Playgrounds are jungles of swirling energies revealing the raw personalities of the naturally powerful, the observant and the followers. Kristine Moran’s exhibition of oil paintings, The Boss, The Queen, The Secretary and The Henchman at Daniel Faria Gallery illustrate youthful clique dynamics through her luxurious application of paint. The shades of magenta, blue, teal and brown are applied so thickly to the canvas that her dragged brush leaves crevices providing texture, depth and movement as the oil glistens. The planes of colour form leathery leaves and smeared paint like make-up samples in fashion magazines compose peering faces.
The namesake work of the exhibition The Boss, The Queen, The Secretary and The Henchman (2016) is a series of four paintings descending in size, each with a figure reminiscent of a chess piece. The largest work on the left, the boss, is the only figure with a watchful eye; the figure of the queen appears to be wearing a headdress and an Elizabethan Ruff; the secretary seems to be facing a book or laptop; and the henchman is armed and Janus faced. Any person who has seen Mean Girls (or survived a clique high school themselves) recognizes the powerful force of a self-organized hierarchy as a means for survival. More specifically, Moran’s reference point is William Golding’s Lord of the Flies in which schoolboys organize bureaucracy and perform sacrifice on an otherwise uninhabited island in the name of survival.
Kristine Moran, The Boss, The Queen, The Secretary and The Henchman, 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, (from left to right)40” x 30”, 35” x 30”, 30” x 24”, 26” x 20”. Image courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery
Both tropical foliage and silhouette profiles are identifiable in Moran’s paintings. Even so, she turns to techniques of abstract Colour Field painting from the 60s and 70s. Colour Field painters such as Frank Stella used swatches of bold colour to glorify the medium of paint and explored its potential used in repetition. Despite the use of figuration, Moran’s work glorifies paint with vibrant colour, and heavy sweeping brushstrokes. She also uses repetition of form and layering of colour to indicate bureaucratic hierarchy between the figures. Within the painted tropical scene, the profiles either appear vulnerably on the surface as the unaware or as attention seekers while the menacing lurk behind leaves. Her work “Meeting” (2016) is the most straightforward in illustrating how the characters congregate and confront each other within the shallow planes of paint.
Many of Moran’s paintings present surreal scenes in flux between figuration and abstraction inspired in the past by themes of dual personalities and Margaret Atwood’s dystopian worlds. In her exhibition of recent works, The Boss, The Queen, The Secretary and The Henchman, the layers of paint have more solid planes, are less in flux and the figures – when found hiding throughout the paintings – demonstrate relationships not only between imagined attitudes and characters but also between colours in composition.
*Exhibition information: Kristine Moran, The Boss, The Queen, The Secretary and The Henchman, Daniel Faria Gallery, June 9 – July 23, 2016, 188 St. Helen’s Avenue, Toronto. Gallery Hours: Tue – Fri, 11 – 6; Sat, 10 – 6 pm.