Canadian Art

Review

Alex Livingston in Review: Blurring the Boundaries

Studio 21, Halifax Apr 11 to May 7 2008
Alex Livingston  <i>Hope</i>  2008 Alex Livingston Hope 2008

Alex Livingston <i>Hope</i> 2008

A purist might find fault with Alex Livingston describing his newest work as painting—but that doesn’t stop him. The works look, after all, rather like large abstract paintings, confronting gallery visitors with a cacophonous frenzy of vibrant colours and energetic, loopy lines. Livingston calls them paintings because, created as they were with ink on gessoed canvas, they are, sort of—but also sort of not.

Created with the help of a digital intermediary—in this case a computer with imaging software —the nine works in this show are the result of the artist drawing on an electronic tablet rather than directly onto the canvas. The densely layered, looping lines that criss-cross the bright backgrounds are manipulated using software “brushes,” with each painted “stroke” using a different filter device for a variety of effects. The result is a surreal combination of swooping lines comprised of chains of tiny flowers, thick ropes, braided hair and fuzzy strokes that look like long caterpillars.

Livingston, who teaches at NSCAD University, is clearly trying to challenge expectations about what paintings are and aren’t, pushing the boundaries of the medium by eschewing the conventional determinants—most notably the artist’s hand. Though the paintings still begin with wrist gestures (captured on the digital tablet), the human touch is palpably absent. As lively and intriguing as they are, there’s a resulting coolness—a flat, almost cartoon-like quality—that keeps the viewer at a distance. The artist must still grapple with the same issues of composition, colour and texture that he might with a conventional painting, but the digital middleman keeps us at bay. The intimacy of the brush on canvas is missing.

Still, the works are well worth considering. Far from trying to pass themselves off as masterpieces of digital art, they are visual experiments, exploring effects of technology on an age-old art form. The works blur the boundaries, straddling old and new, inviting painting to join the 21st century. (1223 Lower Water St, Halifax NS)

This article was first published online on June 26, 2008.

RELATED STORIES

  • Kristine Moran: Where Cities Break, and Paint Survives

    In the few short years since her graduation from the Ontario College of Art and Design, Kristine Moran has built a busy career with exhibitions of her paintings in Toronto, New York and elsewhere.

  • Kyla Mallett: Duly Noted

    Once the king of all media, print is on the decline. Still, there are many ways in which books continue to provide the standard tale of society. Vancouver artist Kyla Mallett investigates these forms (and their failings) aptly in “Marginalia.”

  • Modestly Spectacular: Grated Expectations

    Katharine Mulherin’s summer group show “Modestly Spectacular” plays with expectations great and small. Works by Annie MacDonell, Rob Hengeveld, Shaun Morin, Jared Lindsay Clark and Clint Griffin have a lightness and quirk that makes its mood right for the season.

 

FOUNDATION NEWS

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

ONLINE

  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem