Susan Collacott at the Engine Gallery (1112 Queen West) to April 29. 416-531-9905. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In contemporary art, landscape often serves as a neutral means to a highly theoretical or conceptual end. So it's unusual when an artist's approach to the landscape is unapologetically rooted in reverence for the natural world itself.
Susan Collacott' s digital prints radiate a primordial earthiness and an immense sense of geological time. Inserted or superimposed images of fossils lend the landscape photos an even more organic sense of untamed nature.
And Collacott burnishes her surfaces and textures, suggesting the shimmer of water or the roughness of volcanic rock, to give the prints a rawness much like lithographs or woodblock prints.
The two paintings here might be termed gestural or abstract but are really anything but. Their rhythms and colours are closer to visual echoes of natural patterns: autumn leaves reflected in the surface of a lake, or kelp strands twining around reefs of coral. They are distillations of visual experience from the natural world into swirls of pattern and colour.
Collacott's use of fossils recalls the thousands of once-flourishing species that have come and gone over the last 6 billion years. Her vision of nature centres around an earth that may shrug off any trace of our own passing. Nature has been around for much longer than we have, Collacott's work seems to say, and it will outlive us.