Toronto artist Christian McLeod graduated from the Graduate Diploma Program of the Toronto School of Art in 1992. Since then, he has exhibited in Canada, Brazil and Spain, with an escalating exhibition schedule since 2001. After two solo shows at Craig Scott Gallery, in 2007 and 2008, his most recent solo show was at Gallery Page and Strange in Halifax in May 2010.
McLeod’s work falls clearly within an abstract expressionist tradition, with paintings in both implicit and explicit dialogue with predecessors in Canada, the US and Europe. But his work is recognizably unique in its harmonizing of form, colour and message. McLeod's work is also rare, as Gary Michael Dault has written, in the way in which McLeod boldly – and successfully – deploys abstraction not only to bathe the eye but also to go beyond aesthetics in exercise of his belief that "painting, its plastic sensuousness notwithstanding, is, or can be, a language – an inchoate but nevertheless persuasive discourse ([James]Elkins’ 'liquid thought') that can be made to trade in attitudes and ideas." The vibrancy and beauty of McLeod's canvases are matched by intriguing narrative depth.
McLeod first exhibited with Craig Scott Gallery from May 31 to June 17, 2007. For details of his "Ascending Language" show, including a link to the catalogue essay on McLeod's work by Dault, click here: McLeod, Ascending Language. The following is an extract from the Dault essay:
[Christian McLeod] clearly finds delight in the rapturous, convulsive nature of untrammeled paint-handling, losing himself in its irrational joys (see, for example, the unremitting, sun-filled, biscuit-hot gorgeousness of paintings such as Night Market and Breaking Apart, with their residual heat, and the unstoppable surging movement that animates Black Water). McLeod is an obvious inheritor of the painterly agon that the abstract-expressionists of the New York School (Gorky, de Kooning, Pollock et al) visited upon themselves in their blind existential grappling with the mysterious materiality of painting, and of certain painters of the School of Paris. I can see echoes, for example, of Marie-Hélène Vieira da Silva in paintings like Tag Cloud and Tree of Life and of Nicolas de Stael in Water Dancing, Transformer, and Footprint.
See also Martin Mills, “Landscape as Language” (Toronto – Paris 2007, viewable by clicking HERE and an extract from an interview with Gallery director Craig Scott HERE.
McLeod writes about his own work as follows:
In my paintings I am creating both a reaction to, and reflection on, my surroundings and experience. In many of the paintings, I juxtapose raw colour tones against dirty shadows in order to expose our desire to be clean in an unclean world. The paintings explore the physical structures of the urban environment, to the invisible world of digital algorithms and data packets. Although the parts (houses, intersections, perople, topographies, data streams) have their own ever-shifting character and characters, they remain part of a whole. My paintings deliver only part of a story, encouraging personal interpretation (and constant re-interpretation) by the viewer.
With respect to the process involved, it starts with the under-painting layers of structure, grids, and interacting strings that collectively tie form together, like communication lines between the individual objects.
The subsequent application of paint in opaque masses is a representation of our textured physical reality. Use of a palette knife reveals layers of colour, built up and exposed like a building cut away from a city block.
The relationships we form in our minds by experiencing the objects and colour densities complete the canvas. Strokes and shadow lines created by the application of paint on top of the colour swathes generate the narrative.