Matt Crookshank: Violent Whimsy at General Hardware

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Behind the rather simple facade of General Hardware Contemporary, inside the gallery, a truly dynamic viewing experience awaits the art lover. I am happy to report that the most recent exhibition has certainly lived up to this expectation.

Violent Whimsy is Matt Crookshank’s second solo show at General Hardware wherein he boasts his fearless approach to art-making. A series of multi-media works aim to identify what he calls “the car crash moment.” That is, those climactic instances in life when we become recklessly possessed by violent emotion.

Installation view of Matt Crookshank’s Violent Whimsy, main floor

The traditional meets the technological as Crookshank employs watercolour and oil to the canvas in layered lines that appear digitally rendered. These works call to mind the compositions I would create with Microsoft Paint as a child on the family desktop. Colourful gestures collide in an unconscious manner, pointing to the effects of randomness and chance in the artists practice. The “Fever/Fervour Resonance” exemplifies this childlike whimsy well. Consider the imprecise nature of Crookshank’s scribbles, the interchanged opaque and translucent media, and the bits of canvas left untouched by paint entirely.

Installation view with Matt Crookshank, Deadlines & Strategies, oil on canves, 72″ x 192″

Violence is also discernible in this body of work, which I presume stems from an equally violent process. It would seem as though Crookshank attacked the surfaces with his technological lines, as in “Awesome Cheesecake” where red shapes meet belligerent black markings to establish a sense of bloodshed. Crookshank turns to other unconventional material which he applies to the works with similar vigour. In No “Snacks/Broken Rhymes,” for example, shards of resin and entire rocks are trusted onto the canvas and in “Dark Triangle” a variety of textured papers overlap chaotically.

Matt Crookshank, Awesome Cheesecake, oil and watercolor on canvas, 36″ x 48″ diptych

Matt Crookshank, No Snacks/Broken Rhymes, oil and collage on canvas, 48″ in diameter

Matt Crookshank, Dark Triangle, Redux, mixed media

When I look at Crookshank’s works I cannot help but see organic entities before me. This is particularly true of “Risk and Reward 7” which is displayed in the gallery’s lower level. Resin, rocks, paper, and paint collide to create what I perceive as a dynamic, abstract flower.

Matt Crookshank, Risk and Reward 7, mixed media

Crookshank’s ability to take unnatural materials and create an enlivened object that communicates a distinct moment of tension to its audience, is simply inspiring.

Text and photo: Vanessa Zeoli

*Exhibition information: September 9 – October 8, 2016, General Hardware Contemporary, 1520 Queen Street West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat 12 – 6 pm.

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