Canadian Art

Review

Nicole Collins: Glimpses of Renewal

General Hardware Contemporary, Toronto Nov 17 2011 to Jan 21 2012
Nicole Collins <em>Resolver</em> 2011 Courtesy the artist and General Hardware Contemporary / photo Jeff Bierk Nicole Collins Resolver 2011 Courtesy the artist and General Hardware Contemporary / photo Jeff Bierk

Nicole Collins <em>Resolver</em> 2011 Courtesy the artist and General Hardware Contemporary / photo Jeff Bierk

The term “reconstruction” is often popularly associated with the post–Civil War period of American history, and it is also used in reference to the current financial crisis. In both appearances, the term is used in a regenerative sense: picking up the pieces from some form of near-cataclysmic collapse. As the title of Nicole Collins’ current exhibition of paintings in Toronto, one gets a similar sense of “reconstruction” as repaired trauma, both material and metaphorical.

The paintings in this exhibition demonstrate an enviable range of formal diversity. Despite the consistency of their quality, most of them appear quite different from each other. There is, however, a nearly narrative quality to their arrangement: an almost step-by-step conceptual instrumentality that implicitly relates to their making. Build it up. Scrape it down. Build it again. Some of the pieces on display are the product of this building. Some are the product of this scraping. Most of them are the product of both. One of the most fascinating technical achievements of the work is the repeated incorporation of silver leaf. Mostly, metal leafs are (unsuccessfully) used by second-year undergraduates when they’re trying to be experimental. What differentiates Collins’ use of metal leaf is how she is able to break apart the singular-scale rectangular form in which metal leaf is mostly applied. In Collins’ work, this leafing becomes unified fields of radiant iridescences under which specks of vibrant hues thoughtfully protrude.

There is a danger here in solely discussing these works in relation to the readymade critical frameworks of process art and materialist alchemy because these works are, in fact, principally about process and materials. But these paintings are also much more than that. It’s what Collins’ processes give rise to that sets these works apart. If notions of the alchemical have additional meaning here, it is in that pseudo-scientific transformative fashion: turning lead into gold. Unlike most paintings that traffic in these discourses, the gold that Collins is searching for isn’t confined to painterly parlour tricks and sexy surfaces. The true strength of these works is in the subtlety of their lyricism and the opulence of their metaphor. Build, tear down, and build again. Whether one is considering the disasters of war, the never-ending financial catastrophe, the frailty of human relationships or the hot-and-cold historical reception of painting, Nicole Collins’ works provide ample inventory for collective reflection; glimpses of renewal peek through their tiny fissures.

This article was first published online on January 5, 2012.

RELATED STORIES

 

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