Shary Boyle at Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects (1080 Queen West) to April 13. 416-537-8827. Rating: NNNNN
Benjamin Butler at Greener Pastures (1188 Queen West) to April 12. 416-997-7400. Rating: NNN
Gary Clement at Loop (1174 Queen West) to April 20. 416-516-2581. Rating: NNNN
Owen Ford at Angell (890 Queen West) to April 19. 416-530-0444. Rating: NNN
As winter continues to wrestle with spring for control over the earth, you can already find green grass, butterflies and lush fruit budding in Queen West's galleries, protected from the fading season's last cold licks.Missing Shary Boyle's show at Katharine Mulherin's 1080 space would be unforgivable. This body of work is sad yet full of spirit and so finely drawn and painted. Boyle created the surreal work while hibernating in Winnipeg, and you can feel that enclosed moodiness.
But there's also the emergence of life. Tears that flow grow into flowers. A bird is released from the caged body of young girl. Butterflies carry strands of another girl's hairdo up into the sky.
It's truly gorgeous stuff, amazingly executed. She creates her shadow drawings by painting colour on a background card, then placing a sheet of acetate in front of it to overlay the black lines. You have to shift your position to bring the shades and colours into register, and the light from the window plays with the image.
In the other room, Boyle has added fluorescent tubing to set off the glow-in-the-dark pigments that highlights the paintings there. In one, two bright-pink children huddle in a cave; the stalactites glow an eerie white. In another, a young girl lies beside a pond, the night stars reflecting brightly on its surface. Beautiful.
What else would you expect to find at Greener Pastures but a show titled Early Spring? Young New York artist Benjamin Butler paints landscapes in an array of styles, from messy patches of colour made with wide, obvious paint strokes to hard-edged mountains where the snow has retreated to the very peaks.
The finest pieces are those in which the land appears to break through the white space. In one piece, three billowing trees stand in a line as a field of grass winds between them. Only the grass that falls within the shadows of the trees is revealed with Butler's paint.
The show is a bit uneven, but rewarding nevertheless. You can't help feeling a twinge of joy for the coming spring and summer escapes from the city.
At Loop, Gary Clement's work depicts people pouring out of buildings into the hubbub of the city. The pieces are deliberate but give the appearance of haste. People are blurry, as if moving with some excitement. Streets seem to course through building like rivers. Light reflects off the high-rises, creating a multitude of colours to rival the budding trees.
The excellent scenes remind me of Queen West some three weeks ago, when the early warmth drew people into the flow of the teeming street.
Over at Angell, Owen Ford continues to paint his still-life-with-fruit series -- big, bright apples that could have just fallen off the tree. The paintings are bountiful, and in this series he has played with reflective surfaces, giving the works a sense of balance. After working so long with fruit, he has introduced toilet paper rolls into his paintings. And it makes perfect sense. After all, fruit gets your bowels moving.
Ah, spring. firstname.lastname@example.org