WIL MURRAY AT LOOP GALLERY
$600-$7,500. Until Aug. 12;
1174 Queen St. W., Toronto; 416-516-2581
It must be pretty devastating for artists to have their studio burn down, as happened to painter Wil Murray in Vancouver a few years ago. I don't mention it to drum up sympathy for him, but instead to suggest that the fire may well have galvanized his subsequent decamping to Montreal right afterward. As well, it may help explain the possibly overcompensatory, I've-got-nothing-to-lose madness of his current painting-constructions, which form an exhibition with the embarrassingly cute, sixties-referential title Strawberry Alarmist Talk Radio.
There is a joyful despair about Murray's convulsive pictures which, to quote the artist's gallery statement, "are thick with acrylic paint, insulating spray foam, glitter, glazes and collaged sections of paint, extending in places out from the board three to four inches." These heavily-laden paintings, which bear wonderfully annoying titles like Birthday Party Shouting Shooting, Why Are You Looking Up Here the Joke Is in Your Hand and Hey Girl You're Ruthless Now So Am I, Hey Hey, feature broken shards of plastic, great droopy, wanton organ-like excrescences, bubbles and blades of pigment, radiating fan-shaped blasts of bubble-gum colour, thundering roilings of what looks like rising oil smoke, and apparently anything else Murray could grab or contrive while he was working.
The energy the paintings generate is both exhilarating and exhausting. I do wish Murray hadn't felt compelled to add to his statement that pictures "take their cues" from three books: John Hawkes's The Lime Twig, Djuna Barnes's Nightwood and Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge. Three great books, for sure - but our being alerted to them here simply gets in the way of the locomotive force of Murray's amiably demented paintings.
By Gary Michael Dault
July 28th, 2007