Thursday, September 27, 2007

Searching for Balance, Leszek Wyczolkowski, SNAP Gallery September 14 - October 12, 2007

Image credit: Leszek Wyczolkowski, 2007, Courtesy of SNAP Gallery

As you take in SNAP’s inner gallery from left to right, Polish Canadian artist Leszek Wyczolkowski’s graphics build upon an intensity of restraint. From earlier works dating back to early 2000 to recent works completed at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Wyczolkowski’s Searching for Balance reflects a convergence of two worlds: one world of stoic geometry and the other of organic movement.

Sequestered blocks of embossed squares reach out for a dualism in balance; offsetting black and white symmetry with shape, texture and eventually primary colours, the eye wanders from block to block, guided by an unbound rhythm at play between the squares (which in themselves resemble windows into separate worlds in motion).

There is a motion occurring within each work, and in following this motion, you begin to see the artist’s search for balance.

Just as the geometric cleanliness of a work sets the eye at awe, the next graphic introduces an organic element, from the bark of a tree to the stamp of a cabbage—natural shapes and textures strike a new balance.
The influence of Taoism emerges halfway through the show, where the simplicities of movement and containment begin factoring into the overall experience of the work. There is no one way to view the works, but the graphics would work best as a whole, stretched out side by side in an evolving succession of logic and intuition.

The introduction of solid colours also brings a surprisingly modern contrast to the former works, which though formally quite similar, take on a new dimension on the visual plane with the addition of colour. A solid square of yellow, offset by a square panel of thick vertical two-tone stripes—in itself a strong pattern—is weighed and balanced by an organic rendering of tree bark. There is a witty harmony running throughout the pieces that tempers both the emotional and logical side of perspective.

Wyczolkowski, an internationally recognized artist who was onsite during the opening of his exhibition, mused about the balances unfolding throughout his works.

“There are layers,” he says pointing to one of his newer pieces, “at odds with one another. There is something very basic, but strong about each square.” Tracing a line beyond its embossed border with his finger, he reflects, “How does the line continue here and how does it relate to the other squares?”
Wyczolkowski asks these questions with earnest intention, as they are questions for himself as much as they are for his viewers.

(First published in Vue Weekly, September 26 - October 2, 2007 Print and Online)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sean Caulfield lecture, Whitemud Crossings Edmonton Public Library, September 23, 2007

Promoted as a lecture explaining print artist Sean Caulfield's interest and use of historical scientific illustrations, the slide show lecture inside the Programs room at the Whitemud Crossings EPL turned into a sneak preview for the upcoming art and science amalgam show tentatively scheduled for the AGA in November 2008.
Gathering leading scientific researchers from around the globe as well--as artists to match including Montreal's BioTechika who Create sculptures from stem cells--the art and science group played off one another during a workshop held at the Banff Centre. Local artists include Caulfield as well as Liz Ingram and Lyndal Osborne.

As an idea sparked by Caulfield and his brother (who works in nanotechnology), they wanted to bring together both their respective folds.
Art and science are intrinsically linked worlds, but divisions have led us to think we can have live and excel in only one world and not the other. It may be too early to ponder aloud, but I wonder if this blind separation of art and science will be addressed or if it will just be an exhibition featuring art created and inspired by modern science.

Kurt Schwitter: Collage Eye Official Opening with Pop Art, Funhouse, and The 1950 Ford Show, AGA, September 21, 2007

Noting the difference between experiencing an exhibition and attending its opening, the AGA provides a fair ground to start from since only the common area was crowded as drinks were not allowed inside any of the exhibitions.

In the front reception space, speeches were held unveiling the official opening, which many of those present had already sneaked a glimpse during last week’s collage-a-thon. The ceremonious cheque exchange announcing TD Waterhouse’s $150,000 contribution to the New Vision Campaign was also marked; but as the campaign goes on, the AGA still needs a few more contributions in the seven figure region.

As the speeches went on, the regular opening vultures descended on the refreshment. Already under supplied what for a few marinated cherry toms and typical chicken skewers, only the cash bar remained opened for the 100 + public long after the remanants of basil leaves were cleared.

