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Geoffrey Hunter at the DeLong Gallery

The Globe and Mail, Saturday, April 11, 2009
Visual Arts Review

Gary Michael Dault - Gallery Going

$1,800-$5,800. Until May 17, 965 College St., Toronto; 416-531-1744

More scribbling - or so it initially seems. Frequent, in these lush new paintings by this young, Calgary-based artist, is the presence of a small maelstrom of what looks rather like coloured ribbons, tangles of colour, each skein of them drawing attention to that part of the canvas where, presumably, something is perhaps coming to rest, working toward resolution.

In his Nothing Is Done Yet, perhaps the strongest work in the exhibition, a searingly yellow, tulip-like form thrusts up the middle of the canvas, Hunter's trademark whorl (black this time) now serving as a kind of chaotic bed of growth from which the plant-form seems triumphantly to arise. Showering down from above, like a kind of cosmic confetti, is another Hunter device: a field of bright little discs of colour (golden, here), which has the effect of oceanic engulfment, a fireworks-like inundation of bursting colour. (This is perhaps why Nothing Is Done Yet keeps suggesting to me, albeit extravagantly, a hard, pop version of Whistler's painting, Nocturne in Black and Gold: the Falling Rocket.)

The difficulty I have with Hunter's too-proscribed sense of painterly joie de vivre is that it results in the setting up of deliciously unruly imagistic situations (fields of what seem like sparks, stars or fireflies in his Afterburn and Brand New) and then locking them down with too much graphic deliberation (a habit that ruins two of Hunter's diptychs, Split Garden and Night Garden).

Hunter is at his best in his works on paper. These are the same kinds of paintings as the canvases, but they look as if the artist has somehow managed to get out of his own way, thrown out his masking tape (or whatever he uses to make his machine-made maelstroms and falling discs), and got down to some real painting. Here, his whorls have energy, his discs sparkle and burn, his leaves and other shards of vegetation (which occur only in the works on paper), unfold and rattle in the painterly wind.

What it comes down to is that when he works on paper, Geoffrey Hunter is a terrific painter. When he works on canvas, he isn't.