Ian Busher, Elizabeth D’Agostino, Brian Harvey, Vanessa McKernan, Brandon McVittie, Patti Normand & Manny Trinh
April 7 - 30
Opening reception: April 9 @ 5 -7 pm
Join us this April as Wall Space Gallery hosts an exhibition of new works by seven of our artists. This display will bring together the diverse mediums and thematics of artists Ian Busher, Elizabeth D’Agostino, Brian Harvey, Vanessa McKernan, Brandon McVittie, Patti Normand and Manny Trinh. Working in printmaking, sculpture, and painting, each artist approaches their respective medium with a unique voice.
Manny Trinh, Sideline, acrylic on yupo paper, 11.5 x 9 in, framed by Wall Space
In communication with one another, these seemingly disparate practices open new creative worlds paving an encompassing picture of contemporary social and ecological concerns. Through hard edge and colour field abstraction, landscapes, otherworldly creatures and ecologies, lirical figuration, and the contemplation of habitual objects and community spaces, each of these artists shine a light on the collective experience of living in the twenty-first century.
Ian Busher, Locked, acrylic on panel, 36 x 36 in, framed by the artist
Colour and composition, playing with balance, weight, and sense of space, are the main focuses of Ian Busher’s hard edge colour abstractions. Busher hones in on pure clean line and shape in geometric abstractions reminiscent of modern abstract artists such as Robert and Sonia Delauney, Kazimir Malevich, and Josef Albers. Busher’s sensitivity to colour relationships allows him to manipulate our visual experience from one end of the spectrum to another, creating vibrating moments of electric contact to balancing acts of forms that exude a meditative energy. Using soft airbrushing techniques to create buoyant spaces for his coloured forms to float across, untethered, Busher breaks the flatness of the paintings’ surface introducing moments of groundless depth.
Busher leaves an openness to the meaning of his works, encouraging his audience to insert themselves into the emotive relationships between colour, shape, and depth, bringing forward their own personal memories, thoughts, and feelings.
Elizabeth D’Agostino, Paradigm of Wonder - Animal Tales I, monotype, screenprint, etching and collage, 22 x 30 in, framed by Wall Space
Elizabeth D’Agostino brings together etching, monotype, and silkscreen printmaking processes embellished with delicate, layered paper collage to create new taxonomies. Inspired by architecture and observational and scientific illustrations of Canadian flora and fauna, D’Agostino’s finely etched worlds are bathed in the fractal, rhythmic patterns of plant, animal, and insect morphologies.
Her use of flowing movement and the interruption of forms through collage highlight nature’s ever-changing ecologies, which are forced to reinvent themselves in response to biodiversity, climate change, and urban expansion. The soft intersection of plant and animals through layered transparencies unifies distinct layers with a sense of interconnectedness. Each of D’Agostino’s constructed spaces contains traces of the real combined with the imagined, their architectural structural qualities appear and recede amongst expanses of colour and the asymmetries of organic forms.
Driven by a concern for the increasing loss of habitats and even individual genes resulting from human activity, D’Agostino creates imagined ecosystems where creatures can take on new roles.
Brian Harvey, Beacon, oil on panel, 47 5/8 x 35 3/4 in, framed by Wall Space
In his representation of the overlooked, Harvey often champions the presence of the back alley or side lane. Harvey’s handling of paint and attention to light’s effect on atmosphere invites viewers into the enclosed, intimate experience of the pedestrian. Capturing the beauty of these quiet daily moments is at the core of Harvey’s practice; the buildup of snow against a shed glowing pink in the darkness of a winter night, or the icy blue sky at twilight knit with tree branches overhead and lit by trailing streetlights. His works are quintessentially Canadian, inspired by the surroundings of his hometown of Toronto. Despite the works’ specific locales, there is an openness to Harvey’s approach to each scene, allowing one to connect the sentiment of his work to daily lived experience, or cities boasting similar sites of urban living such as Montréal and Vancouver.
Vanessa McKernan, An Ode to Birth, oil and graphite on mylar, 22 x 17 in, framed by Wall Space
Raised in the world of modern dance and ballet, Vanessa McKernan brings sinuous movement into her figurative narrations. The starting points for her stories range from personal dreams, to anecdotes, and contemporary culture. Through painting in oil and mixed media, McKernan addresses the complexities and fragilities of human relations; between humans and within nature. Her pastel palette interspersed with points of intense saturation reveals a tension between the human and the natural, where characteristics of resilience and soft, vulnerability are shared.
