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Terence Dick
Relax a Little at Narwhal Projects
April 02, 2013

Sometimes an exhibition is like an indie rock concert where you're unfamiliar with all of the bands but know the venue and hope for the best. That was the case this weekend when I headed over to Narwhal Projects where I knew something of the curators (Kristin Weckworth and Jon Davies) and figured their mouthful of a Frank O'Hara-inspired title – Relax a Little; One of Your Most Celebrated Nervous Tics will be Your Undoing – promised something new or unexpected. Out of the four artists featured, three will soon drift into the realm of the forgotten but the fourth has stuck in my head and will, I predict, remain there as only a true original can. Given the ratio of memorable to unmemorable bands I witnessed during my concert-going years, that's a pretty good payoff.

Christian Maychack, Bent Oval, 2012, epoxy clay, pigment, wood

This is not to say the artists/bands who don't do it for me are necessarily bad. They just might not have reached their full potential. And they might never. Such is the nature of the indie rock/young artist nation. But at/on this stage, Matthew Brown's abstractions lack the gravitational pull to hold my attention, Jennifer Chan's obsessive video is equal to the sum of its parts but nothing more, and Nadia Belerique's sculpture needs to be more ambitious (though I would be interested in seeing it again when the sun is in the right position to hit it as it sits in the gallery's front window).

Christian Maychack, on the other hand, struck me from the moment I espied a jpeg of his work. On first glance, I thought the depicted thing was a venetian blind threaded with aluminum foil. Turns out it's a wood lattice construction padded with what looks like Plasticine. The filling is blended from a bunch of different pigments, which results in random patterns that congeal into flames, demons, cartoon faces, trippy patterns, and you name it. His other works in the exhibition also combine wood and clay in wall-mounted sculptures that references painting and framing, but are nothing of the sort. As art they engage the senses and as "art" they flip the script on expected categories, so they demand attention. That's as good a qualifier for quality as I can muster.

Narwhal Projects:
Relax a Little; One of Your Most Celebrated Nervous Tics will be Your Undoing continues until April 20.

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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