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The Artist Project 2011

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As usual, we figure a show like this merits a page of its own!

The Artist Project 2011 (Art) Queen Elizabeth Building, Exhibition Place, Toronto; March 3-6

Your dedicated art lover goes to a show eager to find new and wonderful works to amaze him. But he finds that most of the work he likes comes from artists whose work he has admired in previous shows. What does this say? Is your man stuck in a rut when it comes to art appreciation? Or does it mean that really good new artists (at least the ones who can afford to be in a show like this) aren’t popping out of the ground as plentifully as mushrooms after a spring rain? Would that mean your art lover can’t hope ever to be blown away again by one of these shows?

Not really. Among the 200 artists showing here, I did find some exciting new ones – new to me at least. Even some favourite artists from past shows have a fresh take on things. Besides, it can be good for the soul to see some of the marvellous work by artists who are still creating art in their characteristic styles. However, since I’ve expressed my admiration for many of them in past installments of Dilettante’s Diary, we won’t linger on them here.

One of the artists in this show whose paintings please me greatly is Anne Barkley. Those of her works that I love especially are mostly labelled as abstracts but it’s not hard to read landscapes into the broad horizontal swatches of earthy colour, with little vertical strokes placed here and there to great effect. Something unfinished about them gives them much more resonance (for me) than a realistic, detailed landscape. www.annebarkley.ca I was also much taken with the paintings of Andrew Verhoeckx who has looked – who would have guessed? – under the hood of his car for inspiration. His conglomerations of wires and rubber and metal parts make wonderful compositions. One painting featuring bright orange tubing (something to do with spark plugs, I guess) is especially eye-catching. www.andrewverhoeckx.com Photographs don’t often thrill me but I had to stop and acknowledge the formidable power of Kate Tarini’s beige and grey composition of shelves crammed with boxes in an office storage room. It’s the kind of mundane sight most of us pass by without a second glance, but when you really stop and look, as this photo compels you to, the effect is as impressive as looking into King Tutankhamun’s tomb. www.katetarini.com Paul Boddum’s landscapes thrill me. With rough patches of greyish paint, for instance, and some touches of green and other colours, he can say a lot more about a wilderness setting than many a meticulously realistic painting does. www.paulboddum.com

David Brown, an artist whose work has often been mentioned here, is showing some of his exuberant, joyful and colourful abstract encaustics – one of which caught my attention from some distance across the room. But works of his that really intrigued me are encaustics in subtler colours, greys and blacks mostly, in horizontal compositions that have just a vague suggestion of cityscapes or landscapes. I think the secret to their appeal is that their inchoate quality engages a viewer’s imagination in ways that a more obvious painting can’t. www.encausticcollage.com Another artist who comes in for a lot of praise hereabouts, Micheal Zarowsky, is showing his meticulously-worked watercolours – blue shadows on snow, for instance, or reflections on water – the dazzle of which is phenomenal. But his studies of the Eiffel Tower – looking up into that complicated structure from below – are truly awe-inspiring. www.zarowsky.net A watercolourist whose works exert an entirely different kind of appeal is W. Hoyano. His abstracts, mostly in brownish and black blobs, express the eery potential of the medium at its loosest, and most-flowing. I always enjoy the flamboyance of Julia Gilmore’s vivid still lives which show the commonplace in a new light. This time, for instance, she makes a viewer take a second look at a stack of empty coffee cans. www.juliagilmore.ca I’m constantly astounded by what Peter Barelkowski achieves with the minimum of means: tiny humanoids often wandering in vast space. One painting in this show is nearly all white, with a few daubs of yellow and red, and a greyish blob near the centre. Gradually, you realize that blob consists of a group of people huddled together. What are they waiting for? That’s the fascination of the painting. www.peterbarelkowski.com

