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Toronto
Terence Dick
Sky Glabush at MKG127 | Melanie Rocan at Paul Petro
April 01, 2014

I no longer know what to expect when I visit a Sky Glabush exhibition. Ten years ago, when I first stumbled onto his work, I discovered paintings of ghostly suburban homes that made the most of the surfaces of these foreboding abodes. This residential magic realism culminated in large-scale single dwellings depicted in trippy hues that could have passed for early Peter Doig canvases if he had grown up on the plains of Etobicoke instead of the ravines of Rosedale. But then came some portraits, including an out-of-left-field tribute to Neil Young, combined with abstract shapes and a 2011 exhibition that ran the gamut from clear-as-day drawings of book covers to dark-as-night gravel and oil paint concoctions.



Sky Glabush, display, 2013, graphite on paper (photo: Toni Hafkenscheid, courtesy: MKG127)

His current show at MKG127 could easily be mistaken for a tightly curated group show given the subtly divergent modes of execution represented by each work. The cornerstone of the collection is a big drawing of a Baha'i display/storefront as viewed through a screen door. The fine grid that adds a layer of noise to the image (the kind of noise you don't get on TV screens anymore now that we only watch LCDs) is echoed by an actual screen door screen pinned at an angle over a Rothko-esque double square hung on the opposite wall. The London, Ontario-based artist alludes to the theme of religion or belief systems in his statement, but the decaying lines that demarcate the various spaces on his work in a variety of ways are suitably and intentionally less than perfect. Such is our relationship with the divine. The large works in particular effectively engage the viewer in this deep philosophical conversation – an exchange that loses its authority in the smaller pieces (and I didn't spend enough time with the ceramic collection behind the front desk to say anything at the moment other than working with clay seems to be a bit of a thing these days for contemporary artists [see Maura Doyle's upcoming exhibition at YYZ for evidence]).



Mélanie Rocan, Flowers on Fire, 2013, oil on canvas

Another example of a painter working with both large and small scales, Mélanie Rocan, in her extended exhibition at Paul Petro, demonstrates the opposite tendency to Glabush. She runs out of steam with the bigger surfaces, leaving the tops and bottoms of the paintings with not a lot going on. But cut down the borders and her dream-scenes gain focus, increase in density, and push the colour to burst – literally in some cases – off the canvas. Hanging the collection of little works salon style renders each one a short episode in a longer narrative that mixes childhood (but not childish) fantasy with self-conscious portrayals of the artistic process and compact lifecycles where physical dissipation brings forth colourful natural phenomena that are brimming with life. Whereas Glabush drains his palette to shades of grey, Rocan is in love with the full spectrum and manages to add an eye-popping flowering of reds, pinks, and yellows to even the grimmest scene. With the snow outside finally withering into dirty mounds and spring lurking just under the surface, these paintings provide a tempting glimpse of what's to come.


MKG127: http://www.mkg127.com/
Sky Glabush: Display continues until April 26.

Paul Petro: http://www.paulpetro.com/
Mélanie Rocan: Moonlighting continues until April 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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