Scott Plear, "Celtic Love," n/d, acrylic on canvas, 58 x 74.5 inches.
SCOTT PLEAR, New Work
Agnes Bugera Gallery, Edmonton
Mar 4 — 17, 2006
By Gilbert A. Bouchard
Vancouver-based painter Scott Plear is not afraid of contradiction or breaking new ground in his ongoing series of vibrant abstract expressionist canvases. Known for his adept deployment of paint on canvas, in these latest works Plear is pushing the envelope, purposefully choosing to work with each and every one of the perspectives and tools available to him as a creator of painted images.
From a distance Plear's work is all about drama, playing with aesthetic expectations, and the great openess of the process. A close examination of any piece shows his tight and masterly control of his craft. Employing irregular rectangular shapes on fluid backgrounds as a recurring visual trope, Plear's individual works boast a profoundly organic sense of composition and personality. Always a big fan of colour, this newest body of work features extraordinarily lush jewel-like colours, showing a fearlessness of softness and the potential of the decorative, but also a mature understanding of how colour fits into his complicated structural discourse.
Plear says he also loves to play with format in all of its incarnations; adjusting, re-sizing, and playing with the surface compositions until he has achieved just the right effect. He even sends digitally-cropped versions of raw canvases to a friend in London, England, to get extra feedback on his cropping options.
A close viewing of his paintings emphasizes how far he's willing to go with this devotion to open-ended compositional freedom. While the surfaces of the work would seem to be a product of profound layering, Plear seldom utilizes more than four layers, some of which are stains and wash effects carried over from his watercolour days. The big idea, he says, is to do whatever is needed to tease out the colours and get the effect the image requires. Mostly the paint is spread ever-so-thinly on the canvas, allowing for the most subtle of gradient shifts as his fields of colour flow across the surface. On other occasions, Plear is not above adding a thick ridge of paint alongside a barely-painted colour field that exposes the warp-and-weave of the canvas. In some of his recent paintings Plear has folded and manipulated the canvas, sealing shut ridges with rows of paint squeezed from a ziplock bag, creating an "addendum" to the initial image, yet doing so in a way that hardly seems worked at all.
What's most impressive in the array of work on display at the Agnes Bugera Gallery is how he manages to keep the same level of intensity in both his small and large scale work. According to Plear, the variety in the canvas size, as well as his experiments in the use of more decorative colours, are part and parcel of his overall dedication to radical experimentation going back to his early days at Emma Lake. (A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, Plear was a regular participant at the Emma Lake Artist's Workshops from 1977 to 2000.) His seamless shifts in canvas size is just one tasty morsel in a rich visual banquet that encourages viewers to move from painting to painting, fascinated by how he manages to scale down such a unique vocabulary to fit the tighter scope of the smaller canvases.