Review: Douglas Coupland at Daniel Faria.

February 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Douglas Coupland (Daniel Faria)

Although Douglas Coupland is best known as the author of books like Generation X and Life After God, his career as a visual artist has been even longer. His new show at the Daniel Faria Gallery, “Welcome to the Twenty-First Century,” sees him crossing back into the Canadiana that has become a running issue in his work. Unlike his recent, decorative and largely inoffensive installation at the McMichael, which transformed the heads of Painters Eleven into a candy coloured constellation, these new works are darker. In fact, they are some of the most subtly bleak works I’ve seen lately.

Coupland deploys a few different methods of attack in the show. Sometimes they mesh with each other with interesting results. Sometimes they feel like a bit of a side show. This latter quality applies largely to the two back rooms, which house some sculptures, collages and photos that seem dropped in almost haphazardly. The rest of the show has a remarkable unity. This is true both in terms of the stylistic devices he employs and how he melds them quite intelligently with their thematic import.

For the past few years he has been using the works of the Group of Seven, transforming them through a kind of flattened paint by numbers style into something akin to hard edged abstraction, though never making the full lurch into it. Instead, they rest on the precipice, holding both worlds together at the moment of implosion.

Douglas Coupland (Daniel Faria)

He picks at the same thing elsewhere. His QR barcode pieces are simultaneously homage and update to Mondrian’s attempt to render the metropolis as a series of lines. The paintings are fully functional and can be used to access Coupland’s musings on various things. Set beside his wall of slogans, mostly involving the existential implications of cellphone use, they manage a curious balance between the sinister and the comic. The deep colours and contrasts he uses here are balanced by the rest of the show’s reliance on degrees of grey to create an ambivalent and cold contemplation of where the country is headed as its landscape vanishes to be taken over by the totalizing anxiety of the virtual.

Douglas Coupland’s Welcome to the Twenty-First Century runs until April 7th.

– Matthew Purvis

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