Malinsky’s sketches find the dark clown

By Claire Cummings

Charles Malinsky loves clowns, but if clowns bring to mind cheerful entertainers in face paint who make balloon animals, think again. Malinsky’s work looks at the dark flip-side of the archetypal jester figure.

Throughout the ages, the jester and the clown have had important roles in society. These were voices for the dark side of humanity who told the truth in jest. Jesters were given the freedom to say what everyone else was thinking, and behaved as everyone else wished they could.

Malinsky, a former Calgary resident and graduate of Alberta College of Art and Design, has received increased attention over the past few years. After spending over 10 years as an instructor at ACAD to make ends meet, the artist was discovered by European buyers. After several extremely successful shows in Germany and the us, Malinsky and his wife moved to Madrid, Spain.

Art is Vital is currently showing twelve of the large graphite sketches Malinsky did for this and later series. They are figure studies, and are remarkable in their rendering. Each model has a distinct personality that shines through. Especially interesting are the "Bird Man" and "Fallen Angel," studies that are self-portraits of the artist. Malinsky’s light touch, which transfers well to his oil paintings, is even stronger here. The sketches have a real sense of action and movement.

The masked figures are freakish and overtly sexual, both in their positions and costuming. They are dressed in rubber, leather and corsets. They’re amusing and disturbing, erotic and repulsive all at once. Lines of gender are blurred by women in masculine military uniforms and men in high heels. The characters wear smirks and smiles that imply special knowledge of darkness.

Unlike the artist’s finished paintings, that portray dozens of figures at a time, the studies only deal with one or two subjects which gives them a different feel.

The artist’s chaotic vision of a hellish world of fallen angels and gleeful pranksters is fascinating and appealing. Like that horrified compulsion that causes us to gawk at a car crash on the side of the road, Malinsky’s sketches tap into our fascination with the shadowy side of human nature. One cannot help but stare.