The Jackson Pollock thing. That’s what drives Christopher Gallo’s creativity.
But Gallo does not drip or dribble his paint all over the floor like the American abstractionist.
The Hamilton artist, who is both a painter and sculptor, says he admires Pollock’s spontaneous way of working.
Gallo is one of many artists participating in Art in the Workplace at McMaster Innovation Park. This eye-popping exhibition, the 12th in the series, showcases more than 120 established and emerging local artists, with one or two offerings by each.
Gallo has been making art for more than 20 years. He likes to make three-dimensional pieces using papier mâché techniques, but now uses aluminum foil instead of newspaper strips.
I got a kick out of I’m Fine, Don’t Worry, which consists simply of one hot-pink high-heeled shoe. Looking wobbly, unbalanced and decidedly uncomfortable, this shoe belies its witty title.
The over-the-top heel was inspired, Gallo told me, by the shape of a broken tibia.
He began building his shoe with a wire armature, or framework, which he covered with foil. This part of the process needs care and control. Gallo then painted it in a more impulsive manner, creating a rough, textured and dynamic surface.
Spontaneity is what Helga Morrison embraces when she paints the wilderness. Always a landscape painter, she says she never knows what the final painting will look like until it’s finished.
Her work has evolved from lifelike landscapes to more abstract compositions that are both simplified and complex.
In Spring Rush, Morrison divides her landscape into two simple and clear horizontals. The bottom one, evoking the darkness of water, occupies a third of the pictorial space. The larger band above is painted with pale colours and suggests land and vegetation.
Each horizontal is filled with a complex and animated pattern. The lower strip contains undulating textured shapes that recall waves. The top horizontal boasts more intricate shapes and layers. Dots, dabs and thin straight lines in pinks, blues, greens and yellows push against one another, competing for space.
A more spacious, more ominous, landscape appears in Gary Osland’s Coming Storm. A lone tree, bare and white, stands out against the darkest part of the sky, making for a dramatic juxtaposition.
The intricacy of the tree’s branches contrasts with the austerity of the setting. Osland reduces the land to two uneven hard-edged strips, one light, the other darker. And he paints the sky as a series of soft-edged light and dark forms.
Speaking of drama, Steve Wilson makes a splash with Underwater Diver.
The painted relief consists of two big panels, their rich deep blues suggestive of water. Emerging, literally, from the top panel is a life-size female. We see only her head, chest and outstretched arms as she swims toward us, her hair streaming out behind her. We are looking up to her, so we, too, must be under water.
Regina Haggo, art historian, public speaker, curator and former professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, teaches at the Dundas Valley School of Art.