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Kim Neudorf
Patrick Howlett at Museum London
May 20, 2014

Part-Time Offerings, artist and (full disclosure) former Akimblog contributor Patrick Howlett's current exhibition at Museum London, works its way through a wide range of work from past and present projects including paintings, drawings, collage, as well as associated materials and artworks collected by Howlett. Each grouping of work is installed with ample breathing room, carefully positioned to make the best use of Museum London's lower-level Forum Gallery, which often has a distinctly odd, rumpus-room vibe. The exhibition's title, partly in reference to the spring appearance of part-time Visual Arts postings for teaching as a much-anticipated event for many artists living and working in London, also relates to the part-time, multidisciplinary or multi-gig nature of any artistic practice.



Patrick Howlett, this indeterminacy, 2007, tempera on wood panel

The central gallery space is divided up into four quadrants of temporary walls, each resembling the look and behavior of a particular production space or scenario of display such as the studio, the classroom, the domestic space and/or private art collection, the art fair booth, and the museum exhibition space itself. Loosely resembling these spaces rather than definitively linking to them, each zone opens up upon the surrounding installation, changing the nature of each grouping depending upon the angle or sightline (often a single work in the background or installed high above sneaks into the space with the stealth of a photobomb). This relates purposefully to the nonlinear nature of how single works or groupings of works relate to the history or instigation of other works as well as to the exhibition as a whole.

What surrounds an artistic practice, in the studio, at home, or at work, and how do these things, materials, ideas, states, and situations change or perform when exhibited? These are questions seemingly posed by the exhibition and taken up by the artworks via careful configurations occasioned by visual puns. A string of large windows overlooks the gallery space, often an invitation for visitors to browse without having to commit to stepping inside. Howlett has used this window space as a home for the exhibition's title in huge, widely spaced letters increasingly crammed and decreasingly coherent. This flip from immediate recognition to a kind of figure/ground camouflage continuously appears throughout the exhibition, most recently in a series of small paintings of bright shapes in orange, pink and green which surround paintings of dark lengths of line on white, stretching their sharp limbs like truncated shadows. These paintings are anchored by a 1978 plywood piece by Paterson Ewan, suggesting the series is partly in reference to a kind of play-on-words-on-letters-on-numbers.



Patrick Howlett, fixalimit, 2014, egg on tempera on panel

Tests, notes, and the preliminary space of ideas yet to be manifested appear and reappear in different states. These textual and visual notations mimic Howlett's choice of painting titles, which are often fragments that read like dissolving coordinates. This opens up a space to think of both words and paintings in terms of other kinds of transmissions and behaviors other than that which is easily apparent. The dryness of a particular phrase or title nonetheless has a certain posture, just as the material inflection of Howlett's paintings changes in tone and articulation. In a painting called this indeterminacy, the illusion of an uncomplicated study is upset by the crawling labor of yellow on purple which, ignoring the charged stamp of a blue-green shard, prefers to form its own alliances, as if signaling elsewhere with a quick tug of an earlobe. Color is shaped and mouthed rather than simply stated, and the angles at which compositions are first cut, folded, or pulled down across careful edges can be starkly influenced by sudden shifts in motivation.

Nearby, the charged yell of a Greg Curnoe drawing dissipates in proximity to a bulbous, leathery thought bubble, all which culminate in the seam of a wall where a family of collages sort through the oily stain of globular white on pink. These strings of encounters are prevalent in Part-Time Offerings, and every corner or ledge or wall expanse continues to invite further changes in tone, inflection, and constellation.


Museum London: http://museumlondon.ca/exhibitions:101
Patrick Howlett: Part-Time Offerings continues until August 17.


Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta and at Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto. She has contributed writing most recently to Susan Hobbs Gallery, Cooper Cole Gallery, Forest City Gallery, and Evans Contemporary Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.

 

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