Monday, August 18, 2008

Richard Toscazk and Jacque Clement, Harcourt House Gallery, REVIEW BY KIRSTEN MCCREA

Two figurative shows, Richard Tosczak's Drawing into Sculpture and Jacque Clement's Luciole, grace the Harcourt House Gallery this month. The artists are well paired: above and beyond the obvious connection of gestural studies of the human form, both are committed to an exploration of the process behind their work.

Image credit: Richard Tosczak, 2008

Tosczak's exhibition pairs recent clay sculptures with accompanying figure drawings. The clay figures are loose and energetic, retaining all the spontaneity of the gestural studies on which they were based. Displaying the sculptures still wet and with supporting armature offers a rare chance to see the steps behind a finished bronze piece. I particularly enjoyed the figures laying casually on their stomachs, arms dangling nonchalantly over the edge of their pedestal, as if they had wandered over and flopped down for a rest.

Luciole is an exhibition of recent works on paper by Montreal artist Jacques Clement. Folded and hung accordion-style, his drawings pull you easily through the room, wondering what lays beyond each fold. The pieces start out small and gradually grow larger as the exhibition progresses, culminating in the massive 8-foot-tall, 24-foot-long namesake, Luciole.

Image credit: Jacque Clement, 2008

Each piece is comprised of a varying number of 5" x 11" figure studies. Clement's use of layers and mixed media to add depth and texture to what is admittedly well-trodden imagery is impressive. Smaller pieces like 2008's Zemas are so richly developed that it becomes hard to imagine how the thin sheets of paper can hold so much material. His skillful use of bold colours and gestural line-work, combined with repeating frames that reference film strips, creates imagery that instantly draws you in and begins to construct a narrative.

I think that his strength lies in turning a simple gestural figure study into a complex portrait. Sadly, it's a skill that seems to become lost in the larger pieces. Luciole is the largest piece in the show, but also the simplest; gone is the sophisticated and rich palette of his smaller works, replaced with the dominating colours of orange, red, and black. There is still motion and movement to the piece, but the drawings are for the most part far more simple, and empty frames filled with spray-painted colour don't add anything to the piece.

While the smaller works drew me in and made me marvel at his skill, Luciole overwhelms with size and simplicity.

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