Snap No. 17 1972–73
Harold Town’s Snap series of paintings of 1972–76 make a monumental impact with their intense blasts of textured colour and simple, concentrated forms. He applies the pigment by stretching a string in front of the canvas, loading it with paint, and then snapping it against the picture surface. These are “excruciatingly demanding pictures formed an eighth of an inch at a time,” to quote the critic Gary Michael Dault. At the same time, Snap No. 17 contains a lexicon of Town’s long-time abstract motifs. The corners are emphasized; coloured discs that imply advancing and receding movement are cut by the frame, a hint that space goes on beyond its edges. A mysterious abstract form thrusts in from the left, its silhouette resembling architectural mouldings (as in the Parks series) while at the same time suggesting a comic gesture—an arm delivering a punch or held out in a dance. Two small contrasting entities—flatly painted and sharply outlined—seem to float in front of the canvas. Each element in the painting is highly ambiguous, and together they create an illusory, fictional space. The overall concern is with richness of colour and powerful impact: the painting engulfs the viewer and dominates any setting within which it is placed.