RBC Canadian Painting Competition 2006 at MOCCA (Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, 952 Queen West), to September 24. 416-395-0067. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Terrific works produced by finalists in RBC's painting competition show great range -- is painting the pre-eminent art form or just one among many? While artists and critics can't agree on the role of painting, it abides.
The 15 finalists in the RBC Canadian Painting Competition at MOCCA represent an enormous range of contemporary styles and approaches.
Among the most approachable and modest works are abstracts by Daniel Langevin and Luce Meunier . Langevin's Les Aisances has an organic flow that gives far too much visual pleasure for a work of such simplicity, while Meunier's equally stunning Bouteille #3 is painted with bottle bottoms on raw linen.
Dax Morrison weighs in less successfully with a jokey conceptual monochrome painting in the perfect shade of gallery-wall white, and Abbas Akhavan creates an Agnes Martin grid by pulling canvas fibres from the painting's surface.
This year's two portraits are Nicolas Grenier 's snapshot of a young woman in an introspective moment, overpainted with painstaking precision, playing two extremes of representation against each other; and in studied contrast, Matthew Brown 's abstracted face reduced through digital layering into something totemic.
Architecture, or at least the idea of structure, is a big theme. Melanie Rocan envisions her childhood memories as a soft and wistful cluster of rooms punctuated by sudden disturbing details. Holger Kalberg 's work riffs on architectural mock-ups, conjuring up a blunt Modernist structure in the middle of a swamp. Martin Golland 's Nest is all colourful virtuosic frothiness, ready perhaps to collapse in on itself. Franois Xavier Saint-Pierre uses mythical ancient structures to create dreamlike allegories that seem to hover either above or between eras.
Some artists present pieces of Canadian landscape. Dil Hildebrand unnervingly blends elements of stage sets and the great outdoors to create a territory that is neither real nor , while Jonathan Johnson subverts notions of the picturesque Maritimes with masterful severity. In Kim Dorland 's Fist Fight 6, the small-town Alberta landscape devolves into a kinetic impasto blur of whirling limbs.
Other paintings deny classification, like Adam Brickell 's menacing, childlike figures with monkey faces and elephant feet who grin grotesquely as they sort through a tangle of ladders. And David Foy and Jennifer Saleik 's vibrant psychedelic-patterned silhouettes of figures and images straddle the divide between smart design and fine art.