Last Thursday I went with a friend after a pleasant morning spent life drawing and lunching to the Oak Bay Winchester Gallery to see David Blackmore, but that show was over and instead we saw Vertical Parallels and Tonality by Michael Morris. Believe me when I say that I had every intention of coming home and writing up a little critique/review/post (whatever) about the show. For some reason that hasn’t happened. Well, it’s happening now. I’m forcing myself to do it.

When I first walked into the gallery I, of course, saw Morris’ work. The show was up, but not labelled. Instead of rushing over to look at the stuff, I just kind of stood in the centre of the room or else followed my friend around while she looked for Blackmore left overs, and from that distance all of Michael’s work looked computer generated. That’s what I thought it was, because the title of the show, vertical parallels and tonality, is no joke. That’s exactly what’s going on in the paintings. I was turned off, really.

But the longer it all lasted, being there at Winchester, I mean, I thought I might as well look a little harder. So I approached one of the pieces. Surprise surprise, hand painted. Nice soft gouache, all the many many vertical parallels marked out first in pencil and then painted free hand. Very soft pastel gradations of colour. Almost bland, almost dull, a little bit too much grandma and the dentist’s office, but at the same time much too skillfully accomplished to dismiss.

The work embraces a number of paradoxes. It reminds me of art work by kids. You can imagine some kid with it’s tongue sticking out and it’s whole attention focused completely on being perfect. Forgive me, but it’s got that slightly pedestrian quality and yet there it is, the product of a man with a respectable history in the arts and it’s hanging in Winchester Galleries. Obviously they expect it to sell. In other words, it’s sophisticated. It is on the edge, but not particularly edgy. You could live with it, but on the other hand, perhaps you’d rather not.

I don’t know. I’m ambivalent. A lot of art is good at playing little mind games with us, the people looking. Vertical Parallels and Tonality does that too, but it’s left me feeling uncertain, undetermined, almost paralyzed with indecision. It’s really not very nice.

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