Vancouver does painting?

September 24, 2008 § Leave a comment

So I was in Vancouver, and of course the one time my painting class is compelled to go on a mini field trip to a couple of galleries, the skies open in true West Coast fashion. Canvas shoes are a really stupid decision after mid-August here, so I was reminded. The group of about seventeen was sent sopping wet into the Equinox, Monte Clark and Atelier, all within close proximity. I’m sure the staffs were making faces at the crowd of dripping students and the loud crescendo-laugh of our prof, as we breathed all over the precious Gordon Smith paintings, that fetch 100-200 grand a piece, all of which conspicuously sold already.

Gordon Smith is boring. There I said it. He’s friendly art. Granted, the man is like ninety, so why should he bother reinventing anything or being revolutionary? Then again, why bother continuing to create? Is it just for money or for self-discovery? The works are well-executed, after living for ninety years or so, one would hope for a certain kind of competency within their field, and they’re pleasantly introspective paintings, but they’re also very bland. Contemporary enough for rich yuppies to feel slick for owning one and established enough for collectors to feel comfortable buying.

At the Monte Clark there was a showing of an under thirty artist named Alison Yip. Her work was at the other side of the spectrum compared with Smith. She’s young, working on small canvases and very controlled and precise with her lines. Parts of the show shine and other parts are comparatively weak to the rest of the show. What I enjoyed was her way of completely ignoring colour gradients. A shirt would be one colour, not that colour with shades. Instead she plays with colour so that it’s unreal but the subjects are always seemingly related to the buildings. Shadows were pink, what’s there not to like there? She seems to be approaching the Vancouver school of photography, with a sort of painterly style of capturing street scenes in well-composed snapshot ways.

Julie Morstad and Michael Swaney are showing at Atelier. Their styles are quite differing. Morstad seems to be recalling a history of illustration, especially those mid-twentieth century children’s books, with a certain style that she seems to emulate, perhaps recalling whimsical memories. It’s well done but a bit too wishy-washy to belong in a galley. Swaney’s work is more interesting, as he works with textures, using collage, paint and drawing elements. His scenes have strange perspectives, with titles that are hard to interpret, and a sense of the unreal. While I found Morstad’s work easy to look at in a passing glance, Swaney’s was more like a meal that needed be digested but was more satisfying to stare at for awhile. What irked me about Swaney was reading his artist statement. Who opens with, “As an artist…”? It’s as though he needs to reaffirm his status as being an artist or something. Nevertheless, I really loved this one.

Still, the elements the prof enjoyed from each piece often differed from the parts I enjoyed.

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