A few of the artists were in attendance from their week long install, and as they mostly clustered amongst themselves, the art in the other room now had didactics up to explain the works before you.
Usually a good idea in a public gallery, didactics can be as useful as they are harmful, but with the AGA's re-introduction of them, let's hope they are read as one singular entry point that can and often should be challenged.

The 1950 Ford Show, AGA, September 22 to January 6, 2008

Image credit: Amanda Kindregan, 2007 Courtesy of AGA

Curated by Anthony Easton, The 1950 Ford Show sets out to challenge Easton’s idol Ed Ruscha’s 1977 drawing “Will 100 Artists Draw a 1950 Ford from Memory” to its literal root. Selecting 100 artists from an international call-out, many of which ended up being locally based artists, the showing of 100 depictions of a 1950 Ford magnifies what pop culture could mean when situated within a collective memory.
Pop culture, arguably the ash tray of our social indulgences, is here pared down to its nostalgic essence. A 1950 Ford, a slice of a bygone era of postwar American glory, is asked to be remembered in its various reincarnations. It is highly unlikely that a majority of the artists who submitted have ever encountered a real life 1950s Ford model beyond a mausoleum showroom, but the idea, the request to draw from memory a shape so common as a mid-century American car, releases a flood of layered iconographies--and it is in this release that captures the surprise and subversion of Pop with wit and poignancy.

Images credit: Daphne Louter, 2007 Courtesy of AGA

Friday, September 21, 2007

Prairie Artsters on the Roam: Calgary

Lack of updates on the home front, Prairie Artsters surveys as much of Calgary's arts scene as half an afternoon can beget.
Highlights and not necessarily reviews included the Triangle Gallery's exhibition on Swedish design; both the space and show were pleasing and surprising. The Art Gallery of Calgary was showing a retrospective of Alex Janvier for the AB Biennial, and along with Janvier's more well known works from the 80s, a sample of recent floral paintings were on the top floor from 2005. A similar stroke was present, but it is unfortunate to say that perhaps Janvier's best works are well behind him.
In the basement media room of the AGC was Red Eye, a compilation of contemporary Aboriginal short films put on by Carleton University and curated by Ryan Rice. Taking on the narrative of the "cinematic" Indian as mythologized by Hollywood and mainstream cinema, works by Terrance Houle and Nadia Myre represent a new channel of storytelling.

Also visited were Truck and Art Central, both reviewed below.

Calgary as a whole certainly appears to have both more commercial appeal and credibility (what with ACAD and all), but I saw little or no risk happening at all in the art. Even in the Truck exhibition, which was probably my favorite space and exhibition (if you discount the films and videos from Red Eye), most of the art seen can be summed up in the overheard conversation that happened inside Axis Gallery.
For a city booming faster than Edmonton, I can only wonder where all the artists are working from and working towards. And hopefully, more visits to the south can be taken to see what arises.

ENDGAMES, TRUCK Gallery, Calgary, September 7 to October 6, 2007

Refering to the most rewarding and challenging portion of a chess match, Endgames as a group exhibition plays upon the perception of individualized strategy and outcome of gaming culture.
Housed in the raw basement that is TRUCK Gallery, Craig Le Blanc's astute floor-based sculptures fuse the plastic fun sensibility of toy and game culture with the precision of architecturally sound designs and moldings. The world created is one for the future and emanating from each piece is the urge to step into this world and play (as it were).
Michael Coolidge's photographs depict an abandoned world where the game (what appears to be a set of multi-coloured lawn bowling balls) can occur anywhere and does exist everywhere. From side walk curbside to interior abstract spaces, the absence of players in each photograph arouses a sense of conflict in our collective culture's representation of games as solitary activities that were once about interaction.
The other two artists, Laura Wilson and Mike Paget, directly invite you into their pieces as interactive games. Though lightly impressive for their constructs, the works on their own do not engage with the audience as much as their non-interactive counterparts.
Though the title and artist statement may have been more clever than the pieces, the show as a whole was a well-balanced exhibition that hit its theme from all different perspectives and mediums.

