Elizabeth McIntosh, Goodwater Gallery
By Jen Hutton
May 15 - June 27, 2009
Even those familiar with Elizabeth McIntosh’s vibrant, enigmatic abstract canvases were likely surprised by CUT OUT, this accomplished painter’s most recent exhibition. Although the artist has produced small scale collages before, her large-format appropriation of the medium here introduced viewers to a clever parallel practice that shed light on her approach to painting.
The exhibition consisted of two wall installations — one a polychromatic collage in the front gallery and the other, installed discreetly in the back gallery, was entirely black. Called "cut outs", each was composed of roughly sheared sheets of photo backdrop paper fastened to the wall with aluminum pushpins. In a standard set of hues — black, navy, purple, gray and rose punctuated by pink, electric blue and loden green — the overlapping rectangles in the front gallery floated from the top right corner of the wall to the far left on planes perpendicular to the floor. The more-nuanced “monochrome”, with its black-on-black palette, covered an entire wall at the back of the space.
McIntosh’s approach in this exhibition was less an overall compositional strategy than it was an act of revealing and concealing. As she does in some of her paintings, McIntosh worked in a shallow pictorial space, decisively arranging forms in the foreground to act collectively as a scrim. The resulting holes, or “cut outs” — a deliberate word choice, as both a nod to Matisse and to the rectangular “cuts” of rolled paper — permitted flashes of colour to peek through along these intersections. With her other manipulations, such as allowing the paper to curl onto the floor, and her colour play, McIntosh created a taut dynamism between planes. While her work recalls the early geometric textiles of Sonia Delaunay, McIntosh re-jigged surface design into a systematic exploration of planar composition that mimicked the strategies of her paintings.
Jen Hutton is an artist and writer based in Toronto. She completed a BA in Studio Art at the University of Guelph. This autumn, she will be showing new work at Access Gallery in Vancouver, and will be participating in Plant 90, a group exhibition at the 401 Richmond building in Toronto.