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Toronto
Terence Dick
TERENCE DICK in Toronto 01/03/12
January 03, 2012

It’s always a struggle to find exhibitions to write about over the holidays. I know that gallery workers and owners need their time off too, but the lull between Christmas and New Years provides few options for those who don’t want to go shopping but would like to leave the house. Given the preponderance of seasonal travelers, there are also the untapped eyes of tourists to consider. The highlight of my recent sojourn to Ottawa was a visit to the National Gallery. On return, however, my attempt to make my annual late-December visit to The Power Plant was foiled by an impromptu closure due to water main maintenance. I’ll have to hold off on reviewing their winter shows for another day. Luckily, the visual art spaces at Harbourfront Centre were open (and, in fact, closing that day), so my trip to the waterfront (and the $15 flat fee I had to pay for parking [when is the construction down there going to end?]) was not for naught.



Jennifer Murphy, Pink Moon, 2011, cut paper

In the main gallery, local artist Kai Chan has curated a tight four-person exhibition that deals with materials in a way that’s strikingly familiar for those familiar with his aesthetic. Lois Schklar’s carefully hung wire and shadow construction takes up the centre of the room and uses gravity and suspension to create a sense of the tenuous links that hold us up and together. To one side, Don Maynard’s Luna evokes a wind-whipped night with just a tarp, some fans, and a couple flashlights. Opposite, Susan Warner Keene echoes the moon-theme with distressed sheets of white paper. It’s all very contemplative and the perfect antidote to quell the stress of the maddening crowds.

A more maximalist relationship to materials can be found in the nearby window gallery with Jennifer Murphy’s collage Pink Moon. She’s been working on these delicate assemblages for a while now, drawing on a familiar coterie of animals and plants to suggest the underlying magic of the human/nature nexus. It’s an interesting contrast to her earlier work when she’d use shards of colour to create a single animal; with this she uses various life forms to create a celestial body.



Serena McCarroll, Bernadette Greuel, 2010, HD video

Down the hall, there is a wonderful series of portraits in a variety of media curated under the title Likeness by Patrick Macaulay. From photographs of locals arrested while protesting last year’s G-20 summit to paintings of friends by Bruce Horak, an artist who lost over 90% of his vision as a child, the range is effective in capturing the many different ways we see each other and appear. Serena McCarroll’s video documenting Prairie poet Bernadette Greuel might seem the most direct on the surface, but reveals much through the autobiographical rhymes of her subject.


 
Douglas Walker, #A-637, oil on panel

Farther down the hall and up the stairs in York Quay’s space for architecture exhibitions is a display addressing issues of height in the urban environment. Alongside the Bruce Mau-esque didactics by various commercial firms on the experience of going tall, there are a couple art qua art paintings by Douglas Walker that depict skyscraping in a classically fantastical way. I’ve never seen his work in the flesh and I discover that what appears as intricately detailed from a distance is dramatically gestural on closer inspection.



Julie Beugin, Transparency, 2011, oil and acrylic on canvas

Roaming the city, I am pleasantly pleased to find Paul Petro sitting behind his desk, working away, and welcoming visitors to an extended run of his current shows. Painter Julie Beugin beguiles with her large canvases of landscapes, both interior and exterior, that occupy the same space and blend into each other with the logic of dreams. This confusion of represented space is something I’ve been seeing a lot of lately. Beugin does a great job of balancing between abstraction and the things I think I see, rewarding my forward-and-backward dance with surprises both in detail and composition.

Upstairs, there is a reduced showing of Amy Bowles’ recent paintings and sculptures with the latter grabbing attention as grotesque but fascinating (and oh so tiny) monsters with many faces. They demand to be placed upon a particularly baroque mantle.


 
Stefan Thompson, Picadae

I don’t find another open door until I make my way up to Bloor and Lansdowne and visit the relatively new Robert Kananaj Gallery. He is showing a collection of artists dealing mostly with painting and sculpture. His own figurative works made of masses of bunched tape are on prominent display as are some fine works on paper by Stefan Thompson. The exhibition is a bit of a hit-and-miss jumble but gives my critical faculty a good workout, so who’s complaining.



Ilze Bebris, Warren, 2011, wire and paper

My last stop is the Convenience window gallery. They never disappoint because they never close. Ilze Bebris is currently occupying the space with her miniature city. The wire construction clearly resembles the ubiquitous grid of apartment windows but it only takes a moment of reflection to see each abode as a cage. Having spent the past couple days trapped both in and outside various enclosures, I can see no better end to this week’s reviews.


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.


Habourfront Centre: http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/visualarts/
See website for current exhibitions.

Paul Petro: http://www.paulpetro.com/
Julie Beugin: Blaue Stunde continues until January 14.
Amy Bowles: In the Gargoyle’s Head continues until January 14.

Robert Kananaj Gallery: http://www.robertkananajgallery.com/
Group Exhibition continues until January 7.

Convenience Gallery: http://conveniencegallery.com/
Ilze Bebris: Warren continues until January 22.

 

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