DAN HUGHES at Edward Day Gallery (952 Queen West, #200), to March 11. 416-921-6540. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Accomplished figurative painter Dan Hughes's exquisitely intimate series Skin demonstrates that the mystery of the human body continues to enchant.
Men and women rise from beds of rumpled sheets, embraced in shadow and light. Hinting at Baroque classicism, Hughes depicts glowing, buttery light that's as warm and inviting as his umber-infused blacks. Reminiscent of Georges de La Tour's radiating candlelight against porcelain skin, his light source creates incredible depth and romanticism.
The series seems painted in the middle of the night as the artist's curious yet gentle eye gazes on the sleeping subjects. Almost a voyeur, Hughes conveys the vulnerability of slumber, making the familiar experience titillating yet oddly lonely. Pillows, blankets and languishing limbs mould together and separate in the folds of fabric.
His uncanny ability to make flesh look honeyed with layers of paint and linseed oil creates an intensity that is palpable and sensual. Untitled (Vlad) has astonishing tenderness; the subject lies wrapped in a loose fetal position, exuding a smooth sheen.
Untitled (Children) is one of the few paintings of more than one figure in the Skin series. The two children fastened together in deep sleep have flesh tones of siennas and ochres that ignite the painting's surface. The depiction of the children's hands is remarkable: they bear the weight of sleep's surrender and the doughiness of infancy.
The series burns with subtlety and sensitivity while reminding us of what we do every day, or long to do: sleep.