Erna Partoll's abstract paintings focus on color and composition, the way color interacts and its influence in the creation of space. The archetypal shapes of circle, square, wave, and arch – opening and closing, advance and recede as the rhythm of alternates – life and death, joy and sorrow, heaven and earth, yin and yang.
These paintings are homages to the circle of universal life. They express Partoll's response to the dramatic natural world she experiences living on the outer Cape. They hold powerful and vibrant and attracting energy, hold it shimmering and pulsing. Like the backwater bluesman with a steel string guitar, warm chords against cool chords, Partoll achieves the tension of perfect balance and doesn't give it up. The semi-opaque gouache seems to be illuminated from within and the alternating, vivid color intervals create a stained glass brilliance. It's as if the only thing between the viewer and the sun is the painting before him.
Partoll's work, over time, maintains a stylized symbology which repeats in both subtle and profound forms. The one constant is these symbols – the door, the wave, the sun – and their archetypal associations – the passage, the rhythm, the opening – and the deep, emotional connections those associations engender. –- Kate Carter, Provincetown Magazine
Erna Partoll's exhibition is a vibrant visual illusion of movement. The work possesses a synergistic energy of high color, suggesting things starting, being and bursting. -- Provincetown Banner
The eye is treated to a rich orchestration of colors creating dynamic movement. If the viewer studies these watercolors long enough, the works appear to expand beyond their actual size, becoming monumental. -- Emily Farnham, Painter and Art Historian
Partoll was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland, where she studied art in college. She continued to pursue her art in the many other cities in which she lived, including London, Paris, Montreal, and Toronto, where she worked as trilingual translator and interpreter. She immigrated to the United States in 1960, spending the next ten years in New York City. There she attended the Art Students League, studying with Theodoros Stamos, Will Barnet, and Howard Trafton. Further studies included drawing at the New School of Social Research.
Partoll has been a year-round painter in Provincetown since 1970. In 1995, she received a Fellowship to study with Paul Resika at the Fine Arts Work Center's Summer Workshop. She first exhibited in Provincetown at the original East End Gallery in 1978, and has been an active, exhibiting member of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum since 1971. In 1982, the Outermost Gallery presented a retrospective of Partoll's work. She was a member of Gallery 331, and a Founder of the Visual Artists Cooperative. She was selected to direct the archival project Artists' Master Notebook for the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Partoll joined the Berta Walker Gallery in 1996.