Number 519, Sep16, 2004

Piecing it Together

Reality in the 21st Century

John Oswald, Governor General’s Award recipient, and musical composer, presents a new body of photo-based work at Edward Day Gallery. The exhibit is titled after, and centred around, a piece called instandstillnessence. The piece appears as an ultra slow-motion movie. Oswald describes it as an “unprecedented new art form that is a bridge between the traditional disciplines of painting, photography, film and video.” While the work is certainly engaging, to describe what appears as video installation as “unprecedented” may be stretching things a little.

Instandstillnessence is a projection piece comprised of life-sized photographs of 500 Toronto residents. As the work moves along, the crowd slowly, and continually change formation, fading in between clothed and naked states. Despite the lack of musical accompaniment, the transient bodies seem to take on the rhythm of song.

Oswald’s projection, like most of the other photos in the exhibit, are collaged in several ways. Each person is photographed both clothed and naked. The photos are taken individually and brought together, providing a complex portrait of a community. Unlike traditional collage, Oswald’s digital work comes together seamlessly.

In the North gallery, Andrew Morrow, who was recently short-listed for the Royal Bank of Canada Painting Competition, presents the simply titled, War Paintings. It was no accident that Morrow’s work has been paired with Oswald’s. While Morrow’s work collages conflict, Oswald’s work collages community. Morrow depicts a flurry of activity with a still painting, Oswald presents moving images of still people. Just as pockets of uneasiness are present in Oswald’s work, (the people seemingly have no control over their state of dress or undress) pockets of comfort exist within the War Paintings, (is there anyone who does not think pandas are cute?) Beyond simple opposition, suffice to say both bodies of work feed off one another.

Morrow’s War Paintings are a broad examination of conflict. At first glance they appear as straight forward depictions of battle, but upon closer inspection, the disjointed nature of the melee unfolds. The war Morrow refers to is as metaphorical as it is literal. In his paintings he combines disparate source material, thus creating conflict within conflict. In a sense, differing images of battle are engaged in their own battle with one another.
Knights rally alongside a wolf pack, boxers fight as a snail crawls along, and dinosaurs rage as centrefold-like women appear as casualties.

Morrow says these paintings began “in reaction to feelings of frustration and powerlessness relating to our specific climate of violence.” Although he talks of specificity, the paintings cover a spectrum conflict, suggesting competition is everywhere. Everything from world history, to cinema and pop culture are filled with violent acts. And good old painting is no exception. Morrow cites Polish painter Jan Matejko’s work from the late 1800’s as a source of inspiration. However, given the range of imagery he uses, one could suggest Morrow is generally inspired by the world of images. These War Paintings are incongruous, absurd and confusing, in the very same way that war itself is.

John Oswald

War Paintings
Andrew Morrow
North Gallery

Edward Day Gallery
952 Queen St. West, Toronto
September 9 – October 4, 2004
Opening Reception: September 11, 2 – 4 pm