The Winnipeg-born Montreal artist Dil Hildebrand is already big for his britches. While still a fine-arts student at Concordia University—he graduated this spring—he was included in group shows at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery and Montreal’s Parisian Laundry. He’s also had solo shows at Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, won a major national painting prize and had works purchased by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Not bad for a novice.
Except he really isn’t a novice. Though relatively new to the world of fine art, Hildebrand worked for a number of years as a scenographer in the theatre and film industries. That’s where he developed his eerie talent for hyperrealism. With his latest solo show, though, Hildebrand went to hitherto-unknown extremes. In an ode to all things meta, he combined a trompe l’oeil facsimile of reality with a movement away from representational painting.
Hildebrand’s paintings have always carried a delightfully confusing multiplicity of realities. In 2006, he reinvented nature scenes by painting theatrical sets made to look like nature scenes. He’s now added a few levels of interpretation by painting what could be abstracted scenes of his studio, filled with paintings of paintings of landscapes leaning every which way. The quality of abstraction comes from the odd situation of the painted planes within the compositions, as well as from a new cubist effect that he’s adopted. Add splotches of spilled paint that suggest that the now-framed work before you was at one time used as floor covering in the very studio it represents, and, well, count on a party in the viewer’s cerebellum!
Hildebrand’s propensity toward illusion is nothing short of mind-bending. In one large-scale untitled work, globs of paint represent raindrops on a car windshield with an exactitude that far exceeds their materiality. In today’s world of photorealistic painting and retouched photography, it’s quite the feat to make a viewer stop in awe of a pictorial effect. But it’s when paired with the other series that these works really take on meaning—as if they’re details of one of those semi-identifiable landscape planes.
As the plenitude of red dots beside the works confirmed, Hildebrand is Montreal’s latest hotcake, and if this exhibition proved anything, it’s that he’s only getting started.