Exhibitions : 2015

Steve Driscoll
Friday, May 01, 2015 - Tuesday, May 19, 2015




In his latest body of work, artist Steve Driscoll tips us off to what's going on by borrowing the show's title from a lyric by American songwriter John Prine. "Actually everything is just about the same" reflects a serial approach, in which the artist presents variations of four images of the Canadian wilderness, each painted in his signature medium of pigmented urethane.

The sets represent moments from a canoe trip in Ontario's Algonquin Park, a setting that looms large within Canadian art history as Group of Seven territory. Rocks along a shoreline and a waterfall are seen from the vantage point of the artist/voyageur as he paddles down a river. A canoe moored by the shore and a view of water glimpsed through a clearing in the trees represent the "land" portion of the journey.  

It might sound like familiar turf, but rather than tread down the same path as his artistic forebears, Driscoll presents a new form of landscape painting, one that acknowledges the digitally mediated view of nature so pervasive today. These sets of scenic splendors call to mind Instagram, where images are experienced as sequences. The waterfall in the Exchanging Gravity for Faith series is observed from different angles, suggesting the continually snapping shutter that is the ubiquitous soundtrack to nature excursions in the 21st century. Variations in cyan, magenta and purple arise from the artificial realms of photography and colour printing. But the exuberant spills and splashes of white that cascade down the surface of the falls evoke the fresh, cold spray of the great outdoors.

 The vivacity of painting handling in evidence here Driscoll credits in part to his restricted image repertoire — by thinking less about the scene, he’s freed himself up to concentrate on process. "This work is about painting, not about documenting a particular landscape," says the artist, who gets at his brilliant painterly effects through continually experimenting, expanding and refining his techniques. In the series depicting a rocky shore seen from paddler’s viewpoint, Driscoll digs deeply into one of his favourite subjects, namely how water reflects the landscape that surrounds it. Using a dazzling variety of brushstrokes and colours he deftly captures the quality of shimmering light and shifting hues that indicate different times of the day, different seasons, or even different states of mind, as in a landscape of memory rather than of fact.

 Driscoll mines the expressive possibilities of colour in views of a far shore seen through a tree-lined path. Here palettes range from psychedelic to naturalistic, resulting in an engaging study in how colour affects mood. The viewer’s response to each work may also offer keys to their own psychic state. Is this landscape in flaming orange and deep browns a vision of late afternoon, a day in early fall, or perhaps a metaphor for growing older? By working in series, Driscoll asks people to slow down and really consider an image, to play compare and contrast, and to ponder the infinite variety possible in both life and art.