Michael Batty: Open

Douglas Udell Gallery, Vancouver
March 13-27


Michael Batty, Opening,(1999)
oil on panel

Open: To disclose or expose to view; reveal; having no enclosing or confining barriers; vulnerable; public

In his current body of paintings, Michael Batty continues to explore random elements within the confines of formalist aesthetics. However, while in earlier work Batty explored lyrical qualities found through conventional methods of painting on canvas, he has turned in this series to a new and discomforting process: that of physically cutting the canvases.

The cool and cultivated surfaces of the new work bely their confrontational aesthetic. While the incisions imply a liberation from previous alliances and methods - and certainly allow him to explore fresh technical possibilities and ideas - they also literally question the "cutting-edge" boundaries that distinguish painting from such art forms as collage or relief sculpture. The perceived "tragedy" of his sliced canvasses becomes an aesthetic battleground for arguments of the nature and purpose of 'line' in formalist work, as well as for the status of these works as precious, self-referential objects.

What is it that has become vulnerable: line or space? And what is disclosed: an aesthetic that has been "fixed" throughout most of this century, or a transition to new paradigms of thinking about the art object? Such questions permeate the basic identity of Batty's new works as "paintings", as well as our reactions to them.

© Mia Johnson