ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present The Spirit is Willing, a suite of new drawings by Toronto-based Luke Painter. 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.
Every living thing demonstrates a will to survive. A component of this survival instinct is commonly referred to as the “flight or fight response”, an evolutionary trait that allows humans, animals, insects and even some plants to sense and assess danger, and respond in ways that protect themselves.
“When a cat blinks slowly, that usually indicates they're not threatened by you, but when they blink rapidly, that means they're panicked,” says Luke Painter, who, as the caretaker of two felines, would know. “Several drawings feature plants, insects and animals that have developed unique abilities to stay alive, to continue their existence.” His drawing Slow Blink 02 (cat eyes, hydrangeas) depicts a cat peering from the safety of hydrangea bushes, only its eyes visible and sequentially executing the motion of the title. The hydrangeas surrounding the cat produces flowers that vary in colour depending on the qualities of the soil it's grown in. Another drawing features a salamander, an amphibian that can regrow lost limbs, which may explain how they have existed for over 350 million years.
Moth Room features an enormous moth, an insect comprising thousands of species that mimic their surroundings or other creatures' characteristics. (For the record: moths have existed for 190 million years; hydrangeas: 40 million years, and domesticated cats: a paltry 4,000.) Painter's moth, instead of hiding itself, looks quite comfortable, lounging openly in the Edwardian-era drawing room. Homes are, of course, structures that offer protection from harm, but any human presence in Painter's domestic settings often feels spectral. Perhaps this explains the exhibition's title, derived from a 1967 movie in which a family moves into a haunted house.
Despite his exacting drawing style, Painter doesn't strive for realism. The perspective in the three largest drawings is isometric, skewed to distort depth of field. His drawings also reference the backgrounds in early 'point-and-click' video games like Maniac Mansion, in which movement within the game was controlled using a mouse. “I want people to feel like they could move around the place settings in the dining room,” he says of the drawing titled Table.
Painter grew up in such formal domestic settings, and understands why others who didn't find them threatening. But, if there's a threat, it's indeterminate and registers subconsciously. Painter's imagery recalls that of Surrealists like Dali, Carrington and Ernst (who also liked moths). Their paintings, like Painter's drawings, depict not only external threats, but suggest that humans have become a menace to our own survival. (Homo sapiens: 300,000 years… and counting.)
– Bill Clarke