Bruce Dunbar: Eye Candy

FEB 21, 2009 – MAR 21, 2009

Bruce Dunbar: Eye Candy at Common Sense

Review by Sarah Hamilton
I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to walk away from your creative practice, to never write, paint, sculpt, or craft again. In 1988, Edmonton artist Bruce Dunbar put his art practice on indefinite hiatus. He was tired of the politics of the art scene and saw art going a direction he was no longer interested in. Last year, Dunbar returned to painting. In his new show, Eye Candy, at Common Sense Gallery in Edmonton, Dunbar shows that his time away from art-making has brought new perspective to his painting.

Though Edmonton is regarded as one of the last bastions of modernism, and frequently chided for being staid in this regard, Dunbar’s work is fresh and vibrant. Dunbar has remained a modernist in style, but his time away has disposed of some of the more conservative modernist tendencies, such as a limited colour palate, and a rigid sense of geometry. His new works are pop and luscious; he layers candy-coloured paint on black Styrofoam and mixes in metallic colours and acrylic gel. The combination of those two textures gives the paint a perceived and actual depth that draws me in and captivates me.

Dunbar’s work is numbered chronologically; his practice started off somewhat conservatively, with minimal paint and less aggressive sculpting. As he progresses in the series, the more expressive and curious his works become. The paint folds over itself and drips off the canvas; I found myself peering under, above, and through his works, compelled to see all the elements that brought each one together and looking for the longest acrylic stalactite in the exhibition.The serial nature of his titling as well as the repetition of his design gives the impression that these works are studies, but they seem more like experiments, with each work building upon the last, pushing the artist’s relationship to the medium further and further. I want to see how lush Dunbar can make his work; how thick he can make the paint before it slides off the canvas; how much colour he’s willing to incorporate and how sculptural he can make his paint.

In “twenty-two”, the deep eggplant paint froths across the pink canvas. Dunbar cuts down the work with a red line, and accents the focus on the corners with a thick layer of paint that resembles the finish of a well-iced cake. “fifteen” is a good example of Dunbar’s more sculptural works; his colour bars stretch across the black plane, bookended by smooth coats of thick, glossy paint.There is a lot of room to wander through Dunbar’s works, and his consistent use of black anchors the eye, allowing it to focus on the work rather than becoming overwhelmed.

I’m not anticipating the return of modernism, but Dunbar’s enthusiasm for the medium is contagious and refreshing. He’s not going through the motions just to create an end product. Instead, he opens his palate and invites the viewer to follow along within his process, returning with work that is full of playfulness and electricity. Painting doesn’t often instill an elementary sense of delight and curiosity within me, but the energy in Dunbar’s work is infectious; and I find myself charmed by Dunbar’s confectious offerings.

Eye Candy runs from February 21 – March 21, 2009.

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