THE TALES WE TELL at Lonsdale Gallery (410 Spadina Road), to April 27. 416-487-8733. Rating: NNN
Tired of conceptual video installations on Queen West? Off the hipster main drag in Forest Hill, The Tales We Tell, a show by artists with a background in illustration, offers off-kilter surrealist interpretations of fairy tales and childhood imagery.
Ray Caesar, a former medical illustrator at Sick Kids Hospital, mines the same vein of creepy realism that’s proved lucrative for American painter John Currin. Caesar’s unsettling, digitally made giclée prints of large-headed, wounded-looking children dressed as adults, some with curlicue hands resembling insect legs or rococo glass tendrils, hint at sexual abuse and disease.
Xiaoqing Ding has a fondness for antique media like egg tempera and silverpoint, with which she makes intricate small paintings and drawings prettily depicting animals from Asian folk tales and childlike figures in erotic poses.
In the Oompa-Loompa-ish world of Erin and Kelly Carty’s ornamental paintings, sinister contraptions churn out colourful hard candy or drip chocolate on limp rabbits.
Painter Martin Wittfooth makes a somewhat obvious comment on environmental degradation in his murky-coloured fantastic landscapes. Comically rounded fuel tanks and sausage-shaped trains belch out pollution as a sad-faced buffalo or polar bear looks on. (Check out the work of German painter Neo Rauch for a more complex and poetic journey into industrial-wasteland territory.)
The most fun comes from Gretchen Sankey, whose small wall sculptures show backyard scenes or vignettes from stories like Hansel And Gretel – or combining the two in a piece where a man with a lawnmower is about to give Rapunzel an accidental haircut. Constructed from tacky materials that make them look like ornaments you might buy at a garden centre in the Twilight Zone, they’re sweet little free-form islands of kitschy suburban weirdness.
A burgeoning world art market means there’s room for whatever tickles your fancy, and these amusing/disturbing small-scale works, though not exactly cutting-edge, have genuine appeal.