Image courtesy of TRUCK Gallery

Artists Michael Coolidge, Craig Le Blanc, Mike Paget, Laura Wilson

Art Central, Calgary, September 2007

Spread out over three floors on one of Calgary's renovated and rejuvenated corners is Art Central, a hub of 56 galleries, studios and knick knack art + design stores.

From the street level, Axis Gallery looked promising, and it did turn out to be best space inside the entire building. Currently showing was Greg Gerla's figure photography, which was less interesting than most of the other work on display including Jim Mroczkowski's mixed media meditations and Caroline James' abstract explosions. Also found were works by Edmonton based artists Ryan McCourt and Tony Baker (now relocated to Toronto), which lent to the strong regional representation of contemporary artists. A lot of Calgary-based artists appeared to be exploring the city, not in any inventive or original way, but the changing city was a dominant preoccupation.
As I rounded the back corner of the gallery, I came upon a conversation that I can only assume to be gaining in popularity.
A man, mid forties to fifties, business attire, was confidently pondering, "Yep, I still like that one . . . Since I bought my new place in Canmore, I'm looking for something to fill the walls. I got a lot of walls!"
And so the gallery representative measured a large black and white Turner-esque painting to make sure its dimensions would accommodate. I left at this point to browse the other galleries and shops, whose works were all mediocre and cramped into their spaces, but as it goes, the taste of commerce over substance lingered during my entire experience.

Realistically speaking, the tenants of Art Central must sell their work on a fairly consistent basis to make Calgary's rental fees, but this self-described axis of Calgary's art scene registered more as an "arty" mall than a destination point for any arts community. Art Central seems to be a good idea, but the overall atmosphere and quality was homogeneous and lack lustre.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Prairie Artsters: Vue Weekly September 19 - 25, 2007

Taking advantage of the fluctuation of trial students that happens every early September, I decided to sit in on an intro-level art fundamentals class at the U of A. Unprepared but for a roll of white legal paper and an ancient pack of conte sticks, I had absolutely no idea of what to expect as I sat down in one of the many chalkboard green drafting tables loosely arranged in the round.

The instructor—who will remain anonymous, but was privy to my informal visit—presented slides of Max Ernst and Sigmund Polke’s works to start off the class. Breaking down composition and form without contextualizing the forms in its history, it quickly became clear that I would have to re-learn how to see shapes and form over the next three hours.

A solid evening of studio work with no break in between, this particular art course was designed for students with little or no previous experience in art making. Having not actively attended an art class in close to ten years, I was definitely just another candidate sitting down with the ever-impending question: “So where/what/how do I begin?”
Starting from basic art and design fundamentals, we were there to focus on the formal qualities of drawing; examining proportions of balance, repetition and layout, the questions answered were always in relation to the “how” and not “why” artists do what they do. Extensively elaborated were the methods and possible techniques of how you achieve certain textures; missing was why these hues mattered.

Even though I understood it to be an intro visual fundamentals class, and that perhaps digging into context would be pre-emptive, I couldn’t help but wonder if technique can be so cleanly removed from the history from which it came from. Regardless, art fundamentals was not about history—fundamentals translate into technique.

And so, being confronted with a blank sheet of paper, the task of drawing a line, 12 lines to be exact, was surprisingly discomforting.

Twelve lines. Vertical across a blank landscape layout. The execution of where, length, width, tone, shape for each individual line and the lines in relation to each other became a daunting ordeal.

Coming from the dark side of art, the critique and examination of a finished product, the detachment of form from context was like severing off my limbs. Unable to grasp onto any context, all that was left were shapes and tones, assembled to a rhythm that I could not hear and in a light in which I could not see.

As an exercise to loosen everyone up, all us students repeatedly rotated their works to the right each time we were asked to change our mediums with new instructions. In the last round, after graphite, charcoal and white paint had been applied, we were asked to really show a sense of conviction with the medium, to mark down and own whatever it was we were expressing without feeling a sense of entitlement to the work.

