Halladay’s squiggles challenge viewers

By Chris Simmons

The struggle to explore new forms of artistic expression continues away from the glare of shock art. Much of shock art’s attraction is in its ability to be condensed into a media-friendly event suited for the man of modern times who Paul Valery described as "[he] who no longer works at what cannot be abbreviated."

Continuing the struggle is Richard Halladay’s new exhibition called Constellation Series, a collection of works that requires much more fortitude than it takes to eat a piece of chocolate or view a piece of shock art.

Halladay describes the force of his work as "[a way] to direct you to read the space I create for you to experience." The viewer succeeds in answering Halladay’s call with a little patience–there is not a single privileged point or theme that can be grasped with a instant’s glance. Thus, his work avoids the fate of abbreviation. The reading Halladay conceives of in these works, if it is to be rigorous, is as complex as the painting. It takes a patient eye to experience each moment of the painting. They consist of multiple moments or qualities, and hence the works are faithful to the title of the exhibition: each forms a constellation, not a thing.

The paintings work within the tradition of Canadian Automatism and are a series of loops, circles and curves against a solid black wall. He differs from earlier abstract artists such as Mondrian whose more mathematical, grid patterns encapsulated relatively equal spaces. Halladay’s work pushes the inequality of the captured space further than Mondrian; the space captured by the loops and curves is not elemental but disparate. By this means, his work tends towards artistry rather than science.

Yet Halladay is wrong to call his work "a temporal experience of what has been, rather than what is." This tendency towards nostalgia is also apparent in the categorization of Halladay’s work as modernist. Halladay does not have the same trust in civilization that the less attractive side of modernism does–ditch the easy label and realize that the past can only be brought to the present. As desirous as it may seem, there is no return to a period in history that might seem more artistically valuable than today.

Walking from the downtown core to the Stride Gallery makes you realize we don’t need a return in time–what we get from the exhibit is much more valuable. Spending time with his work can give us some well-needed time to think, some patience that is rare in our modern days where getting somewhere fast is the highest ambition.

Constellation Series will show at the Stride Gallery until Jan. 29.



Leave a comment