Ken Orton – I was born in 1951, the sixth of seven children in Yardley, Birmingham. I cannot remember a time when I did not paint. Most of my early paintings were imitations of my older brother Bill’s masterful renditions, who was naturally a very gifted artist. I was educated at Sheldon Heath Comprehensive School; and then Birmingham and Manchester Colleges of Art. Afterwards I taught Art in Birmingham for six years until I left for Spain, where for 20 years I was in charge of the Joan Miro Centro de Arte and the Baleares International School. In 1999 I moved to the USA and my new millennium dawned in New York. I currently split my time between the Catskill Mountains of New York and the Gulf Coast of Florida.
In recent years I have, I suppose, become a known prize winning artist. I have won a number of painting awards and several “best of shows” throughout the USA. I exhibit in prestigious galleries from Boston to Miami, Toronto to Whistler. Of the many prizes I have won in recent years I regard most fondly the Washington Square Painting Prize. This is New York Cities oldest art show and to follow in the footsteps of the many notable artists that have won this prize before me was, indeed, a cherished honour.
I have long been an “America fanatic” and I have always wanted to live in the USA. I have travelled to almost every state and am still enormously impressed by the sheer scale of the landscape and it’s enormous diversity. The American landscape is inspirational and the country’s paraphernalia such as old cars, old bars, old guitars and even the occasional naked arse have found there way onto my canvases. However my desire for the direction of my paintings have always been more academic. I sought a subject that in itself seemed to have little value, hoping that the values I imparted in the painting alone would form the point of attack on the senses of which I believe all great art comprises. This attack is visceral and totally lacking in sophistication. I often think of it in musical terms; rhythm, texture, colouration and tonal dynamics.
When I bought my house in the Catskills I found in the root cellar, case after case of pristine mason jars. I bought a few up into the kitchen and after studying them over breakfast for some days I began to see that this was a quite remarkable subject.
In painting glass one is attempting to render a surface that is composed entirely of either refracted of reflected light. The objects are rarely painted as an independent object. The raised lettering on the jars and bottles I paint have, by their prismatic nature, an ability to capture tone and colour from one side of the composition and pull it to the other. The rhythmic nature of this lettering provides a stave onto which the decaying patterns of colour, the tonal crescendos and the reflected counter melodies are written.
Through painting glass I have exposed an endless path of discoveries. I can paint photorealist images but also be more expressionistic whilst achieving what I believe to be powerful and engaging work of art