Rick Leong’s “The Singing Tree”
The Parisian Laundry continues to support innovative Canadian artists with its latest double exhibition: Rick Leong’s Hybrid Vigour and Dean Baldwin’s Lime Eyes.
Leong’s series Hybrid Vigour is a spectacular collection of large oil paintings, lush with greenery and animals that harmonize with the sky around them. Sometimes hazy, sometimes more sharply defined, each painting is a study of the holistic relationship between objects and the atmosphere as it transforms at dawn or dusk.
The shift of focus is a key component in the artist’s vocabulary. “When I construct a landscape around an animal form, or text, it is a compositional device, but it also gives insight into the particular kind of place, time of day, or what I was feeling or thinking at that time,” says Leuong. “Sometimes the form is more apparent; sometimes it is so difficult to see that only I know it is there. I endeavour as much as possible to make it both the form and the landscape, not either or.”
In his work, nature is mutable, moving in small increments through growth and decay, darkness and light. Tall grass blades curve against a hazy pink to grey sky. An aged conifer melts under fungus and mushrooms. The remnants of a tree sink in a flood. Some paintings are reminiscent of Japanese artist Hiroshige, who inspired some Van Gogh’s works.
Leong takes inspiration from real journeys but constructs his works from memory. As he says, “When I create a new body of work, I endeavor to recreate the experience of being within that space, rather than the place itself. I work predominantly from memory, so the elements I don’t recall accurately, I invent or imagine how they would or should be.”
He further emphasizes the sensual aspect of his art. “Part of the inherent philosophy embedded within the work is a holistic approach to place and how we inhabit it. How we experience different places and what we take away from them, what remains within us as we venture to different places, is an important aspect in my work.”
Dean Baldwin’s Lime Eyes
Alongside Leong’s exhibition is work by Dean Baldwin in The Parisian Laundry’s bunker space.
Baldwin’s exhibit, Lime Eyes, is characteristic of the artist; the work is fun and sophisticated at the same time. In particular, his 8-minute video “Not Still Life” is a playful reinterpretation of the 17th-century motif.
Like a Netherlandish oil, Baldwin’s video has a table abundant with overripe fruit, expensive drinks, flowers and everyday objects. This table, though, is anything but still. It seems haunted by a naughty poltergeist who hurls lemons, spills wine, spins watermelons on end and begins tucking into the fruit. A slightly mistimed soundtrack of slurping and lip smacking adds a level of humorous disembodiment. Even the hand that makes a cameo seems more ghostly than human. ■
Both shows are on until Oct. 6 at Parisian Laundry (3550 St-Antoine W.).