March 28, 2015

March marches on: cold, windy, glare, barren.

Clint Roenisch Gallery – Eli Langer and Jennifer Murphy

Caravansary Of Joy is the title of a joint exhibition by Eli Langer and Jennifer Murphy at the capacious Clint Roenisch Gallery on St. Helen’s Avenue. The two artists are a couple.  Other than that fact, the exhibition is composed of two separate and distinct shows.

The paintings by Eli Langer, occupying the front of the gallery, are a pleasure to look at mainly because they are so uncomplicated.  This artist is pushing paint around in a serious way but anything external to that activity is irrelevant.  There is no agenda, narrative, political pitch, intellectual or iconoclastic posture.  I like this feeling of having nothing between the paintings and me; nothing I have to sort out or disagree or agree with.  Its relaxing and calming to look at these paintings and there is a crystalline lightness to them that makes it hard to look away.

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Winter Flowers by Eli Langer

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The Three Sisters by Eli Langer

Eli Langer did provide a sheet of notes available for viewers of the paintings.  They reinforce the calm, open, meditative qualities the art works possess.  A few lines from the notes are excerpted below:

Painting is experimental.  I want to get lost.  Turn off the logocentric mind.  Trip up purposeful reflex that seeks     familiarity in recognizances.

I work without plans.  I want the painting to surprise me with its directness.

Painting is truly free of its history in 2015.

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Her Cabinet by Eli Langer

Eli Langer is talking about getting into the zone where creativity is effortless and assured.  It’s exciting and mysterious to see how that Zen-like stillness comes through in the work.  Also in the notes Eli Langer writes about the idyllic, creative period he recently experienced, in a supportive relationship with his partner, Jennifer Murphy.

Jennifer Murphy’s work occupies the back of the gallery space.

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Installation of art work by Jennifer Murphy

A polished granite platform holds sculptural works in the center of the room and around the walls the artist’s collage pieces are pinned, at varying heights.

Who among us has not, at one time or another, cut pictures out of a magazine and glued them down to make something new?  Jennifer Murphy has the uncanny ability to create art works using this technique.  Suspended on long pins, like insect specimens, a parade of beast portraits, interspersed with somewhat more conventional portraits of women, are displayed.

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Art works by Jennifer Murphy

As varied as the animal kingdom itself the pieces share a fragile spindly-ness and jewel-like allure.  I recall certain aunts of mine wearing brooches like this: a leopard with an “emerald” eye for instance.  The frankencat, shown below, has such a coquettish pose, but maybe that’s just something about cats.

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Art work by Jennifer Murphy

The sculptural pieces in the exhibition have the look of  a surrealist’s garden: weird, ungainly, texturally patchworked and  punctuated with fizzing colour.

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Sculpture by Jennifer Murphy

One of the tiniest pieces has a wonderful “Twilight Zone” sensibility.  It’s as if the doe-eyed ingenue is trapped in another dimension.

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Detail of sculpture by Jennifer Murphy

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Details of sculpture by Jennifer Murphy

In fact all the objects by Jennifer Murphy – composed of humble materials, found objects, scraps of fabric and various castoff print media – evoke an alternate universe.  It’s similar to this universe, but adjusted a bit, for private aesthetic purposes.


Daniel Faria Gallery – Valerie Blass

Just next door, at the Daniel Faria Gallery: A glittering arm holds aloft a crack pipe, miniature figures melt together in lurid sexual embrace, whacked together scrap wood has an anthropomorphic expressiveness, a life-size sculpture of cliched female desirability studies “herself” in a distorting mirror.  These are some of the pieces constituting an exhibition by Valerie Blass.  Exploring notions of identity, objectification and self-delusion, Valerie Blass adds an ambiguous overlay of autobiography by titling the exhibition My Life.

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Art work by Valerie Blass

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Art work by Valerie Blass

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Detail of Sois gentille by Valerie Blass

The technical virtuosity and versitility of the artist is impressive.  She boldly takes on all media to trawl the phsycosexual depths.

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Dr. Marbuse Psychanalyste by Valerie Blass

Dr. Marbuse was a fictional hypnotist and criminal who featured in Fritz Lang movies.   Is the artist suggesting that hypnotic self absorption is implicated in the fracturing of identify?

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Details of Dr. Marbuse Psychoanalyst by Valerie Blass

A grinning homunculus, looking like something out of a medieval relief, inhabits the “face” of the mirror gazer above.

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Artwork by Valerie Blass

In another piece, the same curtain of silky blond hair is present.  This time the hair is out of context, set in a provocative display with a hand, a foot and pale pink panties.  Parts only, no woman required.  It’s the definition of fetish.

Something about the piece made me think of Andrea Dworkin and the feminist sexual wars of the eighties.  At that time feminists defined themselves as either sex-positive or sex-negative.  This was mainly because of the theories of Andrea Dworkin which condemmed all objectification of women and all pornographic imagery.  She was truly a crusader and was famous for saying things like “Intercourse remains a means or the means of physiologically making a woman inferior [and is] the pure, sterile, formal expression of men’s contempt for women.”  That kind of talk turned a lot of her feminist, lefty allies against her.  Today, pornography has won.  It’s everywhere. Andrea Dworkin was the hardest of the hard-line feminists and the strange upshot of her ideas is that the Christian Right championed them and they still do today.