Also in what might be called the edgier kind of painting, Mark Jeremy Gleberzon makes an indubitable splash. I was especially struck by the psychedelic effect of his painting featuring two roughly-sketched human shapes in the foreground, one male and the other female, and, in the background, a long scrawled message beginning with the words: "The look of love is in your eyes...." www.markgleberzon.com Youngsoo Kim’s surrealistic illustrations have a kind of Kafkaesque quality that can be taken as either humorous or grotesque: a human female body, with an elephant head, giving birth to an elephant, for instance, or a person with a head composed of a cluster of exhaust vents (the kind you find on rooftops) grouped like a candelabra. www.youngsamuelkim.com

Among several artists in this show who do landscapes that tend to astraction – or abstracts that tend towards landscapes – some whose work I particularly admire are: Sabine Liva for her silvery, cool compositions; www.sabstudios.com Peter Colbert, whose paintings make very effective statements with broad swathes of rich colour; www.petercolbert.com Ann Shier for her shimmering, hazy suggestions of the natural world; www.annshier.com  Anne Renouf for her simplified representations of land, trees, and sky; www.annerenouf.com and Noella Noel whose landscapes (or cityscapes?) achieve their effect by means of quilt-like patches of colour.  www.bayhausgallery.com

Of course, most Canadians who are thinking of buying landscapes expect more traditional representations of our beloved land. If it’s the red canoes and the Muskoka chairs on the dock that you want, you couldn’t do better than the magnificent works of Olaf Schneider. www.olaf.ca The landscapes of Laurie De Camillis also have a brilliance to their slightly stylized representations. www.decamillis.ca In the realistic vein, Anna Kutishcheva’s paintings are notable for their broad, dramatic take on scenery. www.mahnart.com An artist who captures the colour of the Canadian landscape with a uniquely personal angle is Charlie Easton. www.charlieeaston.com David Marshak conveys a lonely, misty feeling in his bleak landscapes. www.davidmarshak.ca A similar emphasis on emptiness comes through in the majestic landscapes of Gord MacDonald. www.argylefa.com Again, it was good to communicate with the moody, vast skies of Dan Ryan’s paintings. www.danryanfineart.com Laura Culic, whose oils in sepia tones I have appreciated in the past, is moving into encaustic landscapes but preserving the same brooding quality in her work. www.lauraculic.com Carol Westcott’s prowess with small watercolours has impressed me in the past but now she’s showing larger acrylics on canvas, often using subtle colours to create atmospheric, diffuse landscapes. www.carolwestcott.ca Once again, I find that the simple compositions in Rose Hirano’s woodcuts on nature themes have a contemplative effect. www.rosehirano.ca

And then there are those artists who concentrate on the beauty in their urban surroundings. Stewart Jones continues to have great success with his richly-coloured paintings of old, inner-city buildings as seen from odd angles. www.stewartjones.ca Randy Hryhorczuk’s paintings of billboards against the sky have a lofty, airy effect, while his airplanes skimming the tops of trees instill a kind of dread. www.hryhorczuk.com In the past, I’ve marvelled at Brian Harvey’s little still lives of the gas meters that you see at sidewalk level in front of stores. Here, his vistas of city streets have an orderly, calm, tranquil appeal. www.brianharvey.ca Elizabeth Elkin creates vibrant city scenes with little segments of pigment put together mosaic-style. www.trueart.ca  Do you remember those wide street scenes of Victorian Paris that everybody’s grandmother used to have – horse drawn carriages, women in hoop skirts, gas lamps gleaming? Well, imagine that sort of treatment for a downtown scene of today and you’ll get some idea of the feel of Kelly Grace’s city scenes. www.kellective.com  Rebecca Ott continues to find inspiration in the soaring undersides of expressways. www.rebeccaott.com  A similar approach to the city can be found in Pat Stanley’s paintings that often focus on corroded cement structures. One of her studies of a parking garage makes an excellent abstract of rectangular shapes in black, white, grey and red. www.patstanleystudio.com  A certain mysterious stillness in banal small town scenes comes through in the works of George Boyer. www.libbygallery.com Using mixed media on striped fabric, Cate McGuire creates rectilinear compositions of semi-industrial settings that have almost the effect of optical illusions. www.shellylambertfineart.com  Also in the industrial mode, Andrea Warnick's photographs in solid, brilliant colours, celebrate the geometrical beauty of factories and such buildings. www.andreawarnick.tumblr.com  I love Ron Eady’s vast expanse of urban sprawl, in reddish, earthy colours, rushing towards a maritime horizon. www.roneady.com David Ray Alexander’s works, combining photography and oil paint, convey something forlorn about subjects like a bleak fairground, a graffiti-covered truck in an alley, a crummy motel. www.motelthirty.comin Another artist who applies paint to photographs very effectively is Pete Kasprzak. One particularly striking work of his, a black and white photo of Las Vegas at night, as seen from the air, incorporates streaks of red and yellow paint to convey the buzz of the constant flow of traffic. www.seewhatinspires.me

