MARCEL VAN EEDEN at the Clint Roenisch Gallery (944 Queen West), to October 28. 416-516-8593. Rating: NNNN
Since 1993, Marcel Van Eeden has been producing a drawing a day.
Working exclusively from images produced before his birth, he's made 2,000 drawings that record his day-to-day observations and interests using the visual vernacular of a vanished era.
In darkly rendered graphite, he free-associates through a broad catalogue of early-20th-century material culled from encyclopedias, advertising, classic film, insignias and signage, crime scene photographs, botanical prints, war propaganda, snapshots, texts, pornography and tourist postcards, among others.
From these sources he mines his own obsessions with recurrent themes mortality, sexuality and nothingness are prominent or builds fictional narratives around part-historical, part-invented characters.
Van Eeden's tightly controlled hand gives the pieces an iconic and precisely calibrated impact that's also enhanced by his odd, dreamlike juxtapositions.
An ominous pair of eyes straight out of German Expressionist cinema is paired with what could be a Russian brand name. A red slab of meat from a 50s grocery ad gets superimposed over ominous silhouettes. A cartoon boy and girl share space with metaphysical buzzwords in an advertising-style font.
Occasionally, single, obscure words pop up with Freudian insistence. Most striking are his almost photographic reproductions of interiors and accessories, rendered with cinematic precision. It's like leafing through a 1960 issue of Life magazine diligently reworked by Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Lacan.
However sensuous and intriguing these drawings are, you can't shake a feeling of remoteness.
They're about events or settings from before the artist or most viewers were born. Instead of asserting his vision in the present, van Eeden works to memorialize our engagement with an imagined past.