go and go we did.

Doris Paterson is eighty-four and full of energy. Though she spoke of slowing down a bit, as she continued on, it was obvious that she would be creating images as long as she lived and breathed.

The show had forty-nine images, mostly paintings in acrylic on three hundred pound paper, but some collage work and hand-pulled prints done in the Japanese method as well.  The works spanned several decades so the styles changed as Paterson, a continuous learner and explorer, continued to add to her repertoire of skills and perceptions.

I fell in love with several of them, and given the lottery, I would have purchased several to live with and look at day to day. The one I show at the top of this post, she explained, was of a friend whose husband had died and she was having to sell her home and leave all she had built into it.  The stately woman stands by the door, looking out at a wild grassland view that has fed her soul over the years. Her pose captures the wistfulness; the woman’s heartache; her quiet thoughtfulness. It’s a universal message of loss and continuity. Other paintings of this earliest period illustrate the daily life of the community, like the woman in the bakery.


In this period,her drawing is figurative and elegantly so. She captures the specificity of faces; the detail of hands; the complicated composition of the bakery counter and its goods. In a series aabout women artists that follows, she begins to incorporate collage into the imagery – bits of wallpaper and cloth, paper patterns and such-like. Her composition and her use of shapes to define large areas of light, medium and dark tonality help give impact to her work.  Unfortunately the gallery lights prevented me from getting any good photos of  these to share with you here. This one has an unfortunate bit of glass reflection on it.


There is a greater degree of abstraction coming into the work that begins to take over. The next series resulted from a workshop that affected her work profoundly. She would begin to paint, she says, with nothing on her mind. After she had applied a few layers of paint, which resulted in a build up of rich colour and texture, images would begin to appear to her. She would reinforce these images, sometimes outlining them or cutting the shape of them in a collaged material. There is still figuration, but the abstraction of shapes and ideas intensifies. More is left to the viewer to determine.


Her move from realism to abstraction offended some of her best patrons, but she forged ahead regardless exploring  methods and materials within the context of her creative imagery.

Soon  she was leaving representational images out of her work entirely. Some show the influence of Friendsreich Hundertvasser and Paul Klee; two were clearly in homage to Matisse in his cut-out shape period. Her own voice prevails though.

After a number of works she calls Discoveries,


in acrylic and collage, she continued on with greater certainty that this was her path to follow, with this as a result:w-074-small


Her composition is engaging. It succeeds in keeping they eye moving back and forth through the shapes. There are stopping places and lots of coming and going, but the over image is balanced without being static. Her earlier favouring of shape continues strongly in these works. What you will not see in the photos posted here, but you see clearly in the originals, is the glow that is created by the multi-level build up of underpainting. There is a richness of both colour and texture. These are beautiful abstractions to live with.

Latterly, Paterson has been exploring again, using a build-up of curved lines to create a pattern. Once the exuberant grid is established, she works with colour in the interstices to establish movement in the overall image.  These works are quite joyful; and I must apologize for the quality of the photos, again. The interior lighting gave a yellow cast to paintings that clearly had bright white grounds. Even with colour adjustments, I couldn’t adjust the images to their original pure colours of French Ultramarine and Cerulean Blues.

w-066-a-small w-067-a-small

and I’m not sure if I have the colours quite right on the following two either, but they are representative, in any case.

w-068-small w-069-smalla

This woman has born and raised ten children; she’s written two books and is working on a third. She’s a steady fire of creativity and, as you can see, I was very happy to have not only caught her exhibition but also to have heard her talk about her art journey.

After a social cup of tea with the artist and her audience, it was a let down to go finish our mundane chores of providing for the festivities.

Once again I’m writing at an ungodly early hour of the day. It’s time to go and pull the banana loaf  out of the oven and get myself some sleep. So I bid you a wonderful day, a Seasonal wish of joy and familial harmony. Good night.


Have a look at this site, with more of her recent abstract work.


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2 Responses to “Doris Paterson”

  1. suburbanlife Says:

    I hope Doris is pleased by this very nice write-up. G

  2. forestrat Says:

    It’s neat that she has continued to grow and change throughout her carrer. One might not think that all these works were done by the same person. I did notice that the colors carried through. She seems partial to reddish-orange and blue-green.


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