John Powell is a bold artist. He doesn’t shy away from color or detail as is so clearly evidenced in any one of his oil paintings. Powell has an uncanny ability to meld reality with fantasy to create lush landscapes and ornate still-life’s. Perhaps his interpretation of the world comes from his Hollywood roots; John Powell grew up in Hollywood, California. As a young man Powell joined the Navy for a four year stint. Two of those years were spent based in Japan where he developed a deep-seeded interest in the Far East and Japanese culture. Throughout his life Powell has continued to travel and collect objects from around the world. These artifacts feature prominently in his paintings.
Powell’s steady hand and vivid imagination lead to incredibly detailed images, both in the foreground and background. Not a single blade of grass or curlicue design on a Japanese vase escapes Powell’s grasp. Incredibly, this inundation of information does not overwhelm the viewer, but rather heightens one’s senses. The viewer is drawn into the scene and soaks up every detail. Nothing escapes Powell’s observant eye. In “Window Nook” we see no fewer than six different vases, four tables, and three ornate textiles portrayed. Those objects only begin to make up the background of painting. The true subject of the painting is the vibrant flowers that seem to grow out of the canvas, blooming in every inch of the artwork.
Powell has often spoken of his intense interest in color that drove him to pursue painting. “I was on a bus going home to Hollywood. The evening was warm and the shadows were strong. Suddenly it hit me – there they were; all the colors my father and Will were talking about.” His father, a respected Californian artist, taught Powell to draw but wouldn’t allow him to paint until he had learned the basics and first became an accomplished draftsman.
At the age of 82, John Powell is still expanding his oeuvre and developing new techniques. Speaking about a recently completed large-scale work “’This was a first for me as far as painting a triptych this size. It presented new challenges as well as new goals and growth for me as an artist.” Not only did Powell tackle an enormous project (the completed work stands at 15’ high and 3’ wide), but the underwater subject was also a departure from the garden-scapes for which he is known. Many of John Powell’s new paintings are currently on display at The Christina Gallery. Come visit us in Edgartown to see these elaborate artworks yourself.