Joyce Wieland’s Entrance To Nature (left) and Janet Morton’s She’s Come Undone installation are part of Crossing Natures.
CROSSING NATURES at Paul Petro Contemporary Art (980 Queen West), to November 12. 416-979-7874. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Four women from different generations engage in a conversation about the natural word in this elegant show. Variations on themes of windows onto the outdoors from interior spaces, the act of sewing, piecing and cutting, a quirky, feminine love of chaos and a joy in colour and floral ornament play through the work of painters Yvonne Housser, Joyce Wieland (who both died in the 90s) and Melanie Rocan and multidisciplinary artist Janet Morton.
Housser, a Toronto artist who should be better known, paints more delicate, domesticated landscapes than her mentors in the Group of Seven. Her 1948 Spring In The Studio depicts a jug of forced forsythias on a window sill looking out on a bare orchard of stylized, twisted trees that carry echoes of Emily Carr.
The show's centrepiece, Wieland's 1988 Entrance To Nature, is sliced and collaged together from pieces of painted canvas into a large expressionist rectangle. Full of colourful abstract energy, it's also layered with recognizable elements of a nude figure, a bird and Canadiana like a canoe and a fringed buckskin jacket.
As Wieland channels the spirit of the wilderness with paint, cloth and scissors, Morton does the same with yarn in She's Come Undone. A white knitted nerve-like branch with coloured tips hangs over a tangled pile of bright-coloured wool. This charming work suggests that coming undone can be a beautiful and exciting part of natural cycles.
Rocan, the youngest member of the quartet, has the most work in the show. Her large swirling landscapes depict vibrant woodlands littered with tiny, fairy-tale-like cottages, bits of furniture and laundry. In smaller paintings, young women's heads emerge from piles of flowers. Rocan skilfully manipulates a palette highlighted by rich reds and pinks to give a magical quality to these loosely painted, windblown images.
Petro's put together a perfect show for this time of changing weather and fall colours. And don't forget to go upstairs for Morton's Canadian Monument #2, which I won't spoil by describing.