Graham Gillmore at Monte Clark Gallery (55 Mill, building #2), to December 4. 416-703-1700. Rating : NNNN
Graham Gillmore's paintings are all about expression, or the many ways in which it can go to hell.
In this show of his most recent text paintings, language travels in both directions, threatening to rise up and breach the surface or bore all the way through the canvas to reveal the blankness behind it. Mining the pain from a recent and ugly custody battle over his son, the artist sifts through the wreckage of misstatements, accusations, legal briefs and thoughts best left unsaid, layering them all onto his work.
Gillmore builds a thick layer of richly coloured oil and veneer onto his panels and cuts words into the surface with a dye grinder. It's a clever way to evoke the ambivalence and discontinuity between thought and expression.
Custody And Access Study contrasts the officious language of a psychological assessment for custody with a field of goofy scrawled wordplays, weird thought fragments and New York Dolls lyrics.
Love Letter is just that, a letter laden with so many clichés and bromides that it becomes meaningless. Other paintings read like ugly imprints of arguments that refuse to die. One greenish-black canvas carries the single statement "How many times do we have to go over this?" with all of its attendant weight of frustration, rage and exhaustion. It's almost too intimate.
What we are unable to express or what gets lost in translation is often comically sad. Between the precision of clinical language and the polished statements of culture lies our own lame and awkwardly articulated sentiment.
Gillmore revels in this murkiness, using wonky malapropisms to capture our inability to say the right thing. Ground into one smooth twilight-sky blue painting, misspelled words veer off the canvas: "I'm sorry your having problems."
Whether he's addressing his problems or ours, the phrase can't fail to strike a chord.