Awkward and liberating at the same time, the sensation of not knowing at all what the hell you’re doing, but just doing and exploring is at best, a positive experience.

Art making at this level--leaps beyond doodles and ages before concepts come into play--explores how you see and move to the world around you; and only in exploring yourself and your movements first in relation to the world do you then proceed to explore how everything else connects and matters.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Collage-a-Thon, Friday, September 14, 2007 AGA

More party than arty, the collage-a-thon put on by the AGA in partnership with Latitude 53 filled the cavernous halls of the old Bay building from corner to corner. In the earlier part of the evening, the collaging tables were mostly filled with supervised children working away. As the evening grew and the line up for drink tickets filled the doorway, those still collaging had distractions ranging from a live band to the troupe of black clad ladies from Mile Zero Dance.

Image credit: Zachary Ayotte, 2007

Highlights included the little old lady in pink who sold the drink tickets; the dancers who presented strong visuals, but with a pulse; and the enthusiasm of the children as they put up their works on the gallery walls, knowing others would get to see them.
Lowlights may have been the overall output of work produced, as most collages looked more like the inside of diaries and dreambooks; and the amount of individuals who didn't bother collaging at all.
Collage, the mash up of images and meaning--and if artfully done, the seamless integration of all things supposed juxtaposed--may have been the overall atmosphere of the evening in action as in theme, but certainly some found it very difficult to collage amidst all the commotion.
But for those who just wanted a spectacle (or could only find spectacle), there was a general consensus that the AGA (or for better or for worse) hasn't been that hip since the opening with ArtBar.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Offering, Adrian Cooke, Harcourt House, August 31 - September 29, 2007

Image credit: Adrian Cooke, 2007. Courtesy of Harcourt House Gallery.

As the central and title piece in The Offering, Adrian Cooke’s multidisciplinary piece (pictured) offers little insight into the contemplative and contemporary nature of the land. Fabric-covered lights, human sized and sitting at the four posts of a wooden altar, Cooke’s first foray using internal lighting or fabric drew a strange contrast to the mostly small-scale lathed works, sketches and cardboard dioramas of a former era.

Citing British sculptor Henry Moore as an early influence, Cooke’s smaller works continue to have a soft tactile friendliness. The fabric of the lights, however, were too soft and light to hold their own against the sculptures, but on their own they could possibly have been haunting.

The small scale sculptures themselves are objects you feel you want to touch, resembling solid crafted vases, but that have been set in grain and left teetering and unreachable.

It is no coincidence that many handcrafted pieces sitting atop of the altar within The Offering resemble the traditional shapes and silhouettes looming over the prairies, including miniature lathed grain bins from old bowling balls. (It’s an interesting footnote on the materials list, but in relation to a larger context to the work and exhibition, there is a detachment between inspiration and execution.)

As a peace offering to the land or environment, The Offering as a whole greatly idealizes the vast openness of the prairie land.

“Driving for three or four hours you cover a lot of land and you see a lot of things and that certainly has become source material,” Cooke explains of his pieces. “This is an accumulation of a lot of information and this is what comes out.”
With sculptures dating back to as early as 1983 on display, the pieces accumulated seem to work best collectively, contrasting colours, shapes, levels and surfaces that each represent a memory and an afterthought. In re-creating the bygone era of man-made intrusions upon the land, perhaps Cooke is attempting to find a sense of peace about a slowly fading vista.

The one other installation sculpture envisions the horizon as three dimensional, offsetting a photograph of a sunset with a sculpture at its forefront. Only the sculpture alone can stand for the flat vicissitude of a big red sun hanging over the land, but reinforced with a photograph, the paleness of the sculpture’s natural wood is lost and redundant.
Not that Cooke has not experienced the land he treads on. As an international artist who has continued to live and work in Lethbridge for the past 26 years, there is a heavy folk aesthetic to Cooke’s pieces that ties him to the land.
“I’ve lived in a prairie-like setting since 1950. It’s become for thirty years or more a source material,” he said during his opening reception last Thursday. “When you have that kind of openness, any structure, a tree or a barn or a fence, it runs at odds with the landscape.”

