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Greg Edmonson, "Crash #1," 2010, oil on canvas, 51 x 72 in.
2 of 3
Greg Edmonson, "Big Sky," 2009, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 in.
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Greg Edmonson, "Crash #2," 2010, oil on canvas, 65 x 52 in.
GREG EDMONSON, Fluxation
The Weiss Gallery, Calgary
Nov 25 to Dec 24, 2010
By Richard White
At first I didn’t quite understand the title Fluxation. And to be honest, I am still not sure I have it right. However, I was intrigued enough to look up the definition which proved interesting as the term “flux” has several meanings. It could simply refer to a continual change as in “the world is in a state of flux.” In physics, it means “the rate of flow of fluid, particles or energy or a quantity expressing the strength of a field of force in a given area,” while in chemistry and metallurgy it is “a substance used to refine metals.” Given this information, all three definitions could apply to Edmonson’s exhibition at TheWeiss Gallery in Calgary’s Design District.
The exhibition covers a lot of territory - from landscape to portrait and from still life to narrative. Edmonson’s signature landscape paintings with their consistent 2/3 sky: 1/3 ground ratio dominate the gallery’s lobby. Big Sky, a big painting at 60 inches by 60 inches needs to be big to give the artist the room needed to create a sky that is in “a state of flux.” It exudes a sense of the wind’s strength and the energy of endless cloud formations with paint that has been vigorously rubbed onto the canvas. There is also sense of a chemical reaction happening. In contrast, the land component of the painting seems calmer, with layer-after-layer of painterly mark-making – drips, splashes and dragging applied over time. The artist reminds us of the constant chemical reactions happening underground. Overall this expressionistic painting portrays a sense of the energy, turmoil and constant change that exists in the world without mankind’s presence.
In Crash #1 and Crash #2, Edmonson takes a completely different approach to “fluxation.” These two paintings are more representational and narrative and less abstraction and expressionism. Both reference the 1937 crash of the Hindenberg airship, one showing the airship as it attempts to dock; the other as it hits the ground. In each painting, the artist captures the tremendous flash-of-light as the airship explodes and then burns up. Both paintings also include minute-sized, seemingly insignificant humans depicted as single paint strokes in the vast landscape. In both works, they appear as a small group passively watching. Insignificant spectators or voyeurs? Who can resist stopping to look at a crash? The artist seems to be reminding us of how, throughout time, man has always been fascinated by explosions and other disasters, be they fireworks, oil rig explosions or car crashes.
Most of the 24 other oil-on-canvas paintings in this exhibition lack the drama and intensity of painting that makes the above-mentioned three paintings compelling to contemplate. The Silent Flyer Series which depict a generic airship floating in an abstract ambiguous space with a glow or halo around it are too still and silent to engage the viewer. They lack any sense of “flux.” The other landscape paintings are interesting - especially Cross Winds andCavern - but overall, remain subservient to Big Sky. The two Heads i.e. portraits and two Ancient Nations i.e. still life paintings are a continuation of a previous series of work of Edmonson’s and seem totally out of place in the context of an overall exhibition focus. However, given The Weiss Gallery’s walls are divided up into several small distinct rooms and a central hallway - Edmonson’s different series are kept separate from one another, resulting in three or four mini exhibitions which is probably a good thing. Though each would probably benefit from having its own title.