Project Description


May 23 to July 6, 2019

Nancy Toomey Fine Art is pleased to announce an exhibition of works by Ray Turner entitled Subject on view from May 23 to July 6, 2019. The gallery is located inside San Francisco’s Minnesota Street Project, 1275 Minnesota Street.

Ray Turner, Man no. 5, 2008-2015, Oil on Glass, 12 x 12 Inches

Ray Turner, an interpretive artist of landscapes and portraiture, refers to the works he is currently making as “Head Paintings.” When he began this series, he seized this exacting format with his customary scope of detail and sweeping brushwork. His investigation of this genre’s potential for permutation and variation is comprised of the sitter’s image rendered with tonal washes of oil on glass. HIs choice of this fragile material juxtaposed with his tactile and plush application of paint makes for a resonant, seductive surface. For Turner, the paint is always the most important element, and his customarily striking use of color is fully evident here. Traditionally in portrait painting, color is the equivalent for emotion and mood, providing its visual vocabulary. These works are rendered with a broad spectrum of tints, with interchangeable store sample swatches as background, fanning out a wide range of color values. Capturing a likeness is not Turner’s particular intention, but rather a contemplation and exploration defining the issues of art and artifice.

Ray Turner, Woman no. 10, 2008-2015, Oil on Glass, 12 x 12 Inches

Each piece begins as an experiment. Turner moves the paint around inside the confined border of the shape of the human head. It begins as a puddle of material, and through the process of manipulating that puddle it becomes the subject. The daily practice of moving paint and shaping structures like the human head is what compels the artist.

Ray Turner, Man no. 8, 2008-2015, Oil on Glass, 12 x 12 Inches

The paintings in this exhibition are portrayals of people from varied cities and towns across the country- they are a cross section from a traveling museum exhibition called Population. The subjects are chosen by each institution, with the criteria to choose both the celebrated and the uncelebrated. Sometimes the people are well known (mayors, entertainers, athletes, etc.) and sometimes not so well known (toll booth operators, sign twirlers, taxi drivers, etc.).

Ray Turner, Man no. 19, 2008-2015, Oil on Glass, 12 x 12 Inches

Turner continues to be challenged by his subjects and since the inception of this body of work, the portraits have continued to change and evolve. In looking at what has now been a ten year project of over 1000 paintings, the common denominator remains the love of the process itself.

Ray Turner, Woman no. 3, 2019, Oil on Glass, 20 x 20 Inches

“I am driven by my love of paint,” says Turner. “Its physicality is as important to me as the piece itself. My objective is to get out of the way and allow the piece to go wherever it goes. It always works when I allow the painting to paint itself.”

Ray Turner, Photo by Erwin Darmali

Born in Stockton, California, Ray Turner lives and works in Los Angeles. Turner received his BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where he later taught for many years. Known for developing strong thematic series, Turner has worked in a variety of genres with an array of subjects ranging from landscapes to abstracts, including his Good Man Bad Man series and Population. Inspired by the 19th century American romantic landscape painters and their quest for the sublime, he explores man’s domination of nature or absence from it as if both occupied a dimension beyond the constraints of time and space. His paintings become metaphors for the voyage that moves us through life, while the scenes they depict exist in a state of suspended animation, poised in a balance of poetic tensions signifying the cosmic conflict of the ephemeral versus permanence. His figurative work is some of his most ambitious of all his genres numbering over two thousand works, and has been exhibited in a number of museums across the USA.

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