Mires, an exhibition of Scott Everingham’s oil paintings at General Hardware Contemporary, includes twelve vibrant scenes of rickety structures constructed from painterly cuneiform strokes. Everingham’s practice is a successfully productive paradox in which he is both a storyteller and an abstract painter. Of his abstract marks and techniques, there is balance between rigid abstraction filled with deliberate action and spontaneous expression – the former evidenced by calculated, repeated symbols and the latter by luxurious swatches of paint. The repeated symbols appearing across many of the works are like a language. One of these common symbols in Everingham’s practice is a two-pronged branch, brought to our attention in the title “Two Copper Branches”. Another is a series of parallel lines, described by Everingham as ‘steps’ appear across the bottoms of each large work as a visual invitation, a point of reference from which we can enter the scene. The loose, luxurious curtains of bold colors are used more scarcely as framing devices and tools for depth like the thick, blue stripe down the right side of “Beacons” or the swirling sheaths of texture in “To The Dregs!.” Their more limited appearance avoids the Modernist temptations of paint. It is not Everingham’s goal to draw attention to his materials through the materials; instead his narrations limited by the semiotics of paint, the weight and space, bringing awareness to his painterly language.
Outside of the painted realms, Everingham also offers us enticing titles as points of entry to his work. For instance, “Barn Photograph” is not based on a photographic reference, but the composition implies that it may belong to the genre/theme of photographed dilapidated barns across Southern Ontario (including the classic tree framing device). “Deer/Chair/Pendulum” and “Beacons” point out the structures in the painting; while “Foam Stacks” and “Two Copper Branches” call attention directly to his painted symbols. Finally, “The Slower Lawnchair” includes a lawn chair set on a lawn, next to a home, but refers to the time in which it slowly makes itself known to us. Time is an important component in Everingham’s work. It is not only a measure of the connection between viewer and painted subject, it is also present in each painting measuring the environments in decades or even in seconds. The presence of time in Everingham’s paintings also further enable the dynamics of his narrative.
Just as Everingham has no favored method for abstraction, his balance between abstraction and story telling is a complimentary process. This process always begins with painting while the narrative emerges afterward, but nevertheless one drives the other. Despite the sense of narrative and the passing of time there are no characters, only structures that populate the landscapes, which are implied through depth and the horizontal orientation of the background. Each of the scenes have their own stories and timelines, they are not multiverses with overlapping story-lines. Beyond the enjoyment of seeking out the structures in Everingham’s paintings and engaging in their narratives, their surfaces provide captivating surfaces with painterly values. The colors are only surpassed by the textures produced with knives and brooms, many of the marks made by gouging through the thick paint. Photographs do no justice to Everingham’s expressive marks that exist somewhere between abstraction and story-telling. Their scale and timelines are better received in person at General Hardware Contemporary.
*Exhibition information: March 10 – April 23, 2016, General Hardware Contemporary, 1520 Queen Street West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat 12 – 6 pm.