Versus pits IKEA against Pisaro
By Shannon Proudfoot
Tim Merrett's Versus show at the Michael Gibson Gallery manages to successfully merge an IKEA aesthetic with long-dead fruits and flowers.
The exhibit features a series of paintings which juxtapose historical still life with vivid panels of primary colour. The very unexpectedness of this combination forces viewers to re-think their perceptions of both elements.
The still life sections of the paintings are appropriated from works by the likes of Pisaro, Chardin and Caravaggio. The artist recreated the decorative arrangements in his studio and painted the new versions from photographs.
The paintings are without wall labels, which leads one to wonder if Merrett wishes to divorce his works from the status attached to their historical sources.
Merrett successfully reinvents the still life, which was traditionally the lowest-ranked genre in the historical canon and had more recently been popularly dismissed for being "old-fashioned" or mundane.
One of the standout pieces is "Floral Abstraction 03/07/02" (2002), which features deep, red panels inserted above and below the still life segment.
This piece is better unified than the others, which instead consist of a single, solid panel positioned next to a still life. Although still interesting, this format tends to weaken the connection between the two elements.
Merrett uses an old painting technique, building up layers of glossy, translucent colour to produce a highly varnished surface. This treatment creates a unity between the still lifes which were conventionally produced in this way, and the minimalist colour panels which were not.
As a commercial space in a trendy, white-collar city, the Michael Gibson Gallery is to be commended for showcasing work that is not always mainstream and easily digested. The gallery presents work that is aesthetically and technically impressive as well as thought-provoking.
Merrett represents the starkness of contemporary society in his post-modern panels of colour, while providing a comforting visual "resting place" in the simple beauty and traditionalism of his still lifes.
Tim Merrett contends that people too often separate things into opposing categories without considering that they may exist harmoniously together. His work is a well-executed example of this possibility.
Versus is at the Michael Gibson Gallery (157 Carling St.) until Sept. 28. The Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday and admission is free.