March 25 - May 10, 2015
The qualities of a dream are by nature vague and elusive in waking life. The edges are ill-defined and the narrative is always slipping away around blind corners in the mind. The rare satisfaction of a vividly recalled scene is akin to nostalgia; like unearthing a long-buried childhood memory.
Shared Dreams seems to be an exhibition made up entirely of those moments for photographer Sarah Tacoma and painter David Marshak. Their work strikes the viewer as a series of attempts at making the dream life visible.
Marshak and Tacoma work out of adjoining back yard studios in Kimberley, Ontario, where they live with their three small children. The fact of their partnership makes it difficult to discern whether the aesthetic symbiosis evident in their work is the result of their relationship, or if the relationship grew from a shared aesthetic. With their different tools, these two artists take something real, a scene from the city-scape or from nature, and apply layers of subjectivity in the form of oil paints, wax and resin.
Tacoma's haunting photographs show us the natural world at close range. We see networked branches against the sky, the trunks of winter trees in a darkened forest, a single abandoned structure at the edge of the built world. But somehow these recognizable scenes grow more obscure as the viewer approaches. Through an elaborate process Tacoma renders the original photographic print a mere backdrop for her creative vision. The prints have been mounted on birch panels, distressed with sanding, scored with knives and embellished with paint or crayon. Finally, she applies a thick layer of wax which further clouds and distances the view. Hard lines disappear, except where they have been deliberately preserved or exposed by scraping the wax from the surface. The result is what Tacoma calls “dreamscapes”: romantic landscapes from the etheric realm.
In his paintings, Marshak follows a similar path from the real to the imagined as his meticulous compositions disappear beneath layers of thickly applied oils. Working from photographs he takes himself, Marshak draws on his education in both illustration and fine art to create photorealistic images that begin to dissolve under scrutiny. The scenes in his paintings, whether urban or rural, are made up of thousands of dashes of colour applied either by brush or, more recently, by palette knife. Drawing their power from some dramatic source of light, the scenes, while thoroughly representational, have that otherworldly quality associated with dream. The light is showing us something subjective, implying a subterranean narrative.
What these artists have in common, apart from a home and children, is a remarkable talent for evoking that sense of déjà-vu, as if they were offering a series of windows into our own half-remembered dreams. – Kristen Delmage