Gallery Review: A Taste of Things to Come

Moira McKee - - Art & Books
The London Yodeller

“The Preview Show, and the variety of the exhibition, allows a rare opportunity to witness a dialogue occur between works that may never be exhibited together again.”

Richard Andreychuk Midland Woods Photograph printed on cotton rag paper 12x18

Richard Andreychuk Midland Woods Photograph printed on cotton rag paper 12×18

Fleeing the rain and entering the brightly lit space at Westland Gallery in Old South, I was pleased to see a decent turnout and also many things that one would expect from an opening reception: wine, cubes of cheese, the warm hum of conversation offset by requisite show-offy art talk overheard at arm’s length (‘Normally I go to Michael Gibson’s . . . like to buy James Kirkpatrick and Jason McLean . . . you know, modern stuff’). The Preview Show, Westland’s opening reception, features a curated sampling of works selected from every solo and group exhibition during this upcoming year; all of which makes this review a teaser of their teaser.

Matt Trueman is an artist who looks like he plays Ivy League tennis and you’d want to bring home to your folks. Trueman’s commanding woodcut, King of The Hill depicts an enormous snowy incline covered in the tracks of climbers. Tiny silhouetted figures stand at its apex, fragile and still, as though resting static inside a snow globe teetering at the edge of a shelf. Assessing the scene, I really did feel like a ruler gazing over my kingdom; the queen of the ant farm. In its portrayal of what we like to interpret as an innocent childhood desire, there is a foreshadowing of the adult’s more effectively disguised will to dominate, that draws us back to these moments of small conquest.

 Andrew Lewis’ paintings are F.U.N. P47 smacks a person across the face as a plane soars midair towards you and it has a really slick pop feel, like there’s a deranged pilot at the controls blasting Jet Boy by the New York Dolls. Lewis’ other piece in the exhibition, Kruchevik, has a cut-out effect reminiscent of the bright, punchy, mid-century textiles by Henri Matisse, who described his later works as ‘painting with scissors.’ Interpretational in the shapes conveyed, (I found a horse head as well as some general floating seaweed) and restrained in its range of colours, Kruchevik pairs chromatic impact with a coolness and sterility that lend a monumental quality to an otherwise small piece.

Andrew Lewis P47 Acrylic on wood board, 48x36

Andrew Lewis P47 Acrylic on wood board, 48×36

Nature and organic matter make up a large quantity of the distinct renderings in The Preview Show, and the variety of the exhibition allows a rare opportunity to witness a dialogue between works that may never be exhibited together again. Donna Andreychuk’s large oil on canvas, Midland Woods effectively shudders like a wet dog, with a range of daubs in earth tones, savoury and rich enough to make an impressionist’s mouth water at the prospect of stumbling across such a sight in nature. It actually turns out that her husband Richard has, and his photographs of scenes in the wilderness, which Donna referred to in many of her works, will be paired with his wife’s paintings for their joint exhibition in the fall.

Essential forms in wildlife also prove to be a most pleasurable sight in Tim Stevens, White River, where layers build like an optical illusion. Picking out treetops, the water’s reflection draws up the murky floor of the riverbed and the surface unifies the two—becoming alive with saturated, carnivalesque shots of colour. Rigid, utterly pleasurable scratches are executed on the surface of the canvas with a dried out brush or stick dipped in a deep indigo pigment, leaving voids for graphite scribbles, further enhancing the visceral tone of this work. The transparent quality of expressionist artist Paul Klee’s Fish Magic (1925) immediately comes to mind; a piece famous during Hitler’s personal war on the human imagination when he sought to abolish ‘degenerate art’.

Pat Gibson, whose work will be exhibited alongside Tim Stevens, similarly utilizes colour as a tool to induce, combined with a process of application that lends a poignancy to her paintings. Windy Day centres on the sky as the evidently forceful origin behind the changing elements. The surface of the piece has a dry effect, with paint laboriously ‘pushed’ atop paint and this is countered with a direct and vital use of colour that’s remarkably synesthetic, producing the sense of what a strong wind ‘feels’ like physically (say, if you closed your eyes outside during a windstorm), and also the vague longing it stirs within us.

Rudy Sparkuhl’s hyperrealism transforms the mundane into something crystalline and commanding. The quiet impact of Sparkuhl’s painting style in 272 Voyageur is grounded in the high degree of objective precision required to achieve such a photographic effect. This truthfulness is precisely what causes one to feel emboldened to critique hyperrealist art, where the merit of a painting is dependent upon its likeness to an original, otherwise known as reality. With a painter’s capability such as Sparkuhl’s, we assume that idealization (historically revered by the Greeks and today favoured by pretty much everyone) is possible and we like this notion and find it as reassuring as looking in the mirror and seeing a face reflected back at us.

A narrative exists behind every piece of art, its medium and technique functioning as a vocabulary, and our own experience then determines how we will process and understand that language. The Preview Show at Westland Gallery brings together a selection of art that shows great diversity and presents stimulating parallels between pieces – a fantastic concept for an opening that reveals just enough to pique interest in future exhibitions.

The Preview Show

continues to January 23, 2015

Westland Gallery, 156 Wortley Road, London ON

519-601-4420 http://www.westlandgallery.ca

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