Monica Tap / Nick Ostoff

by Marshall Webb

Wynick/Tuck Gallery / Katharine Mulherin Gallery, Toronto

This may seem an odd pairing of artists for a review, but, in their recent exhibitions, Monica Tap and Nick Ostoff both present work that is probably transitional and prologue to even better work to come. Both painters begin in the real world: Tap uses videos of the landscape she made during travels around Ontario. Ostoff’s source material is usually photographs that are photocopied to remove any vestiges of nostalgia or specificity. In the end, Tap paints places we can locate. Ostoff paints places we can’t locate, but somehow know.

In Tap’s Wynick/Tuck show, she presented 10 large canvases. All are looser than her earlier work and the best of them capture her feel for the landscape and her joy in applying paint. There is still an awkwardness in some, where paint seems applied solely for the sake of adding colour or filling space. Invigorated by a trip to Europe to see not only Old Masters but also hot young painters like Dexter Dalwood, Tap shows a new energy that verges on bravura. Three works stand out for their new sense of freedom: 30-10-04 (rain-soaked), 30-10-04: Hwy 69, No. 3 (lake) and Wijnhaven. The last is the most ambitious of the exhibition. Objects depicted through mist ground an aggressive foreground shot through with orange that activates the space. The least typical of all the works is (lake), which in its simplicity and subdued palette approaches the minimalist Alex Katz. The gesture of the brush and the marks it leaves reveal a confident, deft touch.

A similar deftness was present in the most recent painting in Ostoff’s exhibition (Sky, 2005). Much smaller than Tap’s canvases, Ostoff’s works still give the sense of a vast sky. Trees are a familiar subject for Ostoff; this painting (along with Pedestrian Overpass) exemplifies his minimalist notation of leaves against the sky. Other works carry more psychological depth: an abandoned tennis court, a severely cropped playground slide juxtaposed with a stormy sky, a pond in the moonlight, a low-rise apartment building caught in a drive-by photograph. The limited palette suggests that Ostoff, unlike Tap, is not emotionally attached to his locales; for him they are venues that present the emptiness of urban experience.

back to Articles & Reviews