In his artist statement, Cooke explains that his work “draws its inspiration from considerations of how man-made structures and ingrained patters of human activity impose and intrude on the landscape and alter what was once austere open space.”

What strikes as a disconnect is the interchangeable use of landscape with horizon. A tree once grown becomes one with a landscape, as does a grain tower, or fence, in the way that it collectively forms as a unified image in vision as in memory

(First published in Vue Weekly, September 12 - 18, 2007. Print and Online)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Friday, September 7, 2007: An opening and a closing

Friday, September 7 marked the closing reception for Tim Rechner and fellow Red Deer artist Craig Talbot's "Morning Light," which actually was the first time many would see the finished product of their collaboration together. As an ongoing art project/exhibition, Talbot and Rechner slowly filled the ProjEx room at Latitude 53 with their bits and pieces of drawings that at times resemble children scrawls, and at times were actually Talbot's childrens' scrawls.
Stepping inside the ProjEx room, visual focus couldn't be directed onto one particular thing. The works, both independently created but in collaboration with the space, carried a progression that was far too dense to absorb all at once--and on the night of its closing reception, there was simply too little time and too much distraction to take in something that was soon near its end.
Slightly poor in attendance where one observer noted it resembed "an underground party where no one went to," the experimental sounds by Chris Zaytsoff and ongoing video projections maintained an elusive happening atmosphere where nothing happend at all.

Works by Andrew French, Terry Fenton, Mitchel Smith, Hendrik Bres, and Peter Hide. Image credit: Ryan McCourt, 2007

A few blocks away, the Edmonton Contemporary Arts Society had their opening reception for their 15th annual show at the Peter Robertson Gallery. Jam packed with arts and arts professionals, with the live jazz band blearing, the room was so crowded that you couldn't even see the giant steel sculpture in the middle of the floor until you almost tripped over it. Similarily, most of the art on view was obstructed from view; but from what was seen squeezed inbetween bodies, nothing comes to mind as outstanding. With a mixture of large-scale colour abstractions to landscapes and even photography, a theme besides visual art from contemporary edmonton-affiliated artists may have helped root the show for viewers and to present any mandate that ECAS currently has.

Returning to Latitude 53, many of the same faces seen in both galleries continued to pass both doors either on their way or just coming from the other show. Gripes from both ends, that Robertson's was "too loud, too hot" and Latitude was "dead" leads to a couple of thoughts: that a) art functions have gained social ranking on a Friday evening? b) nobody seems to want to talk about the art.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Prairie Artsters: Vue Weekly September 5, 2007

On the weekend before classes resumed across the city, I was taken on a tour of MFA studios by Gillian Willans, an MFA painter in her last year. Although internal MFA tours are scheduled a few times a year, this was a rare public foray into the graduate facilities for painting, drawing and intermedia, sculpture and printmaking, which are evidently their own distinct and loosely connected worlds.

Each studio had its similarities: a well-used microwave and canisters of Coffee-Mate, a communal bulletin board, somebody’s boom box; most noticeably, each space carried the heavy atmosphere of processing-in-the-waiting. Half-construed thoughts, attempts and experimentations, moments of revelation and pieces in contemplation unfolded across the various disciplines in their respective lairs.

If viewing the campus as a city, the artist quarters are similarly scattered and hidden. The painting studios, for instance, fall below the bustle of HUB, where noise isn’t so much a factor as the occasional HUB smell (and for the record, each discipline studio had its own distinct scent from the different mixtures of chemicals respectively used). Sculpture takes up a good corner of FAB, filling an area the size of your average warehouse. A walk-in kiln the size of most industrial freezers sits in one room, while most of the heavy metal tools rest, for the time being, on the concrete floors.

