John Scott, Gary Michael Dault and Matthew varey at Peak Gallery (23 Morrow), to November 5. 416-537-8108. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
Earlier this year, Matthew Varey enlisted John Scott and Globe and Mail art critic-cum-painter Gary Michael Dault to collaborate on mixed-media paintings for the oddly named show Iron Men. Each of the 19 canvases began with a single mark from one of the three "iron men," and the rest rapidly followed, Varey recalls, accompanied by three-way discussions about composition, colour and form.
Under the many layers of paper and acrylic, you sense the negotiation of three egos. The thick paint, in an array of drab and bright colours, has been vigorously brushed on, even sculpted, blending the figurative and the abstract with the odd word. Typically, the words are Scott's, while Varey works with colour and Dault favours symbolic shapes, but the process is more free and organic than rigid.
Most of the imagery sits on a plane before a horizon. Un Enfant Du Paradis, on two large canvases, depicts three heads against a deep blood-orange sky. A large round white face, under the word "pleasure," attracts but can't hold the viewer's attention. At its right floats a dark, sinister mask and another abstract head-like sphere.
Tank Iraq has almost as many layers as the conflict it refers to. A tall, rectangular machine made of grey and thick brown paint, with one green and one yellow wheel, sits under a mustard halo. The confused shapes loom against a peach sky, and a row of trees stands on the horizon behind.
Portal presents a more two-dimensional space in which the thin lines of a red and white wheel appear to be etched into the surrounding black. On the right, a moon full of craters rises over a white patch in the blackness, less a ray of light than a rip in time, and on the left, against its own white rectangle, stands a single coniferous tree under another heavenly body.
Varey plans to videotape the discussions and the process the next time around, which could yield results at least as intriguing as the work itself.