The Khyber Presents “Review” and “Toronto Riots” by Patrick Howlett and Gary Spearin
Patrick Howlett and Garry Spearin’s recent projects, Review (2007) and Toronto Riots (2010), are both process-based series’ using abstract painting as a medium for expressing concepts that focus’ on the manipulation of subject matter, as the subject itself.
“Review” was inspired by what Howlett has referred to as a “particularly florid” review of a Luc Tuyman exhibition. Howlett entered phrases from the review into a Google image search; phrases such as “largely emptied of meaning” or “drain his subject”. Using the first random jpg that popped up, he would then abstract it using Photoshop filters; the final step would be to paint the digital image. Spearin developed a similar process for his piece “Toronto Riots” by using 20 found images taken during the recent G20 riots as source material. For each photograph, Spearin would take the same ratio of oil pigments and mix them together to create a different tone of grey and cover a 12” square canvas with the flat monochrome. Titles of each work reflect the content of each photograph bringing the original context into the work. The paintings are displayed in a grid formation, acting like a pixilated image as a whole.
Both projects look to the history of painting and to the art making process to communicate painting as a reference point, blocking or erasing the original image by means of performing the act of painting. For instance, Howlett’s paintings resemble geometric abstraction, whereas Spearin’s paintings resemble minimalist post-painterly abstraction. What differentiates them from their historical references is the use of painting to reflect a form of censorship or abstraction of information as opposed to the abstraction of the picture plain, emphasizing the objectivity of the paintings. The process replicates the idea of something lost in a world that is strife with technology and censorship, the mood has been set in the erasure of visual subject matter by means of process, a veil has been dropped.