Tuesday, May 24, 2011

IN THE NEWS - Leng/Geher

R.M. VAUGHAN | Columnist

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published Friday, May. 13, 2011 5:00PM EDT

Russell Leng and Judith Geher at Parts Gallery

Until May 22, 1150 Queen St. E., Toronto; www.partsgallery.ca

When you first walk into Parts Gallery, you may wonder why the gallerist has placed painters Russell Leng and Judith Geher side by side. Two more apparently different painters would be hard to imagine.

Leng, an emerging artist from Vancouver, paints images of sharp, pointy crystals on solid or two-toned backdrops. His many faceted subjects block and absorb light in equal measure, and can be both cold, rendered in fractal variations of grey, and mysterious, filled with the ephemeral, untouchable inner light. Geher, conversely, is almost too expressive. Her portraits of young women are rendered in gooey daubs, liquid strokes, and occasional splats of honey sweet pigment. Geher has more flesh tones on her palette than any three makeup counters, and is happy to let them slide together like butter takes to cream, milk to sugar.

Underneath this seeming dichotomy, however, lurks a fascination, evident in both sets of paintings, with the act of mark making. Leng’s twinkling crystals, diamond hard as they are, are created via the faintest of brushstrokes, a whispering, feather light application of paint to panel. Geher’s fresh-face, blossoming young women are brought to life with unapologetically aggressive brushwork, with a shatter, stab, and cut abandon. It’s as if the two artists met, agreed on their topics, then swapped painting styles – for fun, and to disrupt our expectations of how their culturally loaded subjects ought to be conveyed.

Hats off to Parts Gallery for introducing Leng’s Ginger Rogers to Geher’s Fred Astaire.