Douglas Walker Tropic of Capricorn
Douglas Walker is primarily a landscapist. Since the early 1980s he has crafted a body of work that has pulled conventional landscape into new imaginary spaces. Almost always there are a series of familiar tethers—cloud shapes we remember, flowers we recognize, buildings by and large at home in the history of architecture. Walker's world is our world, until it isn't—until the clouds pile to unlikely heights, until the flowers take on monstrous scale, until the buildings feels more like lit ruins than futurist habitations. Walker's world has gone wonky, eloquent but wonky. His landscapes speak to displaced hopes and impossible dreams. They are other worlds, underworlds that even when wet wear cracked, desiccated surfaces that speak to an aging of concentration and vision. They are the visions of an old soul that can't shake its memories of a more fecund arena of life that once stretched to the horizon.
This sense of dislocation is summed up here by the title "Tropic of Capricorn" which belongs to the south, not the north. The whales that have recently appeared in Walker's work—full figure, portrait profile, close up eye—are travellers of this underworld. They embody the antiquity of Walker's spaces, their vulnerability, their survival and their vastness of scale. In the current exhibition they are complemented by a series of islands, each hosting a single tree. Together, they course through a season of fruition, creating an allegory of an unimpeded life cycle completing itself in a natural wonder that is nonetheless defined by isolation. That Walker manages to make fruit trees synonymous with whales is a measure of the creative stretch of his art. It pulls us into rethinking the natural world and remembering that it not only predates us—but likely will postdate us too. The timeline of his art works both ways, into the past and into the future, and that seamless continuity suggests one reason for its uniform rendering, work after work, in the sober and melancholy flow of a deep ultramarine blue that grounds us in an ocean of time whether it renders the sea or a curling vine.
For the past fifteen years I have developed images and installations based on a single colour choice — variations of ultramarine blue. The blue relates to the ongoing endeavor of creating images that present a subconscious resonance for viewers. The images—of underwater life, trees, flowers, clouds and architecture—forge subconscious pathways through the tactile presence of paint. This address to the subconscious relates to our experience of the natural and built environment in a singular uninterrupted flow of subjective perception. This buried oceanic psychic sense of the real world is meant to offer an imaginative space apart from familiar day-to-day reality. Much in the manner of science fiction, where future or imaginary fictional landscapes stand for allegories of the present, my art offers a new, displaced perspective from which to regard the world. Familiarity can desensitize us to the changing nature of the world around us. My experimentations with drawing and brush technique are ways of restoring that vitality. Each work is made with uncorrected strokes and lines. They combine with drying processes that create vivid, unpredictable surface textures which rule the images with a highlighted sense of the paintings creating themselves as one looks at them. The experience is of tenuous connections between now and then, past and present which exist simultaneously in a complex moment.
Douglas Walker has exhibited professionally since 1982. He has shown with the S.L Simpson Gallery and Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto as well as the Jennifer Kostiuk Gallery in Vancouver. His work has been included in exhibitions such as “Douglas Walker—A Future in Ruins” at the Mendel Gallery in Saskatoon, “Rococo Tattoo: The Ornamental Impulse in Toronto Art” at The Power Plant in Toronto, “Science Fictions” at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax and in the touring exhibition “Other Worlds: Douglas Walker” circulated by Dalhousie Art Gallery in partnership with the Robert McLaughlin Gallery and Kelowna Art Gallery. His major mural project “CloudFlower” opened in 2015 at The Cornell Community Centre, Markham, Ontario. He is represented in Toronto by Parts Gallery.
About Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects
Launched in 2016 as part of the new Dupont St. gallery scene in Toronto, Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects was devoted to an exhibition program of contemporary Canadian art. Founding editor of C Magazine and editor of Canadian Art from 1996 through 2015, Richard Rhodes brought his expertise to exhibitions by emerging and established artists from across Canada. His informed critical eye launched and nurtured numerous careers in the Canadian art world over the past three decades. A photo diary of his continuing interests and work can be seen on Instagram at @c4rhodes. The gallery website will continue to be viewable at: www.dupontprojects.com.