The Canadian Art Database

Ihor Holubizky

Wendy Coad
at A Space, Toronto, October 9 — 2

Vanguard, Vol. 13 #10, January 1985
[ 556 words ]

A parallel can be drawn between Wendy Coad's move from Saskatoon to Toronto and her aesthetic journey from fields of painterly smears to the rough and tumble (and crowded) world of figuration. Her appearance on the Toronto scene, in late 1982, was in the form of a few large works on paper; acrylic washes, identified by raw, cartoon-like figures and a certain unfocused aggressiveness. What was intriguing about these was an obvious control of the medium, if not the subject matter (some exhibiting a great deal of dental work).

Her next venture demonstrated a much more refined approach: large-scaled, three-quarter figures on paper, alluding to a 19th century chroma. The figures, mostly female, were rendered with an indulgent air of plump eroticism (a Botero-like touch). It was the eroticism of good living rather than sexual athleticism. These anonymous figures, treated as formal objects, had a feeling of Old World humanism. If all was not quite right with the world, at least a small part of it was ordered.

None of this could prepare one for the installation at A Space she entitled Corpus Delicti; four larger than life male figures rendered in sparse black wash directly on the gallery walls.

The subject matter, or perhaps more accurately, the style, appears to be homo-erotica; a sexual tease pulled directly from male magazines (i.e. for men about men). The photo-like cropping plays between confrontation and exploitation . . . or reverse exploitation. This is not the underplayed sexuality of her previous work, but things are not what they appear to be on initial viewing.

Coad has incorporated some subtle visual plays. These painterly-like drawings are framed on the wall with a thin pencil line, which acts to extend the 'picture' plane. There is what appears to be a thin grey wash inside the 'frame', just enough to differentiate between the wall colour and the drawing area. In addition, each of the drawings has thin visible one-point perspective lines. Whether this geometry is imposed or an integral part of the composition or a formal structural necessity (like Colville) is not made clear. It does serve to divert one's attention from the subject and adds at least the illusion of a rational base.

One is left with a puzzle of intentions and style. The initial visual connection, superficially, is with Elizabeth Mackenzie's wall drawing installation at YYZ and aspects of Robert McNealy's recent work. (There appears to be a plethora of 'wall drawings' going on in the city.) The rendering itself is not the formal exercise of her earlier work and although it appears to be media derived, it is not as direct and graphic as Oliver Girling's latest paintings that move in the same arena.

Perhaps Corpus Delicti is unsatisfying because of the comparison to her earlier work, which tended to seduce the viewer with colour and serenity. The current exercise may be more portrait-like but there is little else for the viewer to take away. She has worked out a small idea, which is considered, but has no apparent critical stand. Like the ground she has decided on, there is only the black and white of what one can observe.

Vanguard, Vol. 13 #10, January 1985

Text: © Ihor Holubizky. All rights reserved.

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