David Urban

Press & Blogs

The paintings of David Urban are meditations on mortality and ephemerality expressed though a reduced colour vocabulary. In subtle variations of rhythm and form, each painting engages the next in philosophical thought. The works play with perception, creating a multiplicity of vantage points and pathways. Between abstraction and representation, David Urban delves into the metaphysical, taking another step in an endless investigation into why we see.

Urban builds his dynamic paintings, layer upon layer, into a strange borderland between abstraction and representation. These improvisations incorporate the traditions of still life and landscape, abstraction and realism, within an abstract framework. Several of Urban’s newly executed abstracts have narrative content. They include rectangular shapes that resemble kites – suggesting the flying away of youthfulness, a wistful reflection on his teenage son and the potential loss of parental-child intimacy. Read as window frames or mirrors, they are emblematic of the works’ dual sense of depth and surface, vastness and solitariness.

First educated as a poet, Urban also plays several instruments and investigates in paint the physical presence of sound. Toronto based artist, composer and curator E.C. Woodley wrote in Art in America (2012) that “Urban…has achieved a contemporary and concise painterly equivalent to the complex, impure modernism of Wallace Stevens’s mature poems. This is relevant, resonant painting that speaks “of ourselves and of our origins” (to borrow a phrase from Stevens) and of the inter- dependence of the imagination and the world. If one allows oneself the time to be taken in, the work produces a strangely joyful and profoundly meditative effect.”

Another 2012 review in Canadian Art magazine by Pete Smith says of Urban’s paintings that they “… are Michael Ondaatje and Wallace Stevens. They are Haruki Murakami and T.S. Eliot. They are the roots that clutch and the branches that grow out of this stony rubbish.”

Urban completed both of his undergraduate degrees at York University in 1989, graduating with a BA in English Literature and a Visual Arts BFA specializing in Painting and Drawing. He received his graduate degrees, an MA in English Literature and Creative Writing in 1991 from the University of Windsor and an MFA in Visual Arts in 1994 from the University of Guelph. Urban has had 30 solo exhibitions and participated in nearly 40 group exhibitions. Urban joined Queen’s University in March 2012 as the Koerner Artist-in-Residence, an annual professional residency in the Fine Art Programme. His work is in numerous private and public collections including the National Gallery of Canada; Musée des Beaux Arts, Montreal; and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The Precious Book

Oct 12 2018 - Nov 14 2018


Feb 3 2017 - Mar 1 2017
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Halifax Magazine: Where Did the Time Go? and The Precious Book: New Exhibitions at the Galleries

Published Nov 14 2018 by Ray Cronin

The Secord Gallery is on the second floor of a storefront on Quinpool Road. When you climb the stairs, you enter directly into the gallery space, which is broken up into several connected rooms where the works of their numerous artists are on view. Where Did the Time Go? features forty-seven of the gallery’s artists,…

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blog press

Visual arts review: David Urban, The Precious Book

Published Nov 13 2018 by Mollie Cronin

Rich, layered colours reveal a combination of music, landscape and still lives. To November 14 Studio 21, 5431 Doyle Street The colours in David Urban’s paintings are satisfyingly combative. Backgrounds of goldenrod and deep lavender house strange shapes in apricot orange, cornflower blue and turquoise—contrasting tones that Urban corrals into pleasing scenes. These backgrounds, while…

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Visual Viewpoint: Urban's Abstract Paintings Have Visceral Appeal

Published Nov 26 2014 by Elissa Barnard, Chronicle Herald

Canadian contemporary art star David Urban heats up Studio 21 Fine Art, 1273 Hollis St., Halifax, with thickly painted canvases that seem to twist and vibrate. The newest paintings, made for this exhibit, are hot, visceral and vivid. They are abstract and have a limited palette, but they have references to reality — in windows…

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Studio 21