Thursday, February 18, 2010

Allen Ball, "The Wordless Book and other sounds" Front Gallery February 12 - 27, 2010

After a year sabbatical from his post at the University of Alberta, Allen Ball returns with this surprising gem of a painting show at the equally surprising location of The Front Gallery.

Premiering fourteen new paintings organized into three complementary series, "The Wordless Book" is a harmonious exhibition demonstrating how contemporary painting can still revel in its own medium and history while being an explorative and daring two dimensional object.

Playing with the masked cynicism of William Blake's "Songs of Innocence" and the idea of "The Wordless Book," a creation by the prolific London Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon designed as a Christian evangelistic device that used colours and patterns to teach and colonize through the word of God, Ball creates an intimate series that reconstitutes the power of the image.

Working solely on the flat hard surfaces of plywood and finishing with faux gold leaves, Ball is calling upon the Byzantine era, where decadent paintings were comprised of simple icons used to teach and spread the word of religion. Heavily layered, at times appearing from an aerial vantage, a perspective never before possible in teaching religion, the subtle touches of texture are in essence exposed layers of concealment. While the intention to teach the elements of religion (good vs. evil) still lives on today through media, especially the news, "The Wordless Book" is self-conscious of its own form, complicating the history of how we have consistently used the same imagery to indoctrinate the message to the masses.

Image credits: Allen Ball, "The Wordless Book and other sounds" 2010

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