GRAHAM GILLMORE at Monte Clark Gallery (55 Mill, building 2), to January 6. 416-703-1700. Rating: NNNN
Things are mixed up and hard to read in Graham Gillmore’s most recent paintings. Given the combination of glazed surfaces and raw, off-kilter statements ground into them, there’s no telling where artifice lets off and emotion takes over. Of course, that’s the key to their appeal.
Gillmore has made large text-based paintings his means of investigating certain phrases and fragments that have affected him personally: they are visual meditations on emotional puzzlement and pain.
That his statements are literally carved into the lapidary layers of pigment on his paintings says a lot. Carving suggests raw feeling and the desire to memorialize that we associate with the scarred surfaces of school desks, trees and the walls of institutions. This technique carries with it a sense of wounded and frustrated emotion that flat painted text would not convey.
Yet Gillmore’s ever so slightly askew generic statements and conversational fragments carry the traces of day-to-day conversations and our media-saturated frame of reference. Often they’re partially misspelled or crowded into a corner of the canvas. If anything, Gillmore embraces the awkwardness of real communication.
Phrases like “Good question, but I’m sorry we’re out of time” could be the polite rebuff of a politician at a press conference, with its subtext of evasion and dishonesty. The large off-white “Thanks for Nothing… ness,” on the other hand, is the punchline of a metaphysical joke gone sour, while “Wash away your tears” could be a promise of redemption or the bland refrain of a top-40 love song.
These phrases are offset by often luscious and playful colours and surface textures. Irresistibly bright, they add another layer of discontinuity to the loaded statements carved into them.