In addition to exhibiting a fine selection of relatively-edgy-for-a-commercial-gallery artists over the years, Diaz Contemporary distinguishes itself architecturally by being a light-bathed temple of calm on days when the city is just too dirty and chaotic for gentle souls like us. The trouble is we get so numbed by the rumble and stress that we don’t know it until we step through a passage into quietude. This eye of the storm is most noticeable when the art on the walls is equally at rest, and Chris Kline’s current exhibition provides a solid case in point.
Chris Kline, Divider 4, 2011, acrylic and aqueous dispersion pigment on poplin on wood stretcher
Subdued to the point of almost not being there, Kline canvases are in fact translucent, revealing blurred frame stretchers in their effort to strip away the painting’s surface to a thin skin. Slight soft tones at the bottom edges only add to the blur, but the works manage to keep from fading away completely with framing strips of equally pale but definitely solid lines near the edges. Through this fine balance they draw any ambient agitation right out of the room and provide a fine respite from the noise of life.
Manon De Pauw’s split screen video in the adjacent gallery is furious in comparison, but that wouldn’t really do justice to the slow dance of abstract forms she documents through shifting lines, ad hoc shapes, and actors gesturing behind diaphanous curtains.
Emily Schaefer, Untitled (11), 2012, acrylic on panel
Now in the transitional zone between mom’n’pop shops that ooze character and hip boutiques that can only come into existence through cheap rent, the Junction is currently number one on my list of most coveted Toronto neighbourhoods. Strolling down Dundas West last Saturday I got dizzy swiveling my head as I espied new cafés, used book stores, storefront homes, and signs of encroaching gentrification (I’m talking to you, Starbucks!). It’s still a bit too far off the beaten path for an exodus of gallerists but a couple early adopters have given me a couple extra reasons for heading up here more often. Situated near the western edge where the neighbourhood starts running out of steam, Telephone Booth Gallery was one of the first and their current show of gooey works by Emily Schaefer and glass shards by Steven Tippin is worth a boo. Schaefer’s bright and liquid acrylics treat the painting’s surface as a platform for pouring colour on top of and into each other. She keeps it simple and clean with a couple dribbles off the side to add a bit of edge (pun intended). Given the kitschy dreck I’ve seen in hospital waiting rooms over the years, you’d think a rich patron would swoop up a handful of these and donate them to those in need of something vibrant. If I had the cash, that’s what I’d do.
Glass starts out liquid too, but Tippin’s pieces end up brittle and chipped. In contrast, their organic patterns of invisible anemones please the eye. It’s just too bad the artist resorts to heavy metal clamps to hold them up.
Tibi Tibi Neuspiel, Infinite Shrimp Ring, 2012, oil paint on beeswax
I recall an afternoon in my teenage years when I was entertaining some kids by working with them on a colouring book. Being the troublemaking youth that I was, I covered my page with thick slabs of crayon that ignored all the lines of the drawing beneath. A perceptive eight year old looked at it and said, “I get it. If you do it wrong on purpose, no one can say you’re not right.” I’m not sure if it was a complement or a criticism, but I experienced the same sort of conclusion perusing Tibi Tibi Neuspiel’s first solo exhibited at the former Queen Street/Magic Pony-affiliated, now Junction-based Narwhal Projects. Whether his radical diversity of works coheres through some semantic tractor beam or falls apart in atomizing non sequiturs remains to be seen, but Neuspiel at least intrigues with his beeswax sculptures of overloaded vernacular objects (see his “infinite shrimp ring” and anti-establishment cereal bowl) and difficult-to-pigeonhole art works that look like art works (see his one blurry photograph, his one abstract canvas, his one text work, and his one found object). I’m just past the mid-way point in David Mitchell’s palindromic novel Cloud Atlas and all a tizzy about puzzles so my head is in the right place for this sort of quizzical collection. Yours should be too.
Jean Painlevé, L'hippocampe (The Seahorse), 1934, 35mm archival print
Officially starting this Thursday (but already underway with some advance screenings and a couple recently opened exhibitions), the Images Festival is celebrating twenty-five years of experimental and independent cinema with its usually array of screenings, video and film-based art installations, live events, and assorted other things which you should just look up online or in their catalogue. I’ll save my reviews of the “off screen” stuff until later in the month as they usually last through to the end of April, if not into May. I looked at a couple programs of shorts and next Tuesday’s A Letter to the Living stood out as a heavy hitting treatise on mortality. Definitely not first date material but Evan Meaney’s glitchy mash-up of Hollis Frampton and broken video games is something old and something new combined. And on Sunday in Drawing Conclusions, Mike Gibisser’s visual essay on the first law of thermodynamics, First Law: Quail Ct., is something beautiful.
In celebration of its quarter century, Images has asked some high profile friends of the fest (eg. Cameron Bailey, Annette Mangaard) to select films from 1988 to discuss. That should be a fascinating history lesson. Things go even further back with the closing night screening of Jean Painlevé’s natural history docs from the twenties and the thirties with a live soundtrack by Yo La Tengo. The indie rock/fringe film tie-in is becoming a thing for Images and I hope it helps draw audiences to explore other nights. There is lots to see.
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.
Diaz Contemporary: http://www.diazcontemporary.ca/index.html
Chris Kline: Dividers continues until April 21.
Manon De Pauw: Ordinary Matter continues until April 21.
Telephone Booth Gallery: http://www.telephoneboothgallery.ca/index.html
Emily Schaefer: Flow continues until April 28.
Steven Tippin continues until April 28.
Narwhal Projects: http://www.narwhalprojects.com/
Tibi Tibi Neuspiel: The Confident Lesbian continues until April 22.
Images Festival 2012: http://www.imagesfestival.com/index.php
The Images Festival runs from April 12 to 21.
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