Simon Frank and Lezli Rubin-Kunda at the DeLeon White Gallery (1096 Queen West) to August 13. 416-597-9466. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
A dead cedar tree lies in the middle of the DeLeon White Gallery. Only its painted tips suggest its role in the creation of the 10-foot-square Simon Frank painting facing it.
By setting up on the Niagara Escarpment and using the tree as a paintbrush, Frank gives new meaning to the idea of "getting back to nature." Playing on the use of landscape by idolized Canadian painters like the Group of Seven, his literal use of nature is ironic, if not comical. Lezli Rubin-Kunda's photos show him struggling to lift the tree to the canvas and fighting wind and sun to help the tree paint a picture of itself. Frank wants art and nature to be one.
Standing in front of this enormous painting is like facing a real vista. Humbled, you may find it awe-inspiring. But novel as the show's concept and technique may be, the painting's scratches, spatters and other erratic marks resemble those of a five-year-old, enlarged. While this simplicity is endearing, the piece lacks depth and fails to deliver visual satisfactions beyond its sheer size.
The origins of the work fail to compensate for its plainness, which leaves you aching for an old-fashioned paintbrush.