Bill Scott “A Prolonged Moment”

Bill Scott’s Colorful Fantasies

For his eighth solo show with Hollis Taggart, Bill Scott presents “A Prolonged Moment”, an exhibition featuring new oil on canvas paintings and watercolors on paper. The show is viewable online and by appointment at the gallery’s 26th Street location from June 15 through July 24, 2020.

Installation view of Bill Scott: A Prolonged Moment. Courtesy of Hollis Taggart

The included works are full of rich color and a significant amount of energy and movement.  Although the gallery is currently open by appointment only at the moment of publication, Scott’s rich abstractions are likely to appeal to collectors exploring online, with their bright colors, energy, and immediately recognized gestures–all of which are characteristic of Scott’s previous work.  

All of the work in the show starts with large swashes of bold colors; reds, blues, and yellows become dominant surfaces for Scott’s expressive brushwork. Upon finishing the groundwork of color, the artist begins digging into his past and also his present surroundings.  References to natural forms, shapes, traditional landscapes, plants, and the local Philadelphia skyline are all visible in his new works.

Compared to his older pieces, there is a bit more geometry in these paintings, and there is a more illustrative influence, possibly from the return to using a finer watercolor brush for the smaller works on paper.   With the canvases, Scott is working with numerous layers of thin and transparent paint, with slow and methodical applications, which is in strong contrast to many abstract painters of his generation who were working quickly and thickly, which much less deliberate intent.

In the catalog that accompanies the exhibition, the artist states that the small watercolors are not studies for paintings, and it would appear that they are spiritually connected, but have a very separate intent. These small-scale works, measuring approximately 12 x 16 in | 30 x 41 cm and mostly horizontal in orientation, are microscapes within the larger works.  A more densely packed surface area of more traditional Japanese inspired brushwork, and a darker overall palette.  Gallerist Hollis Taggart emphasizes the compositional balance of these works in the exhibition catalog, and explains that they “further reflect the complexity and richness of his practice.” 

Installation view of Bill Scott: A Prolonged Moment. Courtesy of Hollis Taggart

In the catalog, Scott talks about his early life, how he would often escape to the overgrown and imaginary garden outside the house as a place of comfort from the issues his parents were having, and how it has been a continuing influence on his work.  These themes call to mind Arshile Gorky’s “Garden in Sochi” (1941), which features an abstract composition inspired by the artist’s childhood memories of his native Armenia.

The artist also discusses the notion of paradise, and it becomes apparent that he’s using his own painting practices as a mode of escape the humdrum activities of daily life, and is searching for something with a deeper meaning; something with a greater reward.  These thoughts are not overtly visible in the work to the viewer, as the artist’s unconscious are layered into the work, particularly with his use of vibrant colors and lavish imagery.   Scott is trying to offer us the layers buried closer to his heart, providing relief for him, and majestic forms for the viewer.

Installation view of Bill Scott: A Prolonged Moment. Courtesy of Hollis Taggart

He also explains in the exhibition text that he listens to music while painting, often bittersweet ballads. Clearly Scott is balancing a complexity of emotions, experience, and a haunting past that he paints himself out of to brighten his mood, and also the world around him.  There is truly an escape into a fantasy world, and the viewer will gladly step in alongside the artist to take in and cheer on the positivity begging to come out.

At the end of the day Scott combines inspiration from the world around him with deep thoughts going through his head, and what we are left with is bright and colorful paintings with rhythmic and soulful brushwork that are mature, calculated, and offer a lot more to the patient viewer who takes the opportunity to spend a prolonged moment with each work to understand the beauty that is buried above and below the painted surface.