60 Lispenard St. New York, NY
See it, the beautiful ball
Poised in the toyshop window,
Rounder than sun or moon.
Is it red? is it blue? is it violet?
It is everything we desire,
And it does not exist at all.
— Adrienne Rich, “A Ball is For Throwing,” 1957
Canada is pleased to announce “A Ball is For Throwing,” its second solo exhibition with Vancouver-based painter Elizabeth McIntosh. In a new suite of exuberant, large-scale paintings, McIntosh continues her formal exploration of ambiguous and unresolved compositions populated by shapes that flicker in and out of legibility. The central forms in “Curious Trees,” for example, signify as both flora and fauna, hovering at the edge of interpretability. Despite their enigmatic qualities, the paintings ultimately solicit the viewer’s pleasure and desire—prompting us, like the looker in Rich’s poem, to puzzle, “Is it red? is it blue? is it violet?”
McIntosh’s recent paintings are both a departure from and an extension of her recent work. Here, instead of drawing on the art historical quotations that have been the foundation of past canvases, McIntosh builds the paintings from fragments of her own watercolors, marker drawings, and digital doodles. Dragging these elements around digitally, she plans her compositions in advance, enlarging and collaging shapes of her own design in layered patterns. In the piece titled “Sappho’s World,” she magnifies a field of watercolor, painstakingly transcribing its pooling pigment into oil paint.
This body of work includes several pieces whose compositions are defined by a framing device that resembles the pages of an open book. This bipartite shape allows McIntosh to explore her interest in the happenstance relationships that occur when things are combined. It is also a structuring device that disallows conventional compositions, providing the ground for productive tensions and serendipitous juxtapositions. Like McIntosh’s previous explorations of paintings of/as windows, these book page works investigate the motif of a painting within a painting. In “Inside a Picture,” for example, a second set of book pages is nestled within the larger frame, creating multiple spaces within one surface. While the book page frame unites multiple pieces in this show, McIntosh’s paintings are typically quite diverse, not overly concerned with a unifying style. Rather, McIntosh takes each new canvas as an independent project, allowing herself to follow whims and improvisations in the painterly process. The works evince a deep love of the medium, celebrating the pleasure found in color, line, and form.
Elizabeth McIntosh (b. 1967) was born in Simcoe, Ontario and lives and works in Vancouver, Canada where she is a professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Her work has been exhibited at Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Vancouver Art Gallery; Tanya Leighton, Berlin and Los Angeles; Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver; Oakville Galleries, Toronto; CANADA, New York; and Diaz Contemporary, Toronto, among others. Her work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, among others. She received her BFA from York University, Toronto in 1992 and MFA from Chelsea College of Art and Design, London in 1996.