ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present a two-person exhibition featuring new paintings on paper by Bradley Harms: The Thinner the Air, and collage-based paintings by John Eisler: basement suite. The show runs from Friday, April 6 to Saturday, May 5, 2018 with a public opening and artist talk on Friday, April 6 at 7:00 p.m.
Breaking down his propensity for analytical formal structures is the painterly 'problem' Vancouver and Calgary-based Bradley Harms addresses in his latest work. In an unexpected twist, he draws upon his early experience in printmaking to create works on paper that feature adventurous colour relationships, and bold foreground and background interactions. "Paper is enriched by colour, whereas colour rests on the surface of a canvas," he explains. "I didn't want these works to feel merely like paintings on paper. They would have lost their luminosity and transparency. Because of this economy, the works become a delicate balance of light and colour, unable to accept multiple layers lest the surface become merely a fetishized pile of paint."
Over the colour, Harms lays down line work that defines where areas of colour intersect. These gestures open the work to further interpretation - in some cases, the lines read as topographical, while others act as amplifiers or screens, highlighting or obscuring structures within the painting itself, an analysis of the process of understanding abstraction. "My work often features a 'hypertechnical' build-up of lines," he says with a chuckle. "This work is my attempt to break free of that, but sometimes I can't help myself." As a side note, fans of the Scottish band Cocteau Twins may also recognize the paintings' titles - "Iceblink Luck", "Pitch the Baby" - as songs from their 1990 album Heaven or Las Vegas, one of Harms' favourites. For some, the paintings could provide a sense of synesthesia with the band's ethereal music.
The synesthesia in John Eisler's canvases occurs between collage and painting. Eislerbegins by painting various patterns and textures on thin plastic sheets in varying viscosities of acrylic, which he then cuts into different shapes. "At this point, it's like the painting I'm about to make is scattered around the studio," he explains. "Sometimes, I will see the painting I want to make immediately among the cut outs, and I do exercise a great deal of control. But, it is also during this in-between stage when I can generate productive 'mistakes' that can take a work in unanticipated directions."
Eisler adheres the shapes from the 'pre-paintings' to the canvas using acrylic colour or clear medium, which creates dynamic contrasts between areas of opacity and transparency. But, while Eisler's assemblages may recall Matisse's collages, there is a greater sense of the works' components having come together from different sources. This imbues Eisler's work with an engaging awkwardness and humour. "The paintings aren't figurative, but they have personalities," says Eisler. "It is as if the paintings are like people, trying to establish their relationship with the world."
- Bill Clarke