Francis Muscat: When Tree Falls

The Opening Reception on August 1, 2013. Photo: Celeste Ringrose

When Tree Falls, currently showing at Pentimento Gallery in Toronto, is the first work I’ve seen by artist Francis Muscat, but certainly not his first show. The invitation image Fuck U is a smooth carved wooden head with a splintered Mohawk, so I expected the work to be both skilled and ‘edgy.’ I was not disappointed.

Francis Muscat, Fuck U, 2012, Wood, steel 95” x 10” x 8” (left) and Loss, 2012, Wood, steel, silk thread 57” x 10” x 9”  (right). Courtesy of the artist and Pentimento Gallery

I was really surprised that visitors were allowed to touch the sculptures and feel the difference between the  smooth texture that the artist created and the original wood as it was found. Such a treat!

Francis Muscat, Loss #2, 2o12, Wood, steel, silk thread 57” x 10” x 9” (left). Courtesy of the artist and Pentimento Gallery. A visitor petting Loss #2 (right). Photo: Celeste Ringrose

In this show, inspired by the trees a beaver brought down near his home, Muscat has taken the rough remainders and given them new meaning.

Artist Francis Muscat. Photo: Celeste Ringrose

Some sculptures incorporate delicate figurative carving while others include glasswork—a familiar medium for this artist. The motif of ‘home’ is strong whether it is ‘pick-up-sticks’ of glass arranged in a house shape (Small House series, 2010) or a curving column of stacked wood and glass (Volcanic Passion #2, 2o12).

Francis Muscat, Volcanic Passion #2, 2o12. Wood Glass, 62 x 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pentimento Gallery.

I found this show contemplative, and an interesting juxtaposition of whimsy and strength. There’s one piece Greg 2 that looks like the darkened wood has been flattened cartoon-like into spikey dark hair tipped with silvery-green and then merged with a clear glass silhouette of a man’s head that’s driven through the wood. I see the duality and more in the multiple shadows that falls against the wall.

Francis Muscat, Greg 2, 2013, Wood, Glass, 23 x 10 x 9 inches. Photo: Celeste Ringrose

There’s a lot to think about in this work… and the thinking is a pleasure.

Julie McNeill

*Note: The show is on display: July 25 – August 18, 2013 at Pentimento Gallery, 1164 Queen Street East. Gallery hours: Wednesday – Sunday 12 – 6 p.m.

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