For the pleasure of pure abstracts, there are Arvid Wangen’s tumultuous compositions in red, white and black pigments tumbling over each other. www.arvidwangen.com I also like the works by Scott Bertram, in which sections of gooey paint fit together almost like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. www.scottbertram.ca "Eyescapes", the series of paintings by Elsha Leventis, casts a sort of spell by means of various colours shimmering like bubbles around a central image something like an eye. www.elshaleventis.com Although not strictly abstracts, the paintings of Joanna Czub – folds of fabric studied in loving close-up – could well be appreciated as such. www.joannaczub.ca

There’s lots of competent portraiture and figure painting in this show but I was especially interested in the odd, almost stick-like people in Hlne Cenedese’s works. One particularly haunting image shows simply the shape of a human head from behind, with a red arm and hand reaching towards it from the edge of the painting, the index finger on the hand pointing like the barrel of a gun at the head. This artist packs tremendous power into what could be taken for a crude style. www.helenecenedese.com The blurry, indistinct people in Dragan Sekaraic Shex’s paintings also have a spooky air about them. www.shexart.com Peer Christensen has impressed us in the past with his paintings of things like train engines, but his works in this show that interest me most are the groupings of people in art galleries. www.peerchristensen.com Another artist who achieves remarkable compositions of people placed strategically – artists at their easels, in this case – is Phil Delisle. www.thetq.com/phil For excellent figure painting, nothing has quite the impact of Zane Turner’s depiction of two hairy male bodies (naked except for their undies), suspended in a horizontal way, one over the other, puddles of paint from the mid section of each man dripping down the canvas. www.zaneturner.com

Some sophisticates disparage flowers as a subject just too corny and overdone for any worthwhile painter. So it pleases me (a full-fledged flower fan) to see what some artists can do to make the subject fresh. In my view, then, Lynda Shalagan deserves special credit for her streaky, somewhat primitive and oblique way with flowers. She makes you see them in a new way. www.lyndashalagan.com Somewhat the same result is achieved by the flower paintings of Anna Bateman: big blobs of flower-like shapes that are almost abstract. www.artistsincanada.com/bateman Laura Muir’s still lives created with fabric – many of them featuring vases of flowers on tables and such – have an undeniable charm in their simplicity and honesty.

I couldn’t finish my appreciation of this show without mention of a few artists whose distinctive work might not fit into any of the above categories. As a lover of watercolour, I couldn’t overlook the small, delicate works by Cori Lee Marvin: lovely depictions in classic watercolour style (think Beatrix Potter, only better) of birds, furniture, fish and so on, often in a whimsical vein. www.marvindale.ca A series of photographs by Elise Victoria Louise Windsor showing nothing more than a wall, a mirror on the wall, and hands appearing in the mirror, seems to me to have some wry implications. www.wecanphotograph.blogspot.com Tori Smith’s rough-hewn paintings celebrate with great lan the grandeur of trucks and other kinds of construction equipment. www.torismithpaintings.com If you want traditional paintings in gilded frames – boats, farm houses, Venice canals – there’s bound to be something in the very skillful work by X. Song Jiang that will please you. www.songjiangstudio.com But there’s no question that, if you want something to wow visitors to your corporate headquarters, nothing can match the clat of Bruce R. MacDonald’s massive, gleaming wall hangings in gauged and scraped stainless steel. www.brmdesign.com

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com