Dan Brault’s new painting series The Good Times exploded onto the scene last Saturday at Galerie Laroche/Joncas. With the exception of one smaller black and white work, the paintings are vividly coloured, their many elements oscillating between vying for the surface of the visual field and retreating from it. It was a feast for the eyes and happily a kind of game for my little brain.
Brault deploys a range of textures and styles that point to a knowledge of, and a desire to tangle with, art history. There is a strong graphic Op-Art component produced in part by an inventive deployment of digitally-produced stencil; Impressionistic, not-quite familiar shapes and contours; Expressionist swipes of colour and lyrical abstract forms. There is even a Surrealist undercurrent, as Brault has constructed, against underpainted backgrounds of lush, primordial greens and blues, strange worlds of floating, almost-recognizable elements. One of the larger canvases in particular, featuring a centrally-placed, beautifully painted fish (I’m sorry I can’t be more species-specific) lent itself most readily to an underwater world feeling, an ecosystem of shapes, colours and suggestions in various depths.
It is clear that Brault is a practicing recipient of the street art and graffiti traditions as well— the strong graphic quality, the expressionistic scrawl of sprayed tags, and the use of brilliant colour are, to me, as much an influence of this as anything you’d find in an art history canon. (Though these influences, too, have been slightly modified in their translation to canvas: as gallery co-owner Louis Joncas remarked, the flagrant use of hot pink in one work in particular has been tempered to a palatable level by being overworked and dirtied up.)
With all those elements it would seem to be easy to veer off the compositional field, but I think he has succeeded with the deft and skillful combination and composition of these elements. Moreover they’re full of little surprises—there is a lot of humour to this work.
While there are as many painting styles these days as snowflakes in an April snowstorm—and as I suggested above, many of which can be found in the same painting—it seems to me that there is a strong current of formalism in painting happening right now, one that is reworking its own tradition so that it feels very contemporary. I have seen a lot of work lately that mixes graphic and expressionistic styles and suggests shallow but tantalizing depths in their abstractions. Bright, Pop colours are common and the composition and colour seem to be the content, rather than a represented subject matter. To me it feels strong and optimistic, and as we concede time and time again in painting, there is never any limit to what can take place within the parameters of the canvas frame.
Good times indeed. The show will be up until May 11.
Galerie Laroche/Joncas, space 410
The Good Times
April 11 – May 11, 2013