This week marked the changing of the guard for The Painting Project at Galerie de l'UQAM in Montreal, a small but influential university venue.
The show, which is compendious (60 artists are involved) and is the product of almost three years of research by curator Julie Belisle, has been split into two parts, running serially. The first opened in May; the second, this past Thursday.
Winningly, the show eschews the snoozy formulas that have traditionally structured exhibitions of this nature, namely the sorting of work by region (Maritimes, Western Canada, etc.) or genre (landscape, portraiture). Instead, Belisle has devised more creative categories, reflecting modes of interpretation and of artistic motivation: Figures of Reality, Fictional Worlds, Painting as Subject, and Hybrid Practices. Interesting bedfellows are made.
Under the banner of hybridity, Sarah Cale's wonderfully drippy Chair 2 (a kitchen chair draped with skin-like sheets of oil paint) comes to co-habitate with Jeremy Hof's routered, multicoloured and multilayered sculpture-paintings, and with them a rigorous suite of white-paint-on-linen panels by Vancouver's conceptually inclined Arabella Campbell. (Each panel slightly differs from the one before it, being a copy of the preceding iteration, with the whole ensemble inspired by the works of American minimalist Dan Flavin.)
Melanie Authier's Iron Belly, a grisaille arrangement of feathery strokes and hard-edged opacities, shares elbow room with the abstractions of leading Montreal painter Chris Kline, whose semi-transparent canvases seductively reveal their wooden armatures to the searching eye, toying with our perception of illusion and materiality.
Both appear under the rubric of Painting as Object.
The Painting Project has gathered many known quantities from the world of Canadian art – Ben Reeves from Vancouver, Carol Wainio from Ottawa, Sandra Meigs from Victoria, Graham Gillmore from Nelson, B.C. – but it has also shored up some newcomers of note, such as Round Lake, Sask.'s
Tim Moore, whose Flying Indian was the talk of Part One.
His painting depicts a raven-haired and masked figure soaring through space – his arms extended as if caught in mid-jump at the tube park – clearing the hurdle of the suburban-seeming landscape mapped out in the painting's lower reaches. It's a striking image of rebellion and transcendence.
London, Ont.'s Sky Glabush, showing in Part Two, is exhibiting a suite of three pensive pastel paintings – a portrait, an abstract, and a composition of figures – his modesty of touch seeming to reflect the legacy of British modernism, in particular the cool, dry surfaces of Ben Nicholson, while also borrowing the bleached palette of the late Jack Chambers, an avowed source of inspiration. Chambers also underpins the startling small-scale photo-realistic urban scenes of Mike Bayne, showing concurrently.
"One thing Julie and I both really noticed about working with all these painters," says gallery director Louise Déry, "is that they really know their art history. It's a living conversation."
The Painting Project continues at Galerie de l'UQAM until July 6. After October, the project will live on in virtual form at thepaintingproject.uqam.ca.