ANDREW RUCKLIDGE at Christopher Cutts Gallery (21 Morrow). To November 4. 416-532-5566. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Andrew Rucklidge's fantastical panoramas could be taken from the surface of a grim and foreboding planet - so much upheaval is going on. Skies swirl over churning seas pierced by juts of what could be rock or some other residue of geologic violence.
A sense of post-apocalyptic or primordial energy emanates from this work, done up with a dash of unbridled romanticism.
You can see suggestions of what might be futuristic or industrial architecture, tantalizingly vague, set against roiling surfaces and suggestions of distant vistas and immense space. In some instances, diagrams and fragments of blueprints neatly counterbalance all the movement, adding a component of collage to the mix.
Yet it's landscape that drives this work. A painting's surface is a kind of terrain, and Rucklidge explores this angle very forcefully in every piece.
L'île magnétique is both a potential landscape and a skilful retooling of painterly surface.
Pressurized swirl upon swirl of paint builds and is overlaid with what could be sprays of ink and a geometric diagram.
He is playing with the idea of surface as much as he is building an imaginary vista. There are also hints and overlaps from dozens of different painterly sources.
Looking at them I was reminded of the dreamy grattage landscapes of Max Ernst and even more forcefully of Anselm Kiefer, with his ultra-heavy use of dark colour, textured surface and weight as elements of terrain.
If there is any overarching mythology or symbolism behind these paintings, Rucklidge isn't telling, or he has yet to bring it to the surface.
The driving force behind these paintings is their muscular sense of texture and movement. These are possible landscapes that seethe with energy.