The pristine lab of printmaking is behind one of the many anonymous doors along FAB’s music chamber, widening into a well-lit and clean hall slightly resembling a magnificent hull of a ship. Cubicles and beautifully sterile presses sit in several rooms on two floors, and only student Andrea Pinheiro, who exhibits her thesis in two months, was found working away on photogravures. The MFA drawing studios sit in the centre of campus above the Powerplant, partially squeezed since the closure of the South lab building.

MFA student Elaine Wannechko has new digital prints on the excess, or excrements, of the body lined up in her studio, which she uses as more a contemplative space than a creation space.

“Space is the biggest issue right now,” says Willans, who notes that, while there are four new buildings currently being erected for nanotechnology, the MFA painters are just finally getting a used communal computer for their studio—not words of bitterness, but a straight expression reflecting the reality of things. Studios spaces across the city as well as on campus are facing a crunch, and the value of studio spaces continues to skyrocket out of reach. In comparison, the quality of space on campus remainss luxurious to the holes in the outside world, and the MFA grads are aware of it.

“We are very lucky,” says Brenda Christiansen, who along with Scott Cumberland and Willans were onsite below HUB. “I don’t even want to think about what I’m going to do after I graduate,” Christiansen says with the others nodding in agreement in the space they have come to call home for the past three years.

Aside from the issue of physical space, it is also the community mentality that brews in these spaces. Informal drop-bys and critiques by staff, techs and other students are a major facet of the time spent growing in university. The concentration of ideas, the constant dialogue and the network of support are what constitute as the experience of an MFA, which in itself is a terminal degree and often the end of the line as far as official education goes for most artists. This is why studio space remains so important, as basement and garage studios can be sufficient, but it is about the creation of a network of support for individuals working in a common struggle to create. To incoming students and outgoing graduates, just note that your world is about to change.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Shannon Collis, Temporary Geography, Harcourt House, August 31 - September 29, 2007

Image: Shannon Collis, 2007

Former Edmonton-based artist Shannon Collis returns with an intricate network of digital and wax-based prints from her current position at the Sam Fox School of Art & Design in St. Louis, Missouri. Taking off on Tony Bennett’s visualization of memory fragments as a palimpsest, the works in question draw the viewers into the brink of losing ourselves into decoding the scatter of multicoloured fragments--confetti-like explosions that recall the the real and the remembered. The row of prints on the south wall of the Front Room carry titles like “Accumulation” and “Strata,” suggesting both the atmospheric layers at work and the cloudy residues of thought.
The one question that comes to mind is whether Collis intends on examining memory as a personal or collective endeavor. Regardless, the prints--some of which are rendered on wax--take on the reconstruction of memory and thoughts quite imaginatively.

Osamu Matsuda, New Work, FAB Gallery August 28 - September 22, 2007

Simply titled New Work, Osamu Matsuda’s prints as the U of A’s international guest-artist in residence in printmaking is simply spectacular. Spectacular in the very root sense of the word, as Matsuda’s pieces are a constant re-evaulation of how we look at the given world. The treat here is that we get to look through Matsuda’s eyes on familiar territory, an act in itself that shifts the way we look at our environment and perhaps shifts the way he looks at his.
Mixing mirrors and video to filter through the layers found in traditional printmaking, what also emerges is a haptic quality to the works that is at once deep and clear.
In following traces of bike and car tire treads, there is an ease of lines, already found in our winter and reconfigured in how one line moves into another. Next to the way the snow appears, a stop-motion (on delay) video loops the movements between the upstairs printmaking lab down the stairs to the outdoor sculpture graveyard. No zooms, no pans, only staccato vantage points that in many ways assemble the half-moments of the way we look at the world in transiting through a liminal space of a stairwell.
The most intriguing piece however may also be the most creative presentation of an artist statement found at any opening. A terminal screen looped a stop motion disassembly of letters set in a press, the very letters that match the artist statement narrating a short personal anecdote of how his first teachers had asked him to just look and draw, and how that request has continued to baffle him.
In the act of looking, there is the how and what that carry and express multiple layers of intentions and meanings. In looking, we are just beginning to understand what we see.

