Barry Allikas, Leslie Bell, Sonia Haberstitch, Pierre Julien, Russell Tyler: Prismatic Spray

Works in the exhibition

Division Gallery is pleased to open its doors to the public with our first exhibition, entitled Prismatic Spray. The show features work by five Montreal-based artists, all directly engaged with the two lighthouses of contemporary painting: formalism and conceptualism. The form they begin to deploy develops the concept they start with; and ends in having become a finished variation on a complex of thought and emotion.

The eye that sees - a dazzling sky or a stunning painting for example – can turn away; the artists surveyed here all posit the urgency of color as something that registers all the same. In even a casual glance strong color is a force not to be put by. Like in music, a certain amount of volume acts with persuasive strength on the substance of the whole account. Like a well-placed charge of dynamite, the work of these artists employs color as a way to bring the house down.

Barry Allikas is a veteran artist, well known to the Montreal public, whose style of hard edge abstraction pools a larger number of influences than seems possible for what can be considered a narrow territory. Allikas possesses the virtuoso skill to excel at his type of painting, but also the imagination and gusto to reinvent it to a substantial degree. He discovers things geometric or biomorphic art have never said before, and says them in a variety of personal voices.

Leslie Bell is an Alberta-born, Montreal based painter who is currently a candidate for a Master’s Degree in painting at Concordia University. Her luminous canvases are shot through with beautiful moments of handling and movement, in both paint and imagery. Her vast-seeming scenes suggest everything from castles in the sky to ethereal, microscopic clouds, falling through spaces that are somehow both clear and undefined.

Sonia Haberstich’s pom-pom series, featured here in Prismatic Spray, are displayed on convex plastic supports, and generally features a burningly variegated palette. Their range of meaning runs from Op eye candy, of the extremely fizzy sort, to the implication that the male-dominated history of abstract painting would do well to improve it’s sense of humor, as well as recognize the contribution and growing importance of women artists. Sonia has a Master’s Degree in painting, and lives in Hudson.

Pierre Julien strikes the somber note in Prismatic Spray, like the bass in a five-part harmony. His approach combines curiosity and a relentless search to seek out forms that speak to us, and yet are hard to define; with an attitude towards materials and surface that is practically devotional. His space both is and is not a place, just as his ‘objects’ both are and are not real. His recent use of color tends toward the softly glowing – and an emotional resonance that is both comforting and mysterious.

Russell Tyler’s witty, laugh-out-loud paintings round out the exhibition. Seeming to be simple, but winking at us a vast range of references, the work in this show makes passes at Op and Pop, and has friends in different places, from graffiti in subways, to rave projections, to Brice Marden. They are cheerful, and strong enough to remain so; the fun they provide is made all the more precious for the tinge of sadness each one carries, once you really look.

For more information on the artist