Holger Kalberg & Kristine Moran


Holger Kalberg: Apparat 5 (2010): Oil on canvas. Images courtesy Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver.Holger Kalberg: Apparat 5 (2010): Oil on canvas. Images courtesy Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver.

By Carol-Ann M. Ryan

Holger Kalberg & Kristine Moran
Monte Clark Gallery
Sept. 23 - Oct. 30, 2010

Outside of this recent exhibition, neither Kalberg nor Moran has been labelled an explicitly male or female painter in terms of subject matter. Each is known for their distinct and characteristic treatment of surface and form; however, it is striking, when viewing their work side by side, that Kalberg makes hard-edged paintings of architectural structures and Moran paints abstracted female subjects within interior, suggestively domestic spaces. The potential for stereotyping begins and ends here. Moran’s paintings are weighty and dense next to Kalberg’s light and airy compositions. Both focus their attentions on process and technique.

Kristine Moran: Shady Lady (2010): Oil on canvas.Kristine Moran: Shady Lady (2010): Oil on canvas.Kalberg’s work results from experimentation with collage made from painted and cut paper. Some collages remain as works complete in and of themselves, while others progress to abstract paintings. This exercise influenced his current series of imaginary architectural structures that play with space and depth. Apparat 5 (all works 2010) reminds me of a geodesic dome on stilts, but its fractured and incomplete construction is unearthly. The stilts puncture the ground and, in one instance, seem to cut through it, flattening the planes and literally putting a hole in the illusion of space. Kalberg uses taped edges and thin layers of paint to create his geometric shapes, which call to mind the abstractions of B.C. Binning. The architectural elements, built up with transparent washes that reveal striations of colour, recall modernist projects by Le Corbusier and Buckminster Fuller. Each canvas is painted in a refined and controlled manner, with a few drips left to the whims of gravity.

Where Kalberg’s subjects appear delicate and precarious, challenging perceptions of space, Moran’s compositions decidedly collapse it. Compact yet energized brushwork engulfs the left side and bottom half of her three canvases against a comparatively simplified background. In Sidestep, tension and physical struggle is communicated by what might be flying wisps of hair and thrashing limbs. The sweeping brushstrokes, depth and slick contrast remind me of early-20th-Century machine-age imagery, as it was explored by Duchamp, specifically Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912), and in figures depicted by Léger. Moran captures movement pressed against the picture plane; brightly coloured and still backgrounds confine the motion of the earth-toned figure.

Abstract painting is no longer defined by two camps advocating for the hard edge or the gestural. As Kalberg and Moran prove, aesthetic complexity and visual harmony is found when the two commune.

Carol-Ann M. RyanCarol-Ann M. Ryan is a Toronto-based writer, arts educator and collections manager. She has written for C Magazine, Border Crossings and Canadian Art Online. She is an instructor at the Toronto School of Art, and an educator at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.