On the Verge: Tim Rechner profile

Inside his singular dwelling space and studio, the workings of Tim Rechner's mind are splayed out for all to view. Mad scribbles line the studio walls from floor to ceiling -budding ideas spilling over immediate thoughts and untethered ramblings both energized and voracious, scraps of paper ranging from post-it notes to oversized hand-stretched canvases topple over one another. Layer after layer, level after level, condensed expressions and illuminated sketches piece together every inch of available wall space.

Image credit: Rechner and Tony the cat by Ted Kerr, 2007.

On the surface, Rechner's studio apartment in Edmonton's ArtsHab epitomizes a romantic notion of an "artist" space. Most people may have first seen his apartment in Trevor Anderson's short film, Rugburn (2005), where Rechner's actual day-to-day living space served as a set for Anderson's tempestuous artist.

Large in presence with a full head of massive dark curls and an even fuller dark beard, Rechner speaks in a very hushed and subdued tone accompanied with periodic small hand gestures. "I think the role of an artist here is to make Edmonton more culturally interesting," he begins once we settle inside the studio with his cats, Jimmy and Harold, nearby. "I don't want to sound spoiled or righteous, but I personally feel a drive to really create things as much as I can."

As the longest tenant in ArtsHab, the only city-sanctioned artist's co-op in Edmonton, Rechner has rooted himself into a steady arts community. With regular exhibition openings coupled with open studio visits every six weeks, he has a continuous feed of stimuli that conveniently lingers outside his front door.

A graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art + Design and Red Deer College, Rechner has built up his exhibitions from small cafe shows to public murals, culminating in his year-long residency at Edmonton's Harcourt House Gallery in 2006. Expressionistic and intuitive, Rechner's work often draws parallels to abstract expressionism, but Rechner himself doesn't feel aligned to any formal school of aesthetics. Working from his subconscious, there is a pure approach in his already-trademark expressions between line and colour.

"I'm moving in a more honest and free way than I have before," Rechner says as he sits up and moves one arm across in a single sweeping motion. "I'm now moving my arms, and not just my wrists, and my strokes are reaching my full length span."

At 6'1, the energy and physicality involved in each of his pieces have taken Rechner to a new level. After returning from a self-directed residency in Catalonia, Spain, this past summer, Rechner's daily ritual of art-making has spawned a tighter structure to his subconscious spurts. Taking note of contemporary Spanish artist Anthony Tapies, Rechner's signature style of abstraction is starting to crystallize into work that is structurally sound.

Image Credit: Tim Rechner, Emily's Dream, 2006, oil and graphite on canvas

"I feel like I'm on the verge of something groundbreaking," he says of the drawings made during his residency in Spain, as well as the works completed upon return. Cash-strapped from his trip, Rechner has begun painting over older work in lieu of fresh canvas. Pausing to reflect this watershed moment, Rechner has no regrets. "I'm going over a lot of my older pieces and wondering if I really want to keep these, because I know I can do something better."

One of the results from painting over an existing work is "Morning Light," a piece he believes to be the best work he has yet to do. Picked up by Front Gallery this past year and completing his first commercial solo exhibition in the spring, the commercial world remains foreign to Rechner, who is more accustomed to a DIY effort.

Front Gallery Director Gregoire Barber describes Rechner as somebody she has "known of" for several years. She has come to know him personally in the last year and a half and believes he just needs time. "Tim's paintings and drawings are now starting to come together. The visual amount he was taking in overseas, it's just going to happen."

As the proprietor and director of a gallery representing only local artists, Barber notes that it has been an uphill battle since taking over Front Gallery three years ago. "I believe in the work, but it takes time for people to know that this work is here; that there this is a new body of work with a different style."

In the meantime, Rechner shares that he has begun applying for shows across the board from Victoria to Halifax. "I'm trying to connect as far as I can," he says. "I've shown a lot here and it's time to get to that next stage."

First Published in Galleries West, Volume 6, Number 3, Fall 2007. Print and Online.