November 13, 2014

In a modest residential neighbourhood, only a few steps from the Bloor Value Village, lie more western outposts of sophisticated art. Clint Roenisch Gallery and Daniel Faria Gallery both have spacious storefronts on Saint Helens Avenue.  Client Roenisch arrived in July and Daniel Faria has been there for three years.  Tucked around the corner in an alley off Dublin Street, is the mysterious Scrap Metal Gallery, unfortunately closed on the day I visited.

It was grey and cold and sleet was present.


Harold Klunder at Clint Roenisch Gallery

In the foyer of the RBC Center on Simcoe and Wellington, near the Starbucks, is a large Harold Klunder, which I passed daily, for about three years, on my way to the elevator banks. The artwork has an eighties neo-expressionist or so-called “bad painting” look. As I recall, the paint is thick, chunky impasto of yellow, orange, browns and blacks with a certain gnarled chockablock geometry that I identify with the artist. I had assumed I would see variations of this work at the new gallery on Saint Helens Avenue.

In this show, however, titled Live by the Sun, Love by the Moon, Harold Klunder’s work has moved away from the static heaviness of the RBC painting into a realm of light, air and expansiveness that was very exciting to see.

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Green Abstraction

There is some explanatory text on the gallery wall which mentions Harold Klunder’s Dutch heritage and his connection to the Dutch artists of the past. I liked looking for these links. The bewitching light of Vermeer is successfully evident, particularly in a painting called Airmail Blue #1. (As someone with a European parent this painting had an emotional component too, recalling childhood in which the exquisitely thin blue airmails from abroad connoted a distant and romantic world.)

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Airmail Blue #1

There is a massive trytych on display titled Flemish Proverb which made me think of Dutch tapestries (such as the Hunt of the Unicorn which hangs in the New York Cloisters) because of the scale, complexity, and ambition of the work and the way it reads as an illustration of some arcane narrative. Each panel is painted with a unique palette and iconography yet they are unified by a sense of cascading from light to dark vertically, as horizontally a tale unfolds.

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Flemish Proverb and detail of the same painting

A large painting called This Length of Muddy Road seems to shift its identity from map to narrative to landscape and it somehow manages to be filled with light and air despite the grey background.

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This Length of Muddy Road

In some of the paintings the use of color is truly startling. I was fortunate to attend the Willem De Kooning retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art a few years ago and I can see why the exhibition notes cite that artist as one of Harold Klunder’s (Dutch) influences, particularly because of his use of color.

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Milk of the Sun

The show is put together in an interesting and unusual way in that a selection of the artist’s source material is exhibited with the paintings.

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The collage of paint dabbed news clippings and magazine scraps is really fun to look at. A grouping of vivid water colors hint at the artist’s process regarding color.

Also included in the exhibition is a welded metal sculpture (borrowed from the collection of Harold Klunder) created by a now deceased French-Canadian nun called Soeur Marie-Anastasie.

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At first I thought it was influenced by Picasso.

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But no…it looks more like a Harold Klunder.


Daniel Faria GalleryKristine Moran, Wayne Ngan

At first sight Kristine Moran’s paintings made me think of Melanie Authier’s work (written about on this blog in the October 12 post) because of the way a mass of abstract iconography is piled up in the middle of the canvas while the corners remain relatively empty, and because of a similar palette both women use.

But soon the distinctive and exuberant aesthetic of Kristine Moran, who has shown her work with Daniel Faria for six years, comes into focus. Whereas she too explores the manufacture of deep space on canvas her gestural marks are raw and gritty and sometimes combine with explosive force in this show, called Affairs and Ceremonies.

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Funeral Procession

Formerly a figurative painter Kristine Moran has developed a personal language of various mysterious forms which appear repeatedly as she creates an expressive whole from layers of jumbled narrative.

She can’t quite leave figurative painting behind however: vestiges of arms and legs, martini glasses, armour or shields, odd items like tank tops, candles, flowers, open books; all find their way into her paintings.

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Flashe

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Seance

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I liked the fact that Kristine Moran is not afraid to attach Cosmo type titles to her paintings (Gossip or Affair for instance) and for some reason I thought of lingerie colours – pink, black and champagne – when trying to get a read on her paintings. Is this a woman who is using the trappings of the female life as she seeks to understand and evolve through art?


On the afternoon I dropped into the gallery there was an opening party scheduled for later that same day.

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The spectacle of all that beer in such close proximity to a collection of new works by Wayne Gnan gave me an uneasy feeling. I sincerely hoped there would be no regrettable incidences as the opening played out.

These beautiful objects are arrayed precisely on a tabletop and lit with drama.

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The installation works as a whole. The strong, weighty forms, soft, natural colors and perfectly subtle sheen are entirely harmonious.  It is also rewarding to spend time looking at the inventive sculptural integrity of each individual piece.

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