Art of the Month (March 2018)

Allyson Clay, Slapchartreuse, 2013, oil on linen, 135 x 110 cm. Gift of the Artist, 2016. Photo:  Andre Beneteau.

Allyson Clay
Slapchartreuse, 2013
oil on linen
135 x 110 cm
Gift of the Artist, 2016

Allyson Clay is a Vancouver-based painter engaged in an ongoing feminist investigation into public and private space, art history and the language of description. Slapchartreuse is from her series Groundsplatpink, comprising riotously coloured paintings exploring the language used to describe abstract painting. Elements of Slapchartreuse are typical of this series, including the use of tightly framed text, awkward vocabulary, and a seemingly limited colour palette. Slapchartreuse takes its title from the first line of text on the painting, written in a banner along the upper half of the painting. Clay employs text from books, most notably Roald Nasgaard’s Abstract Painting in Canada, using a kind of black-out poetry technique to extract the pith and essence of the descriptions rather than a straight transcription. These poetic phrases are then forced into rigid, geometric shapes designated as a tribute to the modernist forms of mid-century painting.

With this body of work, Clay both celebrates the beautifully evocative, action-oriented language of these types of descriptions while troubling some of their underlying assumptions. Slapchartreuse hints at the violent and turbulent lives of certain artists—Jackson Pollock, most particularly—and how that instability becomes a part of their mythos and inflects our understanding of abstract and modernist painting as a whole. In this particular work, chartreuse could refer to a paint colour—notably absent in this work—as much as a fading, green bruise. “Tinged with crimson crazy eye-popping viscous orange flux,” the remainder of the text reads, no less savage or unsettling in tone.

Allyson Clay received her BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, and a MFA from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She has exhibited throughout Canada and internationally, with solo exhibitions at Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff; Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria; Dunlop Gallery, Regina; Numark Gallery, Washington DC; and the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie. Her work is represented in the permanent collections of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver; the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto; and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Clay teaches at the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. 

Image caption: Allyson Clay, Slapchartreuse, 2013, oil on linen, 135 x 110 cm. Gift of the Artist, 2016. Photo:  Andre Beneteau.