The Author of this post hides behind a rose

by Natasha Henderson, Montreal

A fellow painter, Rick Leong’s work is something that I can appreciate. Nature is the major inspiration for his large-scale oil on canvas works, but he delves into a fairy-tale, mystic and imagined place. The wonder of seeing is ever-present. The shapes and forms that magically appear amongst the trees, moss, sky, and vegetal forms are like a brief reverie within the midst of contemplation. I recall seeing his solo exhibit at the Parisian Laundry just over three years ago… they were intriguing paintings, and they performed that delicate dance between memory, observation, expression, and representation. Good painting, I would call it. So when I realised he was exhibiting at the Parisian Laundry again, I decided to stop in.

I went into the ‘Laundry not knowing what to expect, but my hopes were high. The work of Michael A. Robinson greeted me on the main floor. His work is a grand-scale for a commercial gallery space, and it was effective. The content was perhaps simple (for the serious nature of the work) and highly accessible. I liked it. Visually compelling, visceral, the work made links between stark materials (wood, plaster, simple construction-objects) and bomb imagery, warfare, and the techniques of it. Three large sculptures dominated the voluminous space, accompanied by a few drawings.

A big wall-hanging that was comprised of chiselled plaster-covered wood was covered in scratches and worked-upon images of “falling” bombs. This piece must have been about 12 or 15 feet tall, and massively wide. There seemed to be three juncture-points of the lines, three places where the tension of the composition was highest. It formed a pleasing composition, quite classic in form. Perhaps as “dropping bombs” they would be most effective in this formation, too.

The second large sculptural piece in this show was a selection of thin, flat, jagged edged plaster pieces, carefully arranged in a circle on the floor. There was a sense of “putting the pieces together”, a feeling of trying to figure something out… The individual plaster pieces looked like they were lifted from the large wall hanging, mentioned above.

Also included in Robinson’s exhibit was a series of drawings that appeared to be studies on bombing, attacks, and warfare. They were clearly drawn with an ink pen, using a ruler. There was a graphic, clear, and somewhat spare formality to them, and they seemed like technical drawings that bordered on illustration. Certainly minimalist, cut back to the basics of the forms that inspired them works… again warfare. There were about five or six of these drawings.

The most captivating piece in the show was, hands down, a huge construct of wooden objects. This seemingly exploding form must have been about 20 feet in diameter. I walked well around it, checking to see if there were any eyes poked out by all the projecting pieces of wood. It was comprised of crutches, easels, ski poles, a distinct absence of hockey sticks, and many simple pieces of wood… the type found leftover on construction sites. It was almost a cartoon drawing of an explosion; the drawing made of wood pieces in a 3-D format. The overall effect seemed to be a disassociation from the grit and grime of war.

Overall, the work in Even When Bombs Are Gone spoke more about construction and drafting, layers of building and re-building, and a closeness to materiality than “war“. War was a reference point, with pieces of the visual graphics and planning for war utilised in this work. “War” is isolated as a concept, as a source for dislocated, objective subject matter in and of itself.

After seeing the Main Space exhibit, I went down into The Bunker (yes, it is called that) to see Rick Leong’s show, The Roaming Gloam. This is a space accessible through a staircase underground, and many attendees would need to duck while traversing a certain passage (I did). Once you arrive in The Bunker, however, the ceiling opens up to about 20 feet or so. It’s a great space. Dramatic, no windows, no light but the spotlights on the one large painting on display. It was… a pretty good painting. This painting displayed a magical-seeming forest-scene. The tree-forms were impeccably painted, the bark seemed to glow from within, an ethereal light. Little cute polka-dotted mushrooms added a sense of scale in the bottom. For some reason, though, it all left me feeling a little empty. I think that more context, another couple of pieces perhaps upstairs would have… oh wait… there were two pieces of Leong’s upstairs. In the Upstairs (above the Main Space) Leong showed two pencil drawings, of an accessible scale, approximately 3’ x 2’ . These were exquisite renderings of tree-like shapes, with tendrils and doodads dancing about the treetops and trunks. Very lovely. There was a lot of empty space upstairs…. It was elegant and open, and delightful for some odd reason. I felt that Leong’s exhibit really could have used a couple more pieces. One large painting and two exquisite drawings separated two floors apart just wasn’t enough for me. It should be noted that the gallery suggested in a little text handed out that this large painting would converse with some smaller paintings that Leong was showing (in theory concurrently) up the hill at the McClure Gallery. Not complaining about Leong’s works, rather, I wanted MORE of it.

Having seen the two exhibits at the Parisian Laundry, I was inspired to go up the hill (heeding the instructions of the ’Laundry) to see the additional works of Leong at the McClure Gallery. Alas, that that show was actually set for a later date. Upon re-reading the text provided by The ‘Laundry, perhaps Leong’s exhibit at the McClure gallery is concurrent with one in New York later this fall… well, either way, good job Rick Leong! Three major exhibits in one autumn.

Instead of Leong’s work at the McClure, there was an exhibit of large-scale, beautiful paintings by Russell T. Gordon. It was something of a retrospective/celebration of a fine, fine artist. I loved his paintings. However, I would have cut a couple of the smaller pieces from the show, and one or two of the larger ones as well. Two big pieces were competing with one another on a wall that couldn’t accommodate them. The lesser one I’d have bumped. Just a note, not reviewing that show. But Over Easy – Metaphores en series ran ‘til October 2 and was good painting.

I am glad to have wandered into the gallery today, it’s been too too long. Next gallery I hit up will be the Musee des Beaux Arts. I hear there are some pretty darned stunning pieces down in the contemporary temporary exhibits rooms right NOW…

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