Radoslaw Kudlinski at Angell Gallery Until April 28, 12 Ossington Ave., Toronto; angellgallery.com
Radoslaw Kudlinski's new suite of paintings at Angell Gallery are full of contradictory impulses and animal logic. They could have been painted by a wily fox, or an even wilier brain surgeon – any creature that understands the complex interrelatedness, and counterrelatedness, between cognition and instinct, knowing and feeling.
Kudlinski's canvases, often interrupted by cut-outs, appliqués and trails of colour that bleed out onto the gallery floor and walls (more on these later), appear, at first, to be preoccupied with maps, diagrams and loose interpretations of mechanical systems.
In each work, a subsystem of connective lines and blocks, wires and microchips (wrought large, if you will), invites the viewer to read the painting as a kind of architectural blueprint or mechanical schematic; a thing that speaks of rationality, mathematics, the cold heart of logic. Kudlinski's fondness for charcoals, blue-greys, office-paper white and foggy midnight blacks only adds to this draftsman's-desk reading. Something is being built, devised, marked or explained here, something solid and workable.
But then the drawing table gets knocked over. A hot yellow sun breaks through the condo towers. There's a punch-hole pushed rudely through the map. A yelling mouth floats across the pale PowerPoint screen. A trail of blood appears on the parquet. A fleshy bubble, then a mound of bubbled flesh, break out from between the lines, like mould growing between joined boards or cancerous cells invading a bone.
Kudlinski constantly undermines the authority-bestowing idea of a "map" (what are diagrams and maps but assertions of accepted realities?) with loopy, at times hilarious, expositions of each painting's inchoate beginnings, of the fertile disorder from which all creative acts grow. He cuts open his canvases, laying their secrets, infrastructures and envelopes (to borrow an architectural term) bare for inspection. He splashes pretty colours in the midst of the grey-on-black proceedings, like a businessman sporting a bright tie. He paints irruptive, polygonal shapes into and over the edges of his maps, shapes that look like bite marks. He footnotes his own mechanized texts with sly bits of poetic text, margin notes.
In other words, with this ongoing, on-canvas game of patient-logic-versus-manic-impulse table tennis, Kudlinski makes clear he does not accept the culturally coveted role of painter (especially male painter) as authority figure; of the painter as grandmaster, cultural trail marker, maker of definitive statements.
Kudlinski adopts all the usual stances of the painter's painter – he paints large canvases, makes plenty of visual noise and employs materials with a muscular vigour – but only to be louder in his discrediting of the form's paternalism. When you cut a big hole (or two) into an expensive table-sized canvas, you are obviously not overburdened by the idea that you are artistic equivalent of a seasoned general, a Patton, at arms (all the war maps aside). Conversely, all Kudlinski's interventions and chipper acts of privilege sabotage make his work appear perfectly sensible in an era when faith in leadership, of all sorts, is at an all-time low.
Kudlinski stoops to conquer.
Manon De Pauw at Diaz Contemporary Until April 21, 100 Niagara St., Toronto; diazcontemporary.ca
Why must every art exhibition of late be topped off with a video display? Especially shows that would otherwise be concise and perfectly attractive? The art world needs to go to rehab for mediation addiction. Case in point: Manon De Pauw's Ordinary Matter at Diaz Contemporary.
In the small Diaz side-space, De Pauw presents three large-scale photograms (images taken by placing objects on photographic paper and then exposing the composition to light), each depicting what appear to be transparent or semi-transparent textiles. The images are lovely, star-dappled, luminous and eerie; the objects (one is obviously a garment) float in space, suspended in impenetrable pools of watery black.
These works are more than enough. They are beautiful. But no, there must also be a video.
In said video, performers place themselves behind a series of transparent screens and enact various tasks, such as pushing furniture, creating tableaux, pulling curtains across the stage or adding further, more opaque screens. The performers are mimes, with all that this term conveys.
The video is embarrassingly self-important and reminded me of the 1970s variety-show act Shields and Yarnell, (except they were occasionally entertaining), or the worst sort of overly literal story-dance.
Quit while you're ahead, please.
Oleg Lipchenko at Bezpala Brown Gallery Until April 20, 17 Church St., Toronto; bezpalabrown.com
Given my psychiatric history, I ought to be alarmed by the sudden omnipresence of Sigmund Freud.
There's that David Cronenberg movie (the least sexy film about sexuality ever made), plus a new, rather robust bust of Freud by Aleksa Velicki (the sculpture just came down at a rental space connected to Katharine Mulherin Art Projects, but I suspect it will be doing the rounds) and now Oleg Lipchenko's Freudoscope, a collection of "unknown facts and speculations" presented as a mock Freud biography in drawings and paintings.
Of these recent iterations, Lipchenko's take on Freud's legacy is the most fun, and also the most insightful. In Lipchenko's skilled hands, Freud is a cross between Mr. Magoo and Ernest Hemingway – a man as prone to sexual vulnerability and pompousness, to brilliance and intellectual blinders, as the rest of us. Lipchenko frequently depicts Freud as half man, half lizard; a skulking, perverse creature seemingly unaware of his own primordial urges.
Perhaps it's the relentless (I would argue abusive) overuse of the phrase "fragile economy" by prime ministers and gas pumpers alike that is drawing us back to the simpler, desire-driven world presented by Freudian analysis. Sex is reliably eternal.
Whatever the reason, Lipchenko's playful take on Herr Doktor is likeably goofy, horny-toad scales and all.
IN OTHER VENUES
Now Drawing Now Source at Artscape Triangle Gallery Until April 15, 38 Abell St., Toronto; torontoartscape.org
Five artists come together to make concrete, in a variety of disciplines, the idea exchanges on the foundational problem of image making that they have shared as friends. Join the conversation.
Shaheer Zazai at 2 of 2 Gallery Until May 26, 254 Niagara St., Toronto; 2of2gallery.com
Zazai's paintings are not so much crafted as discovered. It's as if he is peeling surfaces down to their very DNA. There will be blood.
Jane Duncan at Pentimento Gallery Until April 29, 1164 Queen St. E., Toronto; pentimento.ca
Duncan's post-photorealism paintings re-invigorate the dead genre by supplanting earnestness with playfulness and exacting, prissy sheens with hot-as-molten-steel colours.