In a world where any number of high faultin’ concepts, from lifestyle marketing to decolonialism, can serve as a curatorial thesis, why would an exhibition inspired by commitment be a touchy subject? Part of the problem (and I mean that in the best possible way) is that the sentiment in question is not found within the paintings on display, but is implicit in the relations between them. The other part of the problem is that the sentiment is sentimental. And biographical. Thus psychological. And that is messy. Which is far from the feeling you get when you first walk into General Hardware’s six person/three pairings exhibition Pillow Talk (and it’s worth noting you only have two more days to take those first steps, if you haven’t already).
Nicole Collins, 2016, two and one (detail), wax and pigment on canvas and panel
When you first walk in, you might think, as I did, “Damn, I should have covered this the week of Valentine’s Day.” You might also develop an internal conflict from your fascination with the personal details of the artist-partners who’ve been brought (or kept?) together rubbing up against your standards of objective, artist-is-dead, it’s-all-about-the-work criticism. The whole idea of exhibiting artists who happen to be in a relationship seems somewhat arbitrary (like an exhibition of artists named Jennifer), so you distract yourself by looking at the individual paintings and enjoy them on their own merit, but you inevitably end up finding signs of something more.
DaveandJenn’s collaborative work amuses, as it always does, because the process of making a painting through layers of resin is cool to look at, but the final image never stays with me. I wonder what a masterful abstractionist would do with this same technique and decide this duo’s work doesn’t fit the overall thesis because the artists are united in name and painting, so there’s nothing to discern about their relationship.
Nicole Collins and Michael Davidson each contribute a couple canvases and, even with this small sample, you can see why they get along. Both lean to minimal palettes that could be summed up as black and white. Sure, there’s some variation, but the reduction of colour to basics amps up the formal aspects of the work, with his brushed swathes of paint making emphatic use of space, while her textured wax draws out comparisons to alligator hide and cellular structures. It’s my guess that she’s the more intense of the two, while he’s reserved and maybe a little repressed.
Gina Rorai, Voice of the Island, 2014, oil on canvas
Gina Rorai and David Urban have long been attached by name, but I’m more familiar with his work than hers, so I pay extra attention to the dreamy semi-landscapes rife with colour that fill her canvases. He shares her love of colour, but his self-aware abstractions, with every element in quotations, come off too intentional, while there’s a warmth and a humanness to hers that endears me even when I worry they lack an overall coherence. If I’ve learned anything after a decade or so of marriage, it’s the acceptance and appreciation of that sort of imperfection that is essential for a strong relationship.
General Hardware: http://generalhardware.ca/
Pillow Talk continues until March 5.
Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.
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