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"A Tale Of Three Cities", by Piri Halasz and David Evison, NY Arts Magazine

 

The sunny, flat and fertile plains of the province of Saskatchewan grow more than half of Canada’s major export crops: wheat, oats, barley, and so on. Saskatoon, with a population of 205,900, is the largest city in the province, and serves the surrounding farmland with goods and services. It can get as cold as 22º below in winter, but it never gets more than a balmy 86º in summer, and it has jazz and Shakespeare festivals, just like New York. More to the point here, it has a vigorous if perhaps small artistic community, and three of its leading painters, ranging in age from 86 to 42, recently sent eighteen canvases to be exhibited in England. There they were seen by David Evison, the English sculptor who teaches in Berlin and whose commissioned work in South Korea was featured in NYArts in the spring of 2004. On this occasion, Evison played the critic. Although he was clearly looking at these paintings with a sculptor’s eye, he has looked long and hard at a lot of other painting, too. The report he emailed me in New York runs as follows:

"At APT in south London, William Perehudoff, Robert Christie and Jonathan Forrest exhibited six paintings each in a show called "Three Generations". It was a breath of fresh air, superbly hung and presented, the best group show I have seen in London for ages. These painters share many characteristics, common ground being an inclination towards bright and intense color painted in overlapping planes. This description would fit hundreds of abstract paintings, and some London painters were finding the show ordinary and conventional, as had been my opinion based on the reproductions posted on their website. However, the paintings declared themselves as anything but conventional, having wholly unexpected combinations and juxtapositions of colors, and most surprisingly presenting surfaces that are varied and taut, not accomplished by brushwork or other painterly methods, but by an illusion of depth similar to the art of bas relief; by overlapping.

"Theirs is a brand of color painting close to that of the great Kenneth Noland, who has grappled with similar problems throughout his career, leading him on occasion into polychrome relief. And their work suggests that relief could be a way out, that Perehudoff’s work could exist in real space, Forrest’s layering of matte and shiny rectangles could be presented using sawn and mitered Plexiglas, and Christie’s steps could be cut right out of the rectangle. But this would be a copout, because these Saskatoon painters show that they are able to paint within the limitations of a flat surface whilst opening up new possibilities for spatial composition, a different kind of push and pull. Something new seems to be emerging in abstract painting and it's coming from a town of 200,000 souls in Western Canada."