ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present Florilegium, an exhibition of new paintings by Daniel Hutchinson, who recently relocated from Hamilton to Victoria, BC. The exhibition runs from November 16 to December 21, 2019, with an opening reception on Saturday, November 16 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Joris-Karl Huysmans's 1884 novel À rebours ('Against the grain' or 'Against nature') tells the story of Jean des Esseinte, an eccentric French aristocrat who, tired of bourgeois Parisian society, leaves the city for a remote country home. There, he pursues a life of daydreaming, and indulges his love of art and artifice, proclaiming: “I seek new perfumes, ampler blossoms, untried pleasures.” Unfortunately, his every attempt at pleasure-seeking falls short and, mentally and physically unwell, he is forced to return to Paris and the life he longed to escape. “These new paintings aren't meant to illustrate the events or settings in Huysmans' book,” says Daniel Hutchinson, who re-read the novel while working on his current exhibition. “But, its underlying message – that escaping reality through pleasure is ultimately impossible – was formative.”
After losing his first studio in central Hamilton to gentrification, Hutchinson moved to a 100-year-old factory in a residential neighbourhood – a Canadian artist's version of des Esseinte's migration from Paris to the country, perhaps. “While there, I noticed that private space overlaps with public space in interesting ways,” he says. “Many abandoned stores had been converted into residences, despite by-laws forbidding that. The large storefront windows that once displayed products now contained decorative objects, screens or overgrown plants that provided privacy and reflected the inhabitants' personalities.” The current paintings, produced in Hamilton before the artist's departure for Victoria, capture the liveliness of these objects and, especially, the plants – the late-summer window gardens full of overripe fruit or sunflower blooms, sagging heavy with seeds – located in these liminal spaces. “There was something decadent about the look of the over-ripened fruit that appealed to me,” says the artist.
Hutchinson loosely translates these observed objects into hard-edged, vividly coloured painted forms in works like Myrrour of the Whorl and Florilegium. Or, he subsumes them in his now-trademark lushly gleaming fields of black pigment in the tondo pieces Rustic Chair with Artichokes and Rustic Chair with Melons. Rather than asking us simply to identify the forms, the paintings invite us to daydream like Huysmans's protagonist and lose ourselves in their hallucinatory qualities. Consider, for example, how the light playing across the black areas of Hutchinson's work creates the illusion that the flat surfaces are raised or in motion. This draws upon the idea of the after-image - a fleeting perceptual imprint of an object on the retina - that currently informs Hutchinson's painting process. He fixes these visual impressions in watercolour and gouache studies in situ before returning with them to the studio. “This approach allows me to draw out the essential properties of colour and shape that exist equally in the observed subject and in the eye of the beholder,” he says.
Oscar Wilde, Stéphane Mallarmé and other writers inspired by Huysmans used words to convey their decadent and escapist impressions of the world. Hutchinson uses paint. His paintings lushly re-envision the everyday, momentarily allowing us to transcend real life.
– Bill Clarke