ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present STEVE DRISCOLL: THE SMOKE SHOW AND OTHER DECEPTIONS IN PAINT, new works by one of Canada’s top contemporary landscape painters. The exhibition will be featured throughout the gallery from January 9 to February 14, 2015. An opening reception will be held on January 9, 6:00 to 9:00 PM.
Steve Driscoll is a modern alchemist. He transforms the base materials of urethane and pigment into ecstatic visions of the Canadian wilderness.
Like his historical forefathers, the Group of Seven, Driscoll heads to the forest for inspiration. But rather than re-enacting the plein air sketching method practiced by Canada’s archetypal landscape painters, Driscoll instead mentally banks the images he sees — lakes and trees, sunsets and sunrises, moons and stars, cabins and campfires — creating a storehouse of visual memories that he brings back to his Toronto studio. There he sets about finding ways to make his unorthodox materials suggest those aspects of the wilderness experience that loom large in his mind.
As the title of this exhibition indicates, smoke and other atmospheric effects are the focus of this new body of work. The process of getting there entails a balancing act between accident, exploration and purposeful mark making enabled by years of experience working with urethane, a challenging medium that many try but few master. Driscoll’s past experience working in construction serves him well in this regard — he is comfortable with industrial materials and enjoys pushing them in unexpected directions. This experimentation is performed in tandem with a thorough understanding of the properties of various pigments — how they rise or fall within the urethane medium, their transparency or opaqueness, which layer they should occupy in order to make the painting work.
In the Smoke series, brushed swathes of translucent greyish white simulate wisps of smoke rising from a campfire, while pooled pours and drips suggest curling tendrils, caught just before they unfurl and dissipate into the evening air.
Through this translucent veil is the forest, that place of enchantment that has such a grip on the Canadian psyche. We see the trees and sky beyond the campfire shift in colour according to the time of day. Trance reflects the golden hour, when the earth is bathed in the glowing radiance of the end-of-day light. In Setting Sun, the sky is vivid with the fuschia and apricot tones referred to in weather folklore as sailor’s delight; in Dusk colours become subdued as the blackness of night encroaches. Early Flame evokes the chilly air of dawn.
In the “other deceptions in paint” of the show’s title, Driscoll transports us to a visionary landscape, where colour and form are heightened to psychedelic proportions. In The warmth we once knew, a fiery sun suffuses the sky with a brilliant golden orange, reminiscent of skies by that British master of the sublime landscape, J.M.W. Turner, or the cosmic panoramas of Canadian painter, Paterson Ewen, an artist from whom Driscoll draws inspiration. The large scale (60 x 90 inches) enhances this painting’s majestic presence.
Another large work, Rougher Than Timber, beckons us into a magical place replete with intoxicating light and colour. Step up close and admire the abstract beauty of patches and puddles of silvery white that from a distance emulate sunlight dappling through leaves and shimmering on the lake’s surface, or the vigorous painterly striations of yellows, browns and hot pinks that resolve into the semblance of gnarled tree bark. Move back and fall into Driscoll’s landscape of dreams, a little piece of heaven on earth.
Steve Driscoll is an award-winning Toronto-based painter who has had nineteen solo exhibitions and has participated in group shows throughout North America. He has executed numerous commissions and has been featured in Canadian Art, dART International, The Telegram (NL), NOW Magazine, CBC TV and ArtSync TV. Publications include the 2012 monograph intelligence with the earth, with text by Gary Michael Dault.