The Art Of Reference.

Have you ever wanted to own a Picasso or a Tom Thomson? These are just two of the subjects from paintings by Jono Pye who is jointly showing works along with David Bateman at The Secret Handshake Gallery in Kensington Market. Prices range from $500 to $50 a painting, with postcard sized prints from $5. And yes, art always makes for a perfect gift.

Deer Me And Other Abstractions
David Bateman

I just love splattering paint all over the place, that’s why I’m more of an abstract expressionist, because I love the process.

–David Bateman

Poet, author, performer and painter David Bateman has some of his more recent paintings on display at The Secret Handshake Gallery. The subject matter of Deer Me And Other Abstractions ranges from a deer caught in the headlights to bold, graphic impressions. This collection of work is, in part, influenced by his life in the late seventies when he was studying graphic design at George Brown College.

“A few days after I had the idea for the deer I was watching a show called American Rust which is set in the Rust Belt in in the U.S, a very impoverished working-class area. There was a scene where a deer is caught in the headlights, it was vivid and scary, but also beautiful. Thankfully the deer didn’t get hit but I paused the show and took a picture of it which became the reference for this series.”

–David Bateman

Some of the paintings in this show are from his deer series which he has been refining over the past few years. His deer motif, a silhouette carved out of the paint, is both beautiful and thought-provoking in it’s absence. Juxtaposed against an energetic palette of colours, this series begs the question, is the deer the subject of these paintings, or is it the layers of environment surrounding it? In his sans deer works, the question of environment is left to the viewer. The paintings feel simultaneously random while organized by the lines in which they are contained.

“In some of the works I added text from various poems I have written over the past several years… the presence of textual language, painted into a field of often vertical strips of vibrant colour, suggested mood and tone… but the absence of text leaves any supposed narrative up to the viewer.”

–From “In The Headlights“, David Bateman’s artist statement from a previous show.

This is not the first showing of the deer paintings, and likely not the last as they’ve become a popular acquisition. Previously, most of these paintings have sold to private collections, including one patron who bought three from David’s last show.

Beyond the Deer Me paintings are Bateman’s Other Abstractions which occupy about a quarter of his exhibition space giving everything a Kandinsky meets Pollock vibe. The dependability of solid colour meets the seemingly randomness of paint splatters and brush strokes. I emphasis the word ‘seemingly’ because underneath the randomness of the paint lies decades of learning to tame the canvass and developing a keen sense for knowing when a painting is finished. Unforced, instant and organic, Bateman captures abstract moments in time and paints them with seeming ease.

While Bateman has been creating works of art for at least half a century, becoming a full-time artist was something that happened organically around the age of twenty. Breaking the confines of the canvas, Bateman periodically extends the painting over the frame which, in many ways, knocks art off of its pedestal and makes the work visually more accessible and interesting.

“I don’t want to sound romantic, but I think becoming an artist was something that just started to happen to me around the age of twenty.”

–David Bateman

I’ve always felt that frames don’t necessarily match what’s going on.

–Jono Pye

The frame is literally an art condom.

-Joe Lewis

In perfect synergy to Bateman’s work is Jono Pye, a friend and peer of David’s for forty-two plus years.

Shut Up And Paint
Jono Pye

I’m influenced by everything.

–Jono Pye

Like Bateman, Jono Pye first knew he wanted to be an artist in his early twenties when he went to Trent. It was at Trent where he was exposed to a lot of visual art and was able, for the first time, to visualize himself as a creator.

“It was at Trent that I first got the idea of how I wanted to make art and that my feeling for it could work, as opposed to high school where things are generally more conservative and the notion of what is considered ‘good’ or ‘successful’ art is often very narrow.”

-Jono Pye

While Jono was able to explore his work at Trent, it wasn’t until the nineties that he would have his first public show in Toronto. By this time Jono had grown more sophisticated in his practice by learning to be more discerning in the creation process.

“I’ve pretty much have always been drawing and painting although as I’ve gotten older and more experienced I know how to filter my work whereas in the early nineties I wouldn’t always know when to stop… as I get older I am able to simplify things more.”

-Jono Pye

Jono’s process sometimes starts with a memory, imagination or what’s directly in front of him but just as often can begin with a photograph as reference – a process that dates back to the eightieth century. The Tom Thompson portrait (above) is a good example of how Jono works, stunning in his simplicity.

“With Thompson I started with a black and white photo and I wanted to bring in colour and painting technique, I wanted it to feel immediate. Thomson didn’t overwork his paintings, most of his best work is very quick and direct.”
-Jono Pye

While Shut Up And Paint is a varied collection of Pye’s work, it provides a glimpse into his over-arching ascetic. Paintings, portraits, sketches and prints that seem opposing at first glance, all embody the decades of experience and restraint that he brings to life.

Jono Pye at a packed Opening.

Shut Up And Paint and Deer Me And Other Abstractions is on until mid-February. If you’re interested in a particular piece, call ahead to ensure it hasn’t been sold. Gallery hours very so check The Secret Handshakes website or email Jono Pye or David Bateman to arrange a private viewing. •

Shut Up And Paint + Deer Me And Other Abstractions
The Secret Handshake Gallery
360 College Street
Unit 301
On until mid-February 2023.

Photos by Raymond Helkio, The Reading Salon

The Reading Salon