ANGELL GALLERY is proud to present The Anxious Body, an exhibition featuring nine artists from Toronto and New York whose works reflect how social media and the current socio-political climate are influencing contemporary figurative painting. Curated by associate director Bill Clarke, the exhibition runs from Oct.13 to Nov. 11 with an opening on Friday, Oct. 13 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
In his book A Brush With the Real (2014), Elephant Magazine publisher Marc Valli argues that the role played by figurative painting has never been more vital. In a world inundated with 'selfies', a painted or drawn figure offers a slowed-down consideration of the human condition. And, what a condition our current moment presents... one defined by free-floating and, for some, very specific anxieties about the future.
How contemporary artists represent the body has been influenced considerably by social media and our current socio-political climate. Figures depicted in contemporary art often carry within them the most pressing cultural issues of our time - from conflicts around race relations and gender to the impact that technology has had on how we portray ourselves and interact with others. In looking at contemporary images of people, we are often asked to consider what it means to exist in one kind of body instead of another, or to question the politics of visibility that have traditionally excluded certain bodies from representation.
The figures comprising The Anxious Body reflect the unease of the present age. While the surroundings in which Bradley Wood and Kathy Osborn situate their idiosyncratic figures imply comfort and privilege, their tense demeanors and the skewed perspectives from which we view them imply otherwise. The bodies (or parts of) in the works of Coady Brown, Langdon Graves, Rafael Ochoa and John Holland are suggestive of the illusory, slippery nature of identity arising from lives and bodies (de)constructed and consumed online. The ongoing traumas visited on black bodies - specifically those of young black men - and how they continue to be proscribed inform the boxed-in, contorted figures (which may be self-portraits) by Jonathan Key, while the figures depicted by Natalka Husar reflect the experience of an Eastern European diaspora, many members of which have been, or continue to be, estranged from their homelands because of oppression or conflict. On a more intimate level, Stella Cade's faceless solitary figures speak to the resilience required to cope with the small daily indignities - for some, the 'micro-aggressions' - that make us feel dehumanized.
Ultimately, painted and drawn figures are about human relationships. Looking at them can provide some respite from the ceaseless tide of fleeting digital images. The artworks in The Anxious Body remind us of the risks of becoming divorced not only from each other, but from ourselves. - Bill Clarke