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Features / December 1, 1995

David Urban: Night and Day

Like a religious conversion or an erotic escapade with a stranger, this story about living with a group of canvases by the Toronto artist David Urban describes what can happen when boredom and curiosity touch, mix and detonate. I did not first see these works in an exhibition. Nor, before they came to stay, did I look at them in David’s Parkdale studio. I’d asked to borrow works made especially for the space I live in; beyond that, I laid down no guidelines. Hence, I had no idea what was coming that morning last May when David appeared at the door with the paintings, hauled them in, and hung them in the place I share with my wife, teenage daughter, cat, deck garden, computer, hobbies and obsessions.

The cycle of abstract canvases David created for the occasion is called Bordertown, and consists of seven works dedicated to the memory of the American jazz saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill, who died in New York last spring, while the paintings were being made. Viewed as formal steps in this young artist’s surging progress, they are emblems of his deepening resolution to work flat out, reeling in the world’s ambiguous, distressed colours and forms as it suits him, disregarding fashion in favour of a vivid passion for our shared life on the streets, the experience of being downtown.

So begins our Winter 1995 cover story. To keep reading, view a PDF of the entire article.