Gordon Rayner (1935-2010) 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. It appears on the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art website and the link is here: ccca.ca.

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.

The last one, waiting for him on his easel, is unfinished. He was working to the end, always pushing toward the next discovery.

Additional works can be seen at Christopher Cutts Gallery.

Kate Regan Rayner

February 2018