Geoff McFetridge at Cooper Cole Gallery

In times of isolation, even the most mundane of interactions feels significant and exceptional. Geoff McFetridge’s solo exhibition, Us As A Landscape, Recent Figures for the Film My Blue Suit, displays the artist’s paintings of people in public spaces. In elevating everyday moments as visual art, McFetridge’s figures explore the connectedness and unfamiliarity of strangers. Bringing them to the gallery’s space gives visitors a chance to meet them and build their own narratives.

Geoff McFetridge: Us As A Landscape, Recent Figures for the Film My Blue Suit. Installation view, Cooper Cole Gallery, Toronto, 2021

The exhibition is comprised of a series of images of people featured in My Blue Suit, a short film made by McFetridge, depicting stylized, painted figures in still settings. The figures inhabit various interiors or landscapes, and their unique, expressive poses mimic the shape of the backgrounds in which they are placed.

The artist’s style is bold and colorful, using simplified, flat forms and stylized details. His figures are inspired by the film’s landscape and the folds of their clothes resemble its outlines. By skirting around figuration and individualized features, the figures are painterly and dynamic, dreamy and peaceful. Set against blank backgrounds, they jump out at the viewer, instantly catching their attention.

Geoff McFetridge: Us As A Landscape, Recent Figures for the Film My Blue Suit. Installation view, Cooper Cole Gallery, Toronto, 2021

The blank backgrounds evoke feelings of introspection, and their starkness simultaneously suggests isolation and separation. Many of McFetridge’s subjects are positioned horizontally, creating incredibly intimate and candid moments juxtaposed with unfamiliar faceless figures.

McFetridge’s work explores how images exist “in-between or outside of language, …. [encouraging] more open-minded approaches to cognition”. Fusing poetry and form, playing up the ambiguity of subject matter, the artist’s work highlights the interconnectedness of people in public spaces.

Geoff McFetridge: Us As A Landscape, Recent Figures for the Film My Blue Suit. Installation view, Cooper Cole Gallery, Toronto, 2021

McFetridge’s practice is built upon memory and quick sketches and gouache paintings made in his sketchbook. He starts by drawing shapes of bodies and experimenting with how they interact with one another. Through this artistic method he gradually refines and simplifies his compositions. Cooper Cole Gallery describes his practice: “To look at his studies and paintings is to witness a process of adjusting and fitting forms with one another visually and conceptually. McFetridge sees this as an almost mechanical process, whereby the components of his images are functional pieces that come together into something that is highly legible to a broad audience, though without a specific narrative.”

Geoff McFetridge, In The Cracks of a Dream We See The Waking World, 2021

By playing with stylization and abstraction, McFetridge’s work becomes self-referential, drawing attention to its two-dimensionality and painterly construction. The folds in the figures’ clothing are not real folding of fabrics, but a painting thereof. McFetridge does not enchant or deceive, but confronts the viewer instantly with frankness.

Bronwen Cox

Images are courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

*Exhibition information: Geoff McFetridge, Us As A Landscape, Recent Figures for the Film My Blue Suit, June 18 – July 24, 2021, Cooper Cole Gallery, 1136 Dupont St, Toronto.

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