Landscape art is so very canadian. While the Tom Thomson show at the Art Gallery of Ontario is the big summer blockbuster exhibition, a number of smaller shows reveal different perspectives on the great outdoors. Eight artists are currently displaying views of the land in those cute window boxes at York Quay. Their fine work shows Canadian landscapes reinterpreted by a new generation. It ain't just because of their number that they ain't no Group of Seven.
Nick Ostoff 's silent and slightly ominous grey landscape features a cabin layered with snow surrounded by the dark shadows of trees. A figure straddles the bright yellow highway line near the edge of rural settlement in Michael Harrington 's dark painting. Nancy Friedland 's photo features an out-of-focus landscape with a few sparse bushes dividing sky from land. Clint Griffin 's mixed media scene begins with one of those old scenery paintings you might still find on the walls of a hunting cabin. Griffin has erased mountains and sky with white and added four Planet Of The Apes primates at the riverbank. These strong works emphasize the uncertainties and dangers of the modern Canadian landscape.
On the brighter side, we still have our famous Canadian sense of humour. Jason van Horne has created a model set from a film still of the classic motion picture Strange Brew. Police cars line the Toronto dock area as a group of people gathers at the water's edge. If memory serves, hosers Bob and Doug McKenzie have sunk their van in Toronto harbour but survive beneath the surface by drinking beer. A truly Canadian landscape.
Over at the Toronto Sculpture Garden , Ilan Sandler has built a very, very large lawn chair with neither seat nor back. At first it seems a bit ridiculous. Obviously one can't sit on it, so what is its purpose? The structure is a series of frames, each blocking off a different section of the park. It's like a pile of landscape pictures leaning against one another. Kind of nice.
The most ingenious landscapes are by Mitch Robertson . Like thousands before him, he has painted a series of watercolours of Scotland's Loch Ness. What makes these compelling is that Robertson has based his work on stills from Web cameras pointed at the lake 24/7 in hopes of capturing the monster in its travels. What's even more interesting is that they're being shown at samplesize , artist Kelly Mark 's Internet gallery.
At low-quality digital resolution (a hindrance for Web galleries of all kinds), it's difficult to see the subtleties of the watercolours. But that's great because they look like still webcam photographs once more.
In mythology there was this fellow Sisyphus who was made to push a boulder up a hill, let it roll down and then push it back up again, down, up, forever and ever. There's something very attractive about art that volunteers for that sort of adventure.
Mitch Robertson at samplesize (http://samplesize.ca/gallery.html) to September 30. Rating: NNNN
Landing at Case Studies , Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West) to September 14. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNN
Ilan Sandler at Toronto Sculpture Garden (115 King East) to September 15. Rating: NNN