While digital imagery is often cold or alien, Alex Livingston creates exciting, luminous environments of hotly coloured lines.
They are jungles or sea beds or magic forests begging a viewer to brush aside the hanging ropes and enter.
Livingston, a Nova Scotia artist and NSCAD University painting professor, has had a long, successful career as a painter. His history of painting gardens, biomorphic abstracts, twisting flower stems and DNA strands feeds into this newer digital art.
These abstracts at Studio 21, to April 9, have a painterly quality, a great use of light and an enticing depth suggesting a portal.
Livingston, who shifted from oil paint to digital exploration in 2005, is wired on colour. The images buzz in a dance of carefully placed, visibly textured lines in neon pink, magenta, red, yellow and green. Some have hot yellow backgrounds, others a soft blue or super-dense blue like an ocean. There are echoes of lines, suggestions of shadows.
This exhibit is the launch of a new series, says gallery owner Deborah Carver, as Livingston adds depth and layering to images that were previously lines on a flat plane.
“We had two at Art Toronto and they got a lot of attention, especially from a lot of young people. We sold a couple, one of them was purchased by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.”
The images are printed from digital files in Toronto as a Chromira print on Dibond, which Carver describes as ending up “like an aluminum sandwich.”
The images are named for Greek letters, suggesting something elemental as well as classical. Is digital imagery the new touchstone for the modern world as Greek art and literature were for the Renaissance?
Livingston also exhibits a series of black and white images of aggressively coiled, animated black lines like bicycle tires in spiralling, sprawling towers for an experience in rhythm, line and form.
Quebec artist Jean-Francois Provost’s lyrical abstracts, on view in a separate part of the gallery, differ greatly from Livingston’s in their materiality. His works are highly visible, hand-made marks and earthen colours of browns, blacks, sage-green and white.
Provost has a recurring small orange-gold mark, like a moon, in the upper right corners of his untreated canvas. He constructs space, like landscapes, in tarry patches of paint, thin drips of paint and patterned, torn papers and visible pencil marks.
There is a sense of messy, tentative, disorderly life so different from Livingston’s clear and pure spaces. You want to touch his work, you want to enter Livingston’s.
I want to know about the titles, about creating depth and layer, about how his earlier work feeds into it. Will he paint again or is this painting?