Douglas Portway taught for many years in Johannesburg, before moving to Spain and then to England in 1957. One of his students was Larry Scully, whom we will discuss a little later. Portway was very interested in Zen Buddhism and other eastern philosophies. Over time he began producing images inspired by inner states of mind, rather than by any external reality. His work became increasingly spiritual in feel, and simultaneously it became more abstract. For him, the experience of the painting was to be a kind of meditation – both for himself, in the slow process of making the work, and for the viewer, in contemplating it. He wrote once that his paintings should allow the viewer to “float, as in water”, where one’s mind, as he put it, is “suspended”. His works were always carefully planned,
with layers of colour over which lines and shapes would appear to float.
“I refrain from referring to a landscape or certain objects when speaking of a picture. The hand is cleverer than the mind.” Douglas Portway