April 5, 2009

Christopher Willard: On being thin

I'm a little behind with my reading (this review is from March), but wanted to post Nancy Tousley's Calgary Herald review of Christopher Willard's show at Herringer Kiss because I'm interested in writers who paint, painters who write, and how the two practices overlap and inform one another.

"Christopher Willard is a smart, busy man who wears several hats. He is an expert on colour theory, an artist, a teacher, head of the painting department at the Alberta College of Art&Design, and a writer. The combined influences of these pursuits show up in 11 new paintings and one silkscreen print on view at Herringer Kiss Gallery, but not quite in the way one might expect. Willard's new work reads as an academic exercise executed with a touch of playfulness that cannot deflect attention from the thinness of the idea....

"In the new work, it looks as if Willard is trying to break the hold of formalism with a stab at the conceptual. He has changed his format from an overall geometric composition on a diamond to a long rectangle upon which he puts the colour bar to work as a compositional element and adds words to the painted surface. The paintings and print, all made this year, display beautifully controlled colour and precisely graded colour bars. The compositions of most of the paintings are variations on a diagrammatic serial theme. A white-on-black grid runs across the top of the rectangle, while below it the geometric composition opens up into larger areas of solid colour juxtaposed with a colour bar.

"In 'Read Between the Lines,' two colour bars are stacked one above the other. one bar beginning with blue, the other with orange, and both grading out into the same hard-to-name colour, presumably by mixing the two colours together. The simpler image of 'A Sign of the Times'comprises two colour bars, laid one on top of the other. The top bar goes from white, through shades of grey, to black; the bottom bar reverses the same colour sequence.

"Then there are the words. These works bear legends that say things like It Isn't What You Think,' or 'Let That Be A Lesson,' or 'Not An Afterthought But A Before Thought.' The acrylic paint is laid down on Plexiglas into which the words are engraved by laser. The legends, which are also the titles of the works, are directions to the viewer that seem to want to strike up a relationship. Like most pickup lines, though, they are either too clever or not clever enough. And they do not sit well on these paintings, but instead call attention to their kinship with graphic design, the kind seen in glossy advertisements for pharmaceuticals in which a white-on-black grid is involved."

I wish I could have seen the show. Tousley may have found the work "conceptually thin," but from her description, the work sounds pretty interesting. Perhaps "thinness" is Willard's concept.

"Christopher Willard: It Isn't What You Think," Herringer Kiss, Calgary, AB, Canada. Through March 31.

1 comments:

Did this writer have a grudge? What a petty posting from someone who didn't understand the work. I own two of his paintings. He's an excellent and smart artist.

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