Maya Hayuk & Jen Stark


Jen Stark: Counter Cosmo (detail, 2011): Acid-free paper, wood. Images courtesy Show & Tell Gallery, Toronto.Jen Stark: Counter Cosmo (detail, 2011): Acid-free paper, wood. Images courtesy Show & Tell Gallery, Toronto.

By Romas Astrauskas

Maya Hayuk & Jen Stark
Show & Tell
May 12 - June 12, 2011

If you happened to be stuck in Toronto during May's misery inducing grey skies and drizzle, there could have been no more appealing a destination than this vibrantly radiant exhibition titled Double Rainbow Rainbow. For this show, gallery director Simon Cole brought together works by Americans Maya Hayuk and Jen Stark.

Hayuk’s work, which was the more painting-centric, was displayed on the west walls of the gallery. Her loosely rendered patterns and cross-hatchings of colour reference many different things and disciplines, including fabric design, air-brush nail art, child-like mandalas, Paul Klee paintings and frazzled television test patterns. Her brushwork, endearing and seductive, coupled with her vivacious palette, made the work impossible to resist and betrayed an almost exuberant celebration of pleasure-centric superficiality. This is not to say, of course, that they were without content. The work provoked a clear sense of spiritual yearning, a distinct display of working towards balance and wholeness, one that, in Hayuk’s universe, can only be accomplished through the resolution of visual harmony. A series of silk-screens entitled “Soundsystem Variant”, three of which were on display and printed in varying colours, seemed in this light, to be the most striking and successful works in the show. The deeply saturated colours of the oil-based printing inks, coupled with the simplicity of the design, worked together to create a concise and clear affect; a stunning visual display of energy, balance and restraint.

Maya Hayuk: Friendship Bracelet: Better BFFs (2010): Acrylic on panel.Maya Hayuk: Friendship Bracelet: Better BFFs (2010): Acrylic on panel.The work of Jen Stark bore many similarities to that of Hayuk's, principally in its attraction to geometrically informed patterns and colour bursts. Stark however, seems to favour a more sculptural, medium-focused approach, as well as one that appears more pre-determined and less intuitive. Much of the work seemed to be a simple material experiment that had progressed into the realm of obsessive behaviour. To describe the work as labour-intensive would be a gross understatement. Counter Cosmo (all works 2011), a fractal-like wall construction made from paper and wood, is a mind-blowing display of craft, patience and mathematical imagination. Constructed from hundreds of pieces of individually cut paper, the work forms a relief (protruding five inches from the wall) that resembles some sort of extra-terrestrial blossom, vibrating and pulsing with an almost discernible electric life force. Another work, Trinity, which features hundreds of arranged and fixed dowels, cut to various lengths and painted individual colours, resembles a crystal- or stalactite-like growth protruding out from the wall. Pedestal resembles a standard museum version of that described in the title, except for a hole in the top into which one can peer, revealing a hollow centre, textured and formed using hundreds of pieces of individually cut foam-core. This internal “cave” tapered and ended in a small point of artificially produced light, referencing once again natural systems of creation and growth along with more abstract notions of infinity and transcendence.

Despite being separated by a generation or so - Maya being the senior of the two — these artists’ works meshed seamlessly, complementing, and perhaps even reinforcing, one another with their dazzling displays of light and pattern.

Romas AstrauskasRomas Astrauskas is a Toronto-based artist and writer. His paintings, sculptures and collages have been exhibited widely throughout the city, including shows at Greener Pastures, Clark & Faria, Clint Roenisch and LE Gallery. An exhibition of his newest work, Fate is a Fool, opens at Ruins (960 Queen St. West) on July 28, 2011.