Robin Fry

Toronto

Robin Fry: Gold Pour (2012): Acrylic, glitter and glue on canvas board, 16 x 12 inches. Images courtesy Paul Petro Contemporary Art, Toronto.Robin Fry: Gold Pour (2012): Acrylic, glitter and glue on canvas board, 16 x 12 inches. Images courtesy Paul Petro Contemporary Art, Toronto.Robin Fry: Slow Time (2012): Acrylic, glitter and glue on canvas board, 16 x 12 inches.Robin Fry: Slow Time (2012): Acrylic, glitter and glue on canvas board, 16 x 12 inches.

By Romas Astrauskas

Robin Fry
Paul Petro Contemporary Art
Nov. 16, 2012 – Jan. 12, 2013

The Berlin-based Canadian artist and musician Robin Fry is a tough nut to crack. How to describe, using art criticism, which relies heavily on logic and format, an artistic output that is decidedly irrational and purposefully confounding? Another show at Japan’s Hiromart Gallery, titled Golden Altitudes, explored through painting and a self-made musical soundtrack, the intriguing idea of a “Jamaican-themed vacation planet”.

His latest exhibition is no exception to the artist’s particular track record of creating work using an unrestrained, intuitive, free-flowing approach. The show, entitled Midnight Scumbler (an odd, misplaced nod to the Rolling Stones’ Midnight Rambler, perhaps?) is a collection of small paintings, each measuring a scant 16 x 12-inches, all of them created using acrylic and glitter. They are all “tight” in a formal sense, each displaying well-resolved compositional strategies with geometric and crystalline forms floating, hovering and interlocking with one another while vaguely figurative elements of flora, fauna and block-headed humans attempt to assert themselves. The atmosphere within the paintings is palpable and persistent, a strange combination/hybrid of tropicality, 80s video games, geometric psychedelia and a chemical factory.

In the painting Slow Time (all works 2012), a face embedded in the side of a mountain, which appears to have been painted by Paul Klee, emits a radius of colourful rays that extend to the edges of the painting while the cheap gas-station sunglasses worn by the figurative apparition reflect a rich and deep, yet somehow malevolent, star-scape. In another piece, Gold Pour, a black, vaguely architectural construction is perched on a collection of coloured shapes, the black form oozing gold glitter, which forms itself into a river of gold in the landscape below. Somehow, this landscape, thanks to competent shading and modelling, seems feasible, like something that could possibly exist only to slip, implode and appear completely ridiculous in the next moment.

This, perhaps, is where the strength of these paintings lie. It is the oddly familiar spatial constructions that put viewers in a place they somehow understand, places akin to crude virtual realities and antique digital landscapes, only to have this sense of place undermined and subverted by the perplexing and fantastical (albeit) simple narratives that play out within them. Body parts float around looking for a place to land or connect to something, but it appears hopeless. Despite the abundance of endless sensual stimulation, there is only stasis, all forces equal and opposing and, therefore, cancelling each other out. Like a video game stuck in demo mode, despite all the sounds and colours, nothing can really happen here.