1 of 3
"Tree in Full Bloom"
Patrick Landsley, "Tree in Full Bloom," 1959, ink and gouache, 17 3/8” X 14”
2 of 3
"November Tree and House"
Patrick Landsley, "November Tree and House," 1960, ink, coloured ink and gouache, 11” X 8”
3 of 3
"Trees by the Sea, Methoni"
Patrick Landsley, "Trees by the Sea, Methoni," 2006, ink and watercolour, 5” X 7”
PATRICK LANDSLEY, Time Lapse
Winchester Galleries, Victoria
Feb 2 to 27, 2008
By Brian Grison
Patrick Landsley, born in Winnipeg in 1926, is the quintessential modernist. His aesthetic developed within the formal concerns of late Cubism represented by the work of artists like Juan Gris and Ben Nicholson, but his paintings are more spontaneous than the modulations of space in Gris' work, and his compositions are less cerebral than Nicholson's.
This solo exhibition of about 30 works is divided into two groups. Along with 19 plein-air drawings, mostly produced while Landsley was traveling, there are nine larger oil and acrylic paintings on Masonite panels, some with bas-relief collages, produced in his studio in Woodstock, Ontario between 1996 and 2006. While focusing on landscapes and architecture, the works meditate on the artist's knowledge of art history, art practice and perception.
The subject of the landscape Early Snow is a row of four snow-filled elm trees in front of a low wall, with a post to the left, drifts of snow stretching away to the left and right, a line of trees on the horizon and the moon in the upper right. This simple content, reduced to flat shapes, is set in a loosely drawn rectangle that floats against the 12- by 18-inch canvas, which itself doesn’t quite fit its backing panel. This subtle structure, somewhere between a window and bas-relief, is comprised of built-up and conceptual planes that also suggest perspective but little depth of field. Like the work of the early Cubists, the canvas’s pale blue grey, beige, grey-green, white and near-black both suggest and deny the third dimension. The paint is applied in a single flat layer with natural edges, and arbitrary tonal modulations are the result of the thin colour over the white ground.
Landsley’s small drawings, many of them created on location, show the roots of his aesthetic and philosophic grounding in modernism. The drawings were created between 1960 and today in Greece, Tunisia, Turkey and Ontario. They suggest the spontaneity of travel sketches, but were created as potential source material for studio paintings, and are representative of his studio practice while traveling.
The 2007 drawing Road to Methoni depicts a shift between two and three dimensions. Drawn in a fine pen and black ink line with brushed-in blue watercolour, it’s a view of four severely sculpted olive trees and a one-story building, with a horizontal foreshore, blue water, a distant shore and mountains beyond.
As with Landsley's paintings, each element in the drawing is clearly indicated and independent of the others, with no ambiguity. But unlike most of his paintings, the drawing depicts a greater exploration of the means of representation. While the olive trees are depicted as severely pruned, sculpted to encourage the growth of olives, Landsley's careful pen line sculpts the trees to produce a heightened sense of the drawing itself as a kind of graphic sculpture.
Patrick Landsley's paintings and drawings are simultaneously for the eye and the mind — as the final centre of sensual experience — rather than the body and emotions. His work easily resides within a long history of painters-as-thinkers, all the way from Johannes Vermeer to Juan Gris to Ben Nicholson and Jacques de Tonnancour.