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East Coast
Laura Kenins
Jean-Sebastien Denis at Studio 21
December 07, 2016

Jean-Sébastien Denis’s drawings on Mylar at Studio 21 bring to mind psychogeographic mapmaking in their assemblage of lines and dots. Black and white is the dominant colour theme throughout, but the Montreal artist breaks up these visual fields with splotches of colour from bright red to various neons. The work is meant to convey the “chaotic multiplicity and resulting movement” of our current reality, according to the artist’s statement. Though there’s chaos, it’s of an orderly sort. The translucent Mylar backdrops establish a monochromatic mood, which Denis then disrupts by overlaying ink blotches, drops of neon green or pink, or a smear of orange, red, and yellow lines.

Jean-Sébastien Denis, Amas #16-01 (série 2), 2016, mixed media on Mylar

There’s a sort of Constructivist abstraction to many of these pieces – particularly one set of small black and red drawings – but at other times, Denis’s use of his media is more akin to the fuzzy lines of someone playing around in MS Paint, though closer inspection reveals the hand-painted brush strokes. He refers to his work as a “laboratory” and the sense of chemistry is evident as fuzzy grey lines react with opaque matte blobs of colour and delicate cross-hatching or line work interacts with heavy rigid lines in black or bright colours. More loose and sparse than some of his previous drawings and paintings, these Mylar creations recall Julie Mehretu’s gestural, architectural canvases but on a smaller scale.

The disparity between the chance ink and paint blots, the stiff straight lines, and the spray painted elements that appear almost computer-drawn perfectly illustrates Denis’s premise of the confusing and blurred lines between the technological and the hand-created that shape our everyday life at present. Ultimately less rigid than an infographic and more intentional than a kid playing with the spray paint tool on a computer, these drawings happily explore their own medium.

Studio 21:
Jean-Sébastien Denis: New Works on Mylar continues until December 16.

Laura Kenins is a writer and comic artist currently based in Halifax. She has written for CBC Arts, C Magazine, Canadian Art, The Coast and other publications.



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