Drawing inspiration from early twentieth century masters like Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, Tim Noonan’s Abstract Urban Nature brings forth worlds full of sweeping movement and radiant energy. Consisting mostly of works painted by Noonan in 2016, this exhibition serves as yet another example of how an artist can capture the explosive vivacity and sometimes vibrant stillness of the urban atmosphere. Like those before him, Tim Noonan combines energetic and dynamic brushwork with an unapologetically bright array of tones to depict scenes that seem common to us on our daily walks through the city. However, that is certainly not to say that these paintings are banal or common; they are anything but that. In many of them, one can find traces of a hand that clearly understands the minute transformations that can occur at any moment in nature.
In Urban Orchid Rising – one of the only paintings characterized by darker hues of blue and purple – the viewer is presented with what seems to be an expressionistic take on the juxtaposition of manufactured and natural forms in the urban landscape. Fluid, wisp-like shapes fill the foreground of the painting, recalling the eponymous species of flower while in the background looms the dark and almost repetitious normality of the skyscrapers that tower over us as we pass through the city.
Nevertheless, Tim Noonan does not only depict this relationship between the natural and the manufactured in such an ominous manner; sometimes they are depicted in a bond that borders on the symbiotic, where each feeds off of the energy and life-force of the other. In fact, there are even some paintings where the two become indistinguishable from one another, blending into a frenzied pastiche of movement and change. Downtown Lights on a Rainy Night depicts an urban landscape reminiscent of Pollock’s Blue Poles where the human, the urban and the natural all seem to bleed into each other. However, this painting is far from being overly dramatic or bombastic; there is a clear sense of line and direction that carries the viewers eye from one side to the next, creating a sense of clarity that seems to represent the grid-like geography of modern cities.
Another painting where the urban and the natural work in harmony is Urban Winter Trees, which is characterized by a very refined pallet of blue, yellow and purple. In this painting the trees become part of the gridded shapes that line modern skyscrapers, while the radiant halos that emanate from office lights and streetlamps help to break up the monotony of these rectangular shapes by creating a sense of almost bubbling frivolity.
The most exciting – and largest – painting in the exhibition comes in the form of a sweeping garden scene, which is penetrated by planes of flat colour and fluid abstractions that are borderline psychedelic. Garden Swoosh is one of Noonan’s more ambitious pieces, standing out amongst paintings like Spring Blossoms and Mimico, where the artist adopts a more objective point of view. Here, the level of abstraction is much higher than in many of the other paintings in the exhibition. By adding these colour planes to the scene, Noonan both underlines and breaks down the solidity of the painting by forcing the viewer to focus on particular sections of the canvas, which are all divided by clear and definitive lines. It is in this painting that we see Noonan going above and beyond, achieving a level of abstract clarity that is uniquely his.
Exhibition Information: February 4 - 25, 2017, Yumart Gallery, 401 Richmond Street West Suite B20, Toronto. Gallery Hours: Tue -Sat, 12 – 6 pm.