MARTIN GOLLAND at Birch Libralato (129 Tecumseth) to April 19. 416-365-3003. Rating: NNN
In Shapeshift, his first local show, Toronto painter and recent Guelph MFA grad Martin Golland offers a kind of ramshackle time-space abstraction.
His paintings conjure dimensional collapse and expansion in settings as innocuous as woodpiles and toolsheds.
The resulting representations of architecturally exploded retreats combine the polish of high art with a whiff of mouldy sawdust.
You can look at these images for a good long time. They’re static kaleidoscopes – fuzzier, impressionist versions of hard-edged, textbook-style optical illusions in which the insides and outsides of structures switch places under one’s gaze.
Uncertain boundaries are a related theme. These paintings recall dreams where you’re both spectator and actor, indoors and out, at the same time. Golland’s often dripping edges explicitly indicate these kinds of shifting demarcations.
Also uncertain is the symbolic meaning of these works.
On the one hand, because the paintings portray buildings in disarray, they conjure the aftermath of natural disasters.
On the other, blue skies and a summery palette summon a feeling of genuine ease. Here the artist’s intent to “encourage sway between reverie and dread” definitely succeeds.
Golland’s artworks are smart and well executed. But I’m a bit ambivalent about the way these paintings aestheticize disaster. To me, that’s more problematic than pretty.