Harold Klunder’s Black Sun shows the tension between form and formlessness.
HAROLD KLUNDER at Clint Roenisch Gallery (944 Queen West), to February 29. 416-516-8593. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Works by Harold Klunder, one of Canada's leading painters, who's now based in Montreal, convey the rough-hewn, bohemian aura of the 60s and 70s. That was when he first made his name, a time when painting was an unironic, wholly impassioned business. Klunder's canvases in Clint Roenisch's Black Sun show are seriously meaty forays into form and colour.
His use of brutally thick impasto paint implies the strong influence of his Dutch predecessors; Rembrandt, Willem de Kooning and Karl Appel come to mind. He piles these textures onto thin washes of underlying pigment, often building up strong outlines and motifs that lie on the hazy edge of representation. While the overall effect is abstract, heads and faces do on occasion erupt from the roiling surfaces - never enough, however, to break the organic tension between form and formlessness.
This tension is one of the driving forces of Klunder's work. His accretionary, often meditatively slow painting process means that some canvases stay in his studio for years. This is abstraction as a painterly journal, a geologic record of a life in paint that the artist describes as psychic self-portraiture.
In the Black Sun Triptych, exhibited here for the first time and painted over a four-year period, three gorgeous, totemic columns convey, despite the time invested in them, a fresh sense of amorphous possibility.
Klunder retains some of the best qualities from abstract painting's heyday, keeping alive the struggle between the artist, the object of his attention and his materials. It's one not rooted in conceptual parsing but in painting as a both intuitive and poetic endeavour.
Over the decades, he has maintained his faith in painting as both a psychological and narrative path, a process that arouses in viewers moments of pure, unabashed visual pleasure.