Throughout cultures, and within both the plastic and literary arts, colours have been ascribed qualities that help illuminate certain anthropomorphic occurrences. Historically speaking, red is almost always likened to heightened emotional states, encompassing the dichotomies of love and anger, while green conjures feelings of serenity or greed. Colours also play a significant role in traditional notions of gender and identity, as softer hues such as pastel pink or canary yellow are typically reserved for women, while a more opaque pigment such as navy is said to recall an essence of masculinity. As the gendering of colours becomes increasingly trivial in contemporary times, their descriptive and mystical powers remain relatively intact. Canadian painter and relative nomad Stanzie Tooth, in her third solo exhibition at General Hardware Contemporary, explores the endless sprawls and deep mysteries of the colour blue.
Titled The Distance of the Moon, the collection of mixed-media paintings on display was conceived and executed throughout the artist’s European travels, whose itinerary included Greece, Italy, Berlin and Iceland. For Tooth, blue is reminiscent of a particular notion of roominess or transition, as it hinges upon a myriad of similar hues (green, violet, grey) or physical states of being. Blue, in the form of water, is what separates land, which grounds humans in a physical way; however, it also is suggestive of travel and infinite stretches, via oceans or the sky (vividly recalling Tooth’s own itinerant tendencies.)
Formally speaking, Tooth’s work depicts the concept of absence through abstraction, as figures and forms act as voids within a swath of blue, amassing to a form of recognition in absentia. The canvases are unassuming, and generously line the walls of the gallery, giving the viewer ample space to contemplate and decrypt these modest artistic curiosities. The selection of blue works that initially greet a visitor upon entering General Hardware are inspired by Tooth’s adventures throughout Greece’s Mediterranean topography, while visually resembling sundried domestic fresco paintings or antiquated interior tiling. The colour blue can signify the ocean that surrounds and provides sustenance the nation, or more rudimentarily, the predominant scheme used in the Greek national flag. However, the proceeding artistic efforts rely less on instant identification, but instead, rest solely on a metaphorical undertaking that may require less passivity when experiencing the exhibition. What Tooth may intend to yield is the deterioration of memories, which resemble fractured portions of a significant whole, or porousness within a concrete image, symbolically visualized through a present or deficient use of blue.
In The Distance of the Moon, lived experiences are akin to the human body; both succumb to a form of weathering and disfiguration as time progresses. However, photographs, videos, and in Tooth’s case, paintings, are strident efforts to prolong those images beyond the impermanence of memories and transform them into personal histories.
*Exhibition information: March 9 – April 8, 2017, General Hardware Contemporary, 1520 Queen Street West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat, 12 – 6 pm.