Monday, February 16, 2009

Modern/Post-Modern III - Seeing Red

Modern/Post-Modern III

Seeing Red

Big, bold, and beautiful are the first words these paintings evoke in me. Confident compositions in black and white and colour. Big, bold, beautiful, and red. The red dominates; it jumps out at me. From Ella's red lips. From the largest panel, at least four feet square, in all shades of red with black outlines--Escalation. Where all colours flow into one red dot--Red Focus. Studies in black and white with red accents--Miroesque. Fantasyland. A warped lidded jar on a black field, red and gold and purple, with eyes, evoking primitive pottery, Humpty-Dumpty, and Picasso--Face First. I can see the artist playing. Challenging himself with the styles of twentieth-century masters--Miro, Picasso, Mondrian, Braque--with whimsical twists.

A closer look reveals the presence of other colours in the show. A navy blue and white composition evoking Calgary weather--White Invasion. A beautiful sky-blue field with black, white, and green notes--The Blues. Blue and Red Dance. Red Slash. And a lot of gold. Bottles. Journey III. Girl with Dog is a forest of brown, green, and gold, a girl's face, an elusive dog. Journey II is a dream, a mauve pastel drip, with a Mondrian-ish corner. Like the background in the Ella portrait, the saxophone is yellow in Tribute to John Handy. I remember Gary's giant pup of a dog named Mingus. Names, like titles, are clues.

Very twentieth century. Very ''modern art" with a post-modern sensibility that rejects the myth of progress and the belief that art can improve things, that it can make a positive contribution. These paintings are an homage both to one man's life and to life in the last half of the twentieth century. They celebrate the artist's passions--jazz music, art, places of forest and snow. In colour and composition and movement, in a variety of applications of oil to linen and canvas, they communicate emotions and ideas. Red Slash, like a wound; red dot like a bullet hole. Back at the huge black and scarlet square, its shapes morph into deltas, islands, peninsulas, its colour devolving from blood red to agent orange--Escalation.

Eclectic Passion hangs in the Back Room of the Hope Arts Gallery, Hope, British Columbia, for the month of February, 2009.

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