Mckernan moves beyond representation of only the observable body, often layering a ‘spiritual’ body next to or on top of another. She employs pattern, line, and colour freely in order to infuse her scenes with emotion. Mckernan begins her pieces with a theme, but her process of creation in the studio is often intuitive:
“I sit down each day to engage in dialogue with my materials, being open to who and what shows up. This I believe gives space for the life of the painting itself and its ability to reveal something to me that is greater than or bigger than my own intentions for it. I see this process as the height of creative expression.” - Vanessa McKernan
Brandon McVittie, The Bruce, oil on panel, 24 x 24 in.
Brandon McVittie is widely recognized for his landscape oil paintings that emulate an old-world flavour in execution and palette. In his genre pieces, he explores mid 20th century inspirations while paying homage to the rendering style(s) of figures made fashionable by artists/illustrators from the era. He strives to incorporate his nostalgia for vintage sentiment in his painting; conveying the old as new again.
This series of pastoral scenes are not intended to be literal insofar as portraying a specific site or place. The cottage scenes and vistas spanning this body of work are not specific places but rather inspired by traces of memories of Scotland, Ireland, the UK, and Canada. In creating and contriving scenes, each work stems from multiple references, including photos, sketches, and even earlier paintings newly revisited. McVittie paints to translate the spirit of places that he has visited onto canvas.
Focusing on an atmospheric and often moody colour palette reminiscent of 19th to early 20th Century British and Northern European painting, McVittie aims to emulate historical painting’s romantic appreciation for landscape and rural dwelling. His painted scenes often get their names or titles assigned later on, based on their shifting meaning for the artist as they evolve throughout the painting process.
Patti Normand, Model Home - Ocean View, mixed media sculpture in bell jar, ~11 x 18 x 11 in.
Through dioramas and free-standing sculpture, Patti Normand creates surreal worlds brimming with dark humour and fantasy. Normand is adept at intertwining the real with the strange and absurd. Everyday scenes that at first appear perfectly ordinary, upon closer inspection reveal mysterious circumstances that can only be understood through speculation. Her dioramas’ intimate scale places us in the position of the by-standing spectator, involved yet removed.
Normand’s inspiration ranges from the Canadian wilderness, movies, and current societal events. For instance, Model Home - Ocean View (ft. right) is based off of the recent crumbling of one of the landmark Flowerpot Rocks, also known as the Hopewell Rocks, in New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy. Tree Planter, a docile brown bear sporting a pink skirt and carrying a backpack full of tall spruces, is a nod to acts of environmental stewardship amidst the current climate crisis. Normand’s free-standing sculptures of anthropomorphic figures are extensions of her paintings and dioramas, stemming particularly from her fascination with the vastness of dense Canadian forests.
"I see the forest as a mysterious place. I like to imagine it as a realm in which stories are revealed. I create dreamlike animals and people in landscapes which are also imagined. A whole other world.”
- Patti Normand
Normand’s fantastical imaginings expand across multiple mediums, including photography, sculpture, and painting. The scope of her practice offers a tangibility to her invented world, whose reality begins to solidify as it comes to life in multiple dimensions.
Manny Trinh, Crushed, watercolour on paper, 9 x 12 in.
Manny Trinh’s current body of work was created during numerous periods of pandemic lockdown. During this time, like many of us, Trinh found himself moored at home with free time and began seeking structure. Trinh took this change of routine as a unique opportunity to fully immerse himself in his art practice. He began starting his mornings with watercolours. Restrained to his home environment, Trinh collected objects from his daily life, found in his home or scavenged on walks, to create a series of object watercolours. Taking an unplanned approach to each painting resulted in random, free-formed compositions. The repetition present in domesticity and the banal is perfectly solidified through Trinh’s choice of a monochromatic blue palette. One has to pause to examine each image and slowly pick apart the pattern-like assortment of individual items making up the whole.
The tennis court series (top of page), stemmed from Trinh’s longing for a return to the social spaces he inhabited prior to isolation; places he would meet friends to skateboard or play basketball and tennis. Recording these now vacant venues was a means to keep these important spaces alive for Trinh, until he could visit again. With his typical vivacious use of colour, Trinh celebrates the essence of these public meeting places as lively, social spaces of community. Most importantly, Trinh asks us to pause and be grateful for the things we take for granted in our everyday lives.
Whether looking to the past, envisioning alternate futures, or creating space to appreciate the present, each artist brings a distinct voice to this group exhibition of new works, a testament to the importance of creation and expression in turbulent times. The conversations opened across mediums and subject matter between these seven artists generate new contexts for their works, as each artists contemplations of environment, time, and figuration contrast and counterbalance one another.