Sunday, April 15, 2018

James Lindsay - Lance Austin Olsen at Deluge Contemporary Art

James Lindsay
I reviewed a show of James Lindsay and Lance Olsen at Deluge Contemporary Art
in 2016 and managed to upset a few people by mentioning death. There was more than
a whiff of big D in that show to my mind but talking about it was seen for some
reason as negative. In an age when skulls are everywhere, as tattoos, T-shirts,bumper
stickers etc. and we seem to live with constant reminders of the end of times, it's
surprising that it would cause such alarm. Monty Python even made jokes about it.

But we must remind positive and this is Victoria where we need to read gently which
makes art reviewing especially difficult. It's ok for Jonathan Jones in London and
Jerry Saltz in New York to say pretty much whatever comes into their mindsbut 77
years old unpaid provincial dilettantes like myself must choose our words carefully.
You are on safe ground with comments like "Great Show", "Strong work", and "Great use
of colour". But beyond that it's a minefield some thoughts are best kept to ourselves.

Sorry about that. My mind wanders. Fortunately Lindsay and Olsen have done it again
with separate shows at Deluge Contemporary Art so I get a chance to redeem myself.
This time the overall feeling is upbeat without any overt hints of mortality. 'The state
of things (in two parts)" is billed as continuation and evolution of the previous
pairing, 'hide in plain sight' but the shows may just as well be a testament of the
rejuvenating power of art.

Apart for both being UK transplants in their later years with strong personalities
Lindsay and Olsen don't seem to have a lot in common. Perhaps there are faint echoes
of per-conceptualist British art schools in their respective styles but time and distance
have made them difficult to discern.

Lindsay presents a suite of 19 new paintings that "document our contentment with the
unpalatable parts per million in our nature". This paintings are a harmonious fusion of
abstraction and landscape suggesting any conflict between nature and intellect may have
been at least partially resolved. His environmental concerns are obvious and the
paintings clearly represent the increasingly critical relationship between humanity and
the planet we live on. Mountains and forests struggle with the pipelines and oil spills
but the paintings themselves are bright, lively and colourful as if the artist has
succeeded in finding some hope in the precarious state of things.

Olsen's work comes across at first sight as pure abstraction. There are no obvious
figurative reference points, viewers are free to provide their own, and almost seems to
defy any kind of analysis of definition. But, just my opinion of course, there is no escaping
the language of expressionism. It's the compulsion with which Olsen works that tells the
story. The paintings he has chosen to show are mostly monochromatic but highly
emotive and loaded with a finely balanced tension. His output is enormous and what
may seem repetitive is actually in constant state of flux. Each painting is a mark of
passage. The paintings and prints are complemented by "Plato's cave" a sound work
composed of guitar, fields recordings, stones and assorted objects scored from dry-point

Certainly is continuation here but to what extend has the work evolved ? When in doubt
ask the artist.

James Lindsay: "It all evolved over the last 18 months. Oil spills and pipelines have been
much on my mind.I guess you could say it started with a small leak and spread outwards".

Lance Olsen: "Evolution ? How the **** would I know? I just keep working.There's so
much work to do. I had to sort through 500 paintings to pick out 12. It's always evolving".

We live in interesting times. Missiles are flying over Syria and World War 3 can start at
any minute.Ordinary folk have not a lot of say in the matter. Will Lindsay's warnings
go unheeded or will Kinder Morgan get their new pipeline?
Olsen distrusts words and reduces them to sound and symbols. A lot of physical and mental
energy has gone into these shows."Lindsay and Olsen are both at an age that death is no
longer an abstraction" (their words) and they both agree that careerism is an anathema
to life. Neither artist shows any sign of slowing down however and it will be interesting
to see where they go from here.

Philip Willey

The State of Things (in two parts)
Deluge Contemporary Art
March 17 to May 5, 2018

Lance Olsen