Speaking Goughs Language

Joan Sullivan
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Real meets surreal at Christina Parker

Mike Gough and Brian LaSaga are at opposite ends of the artistic spectrum. LaSaga works from his environs and recreates them in a succulent realism, while Gough layers and embosses his memories and feelings onto a dreamy blend of intricate and fantastic detail in ethereal light. And yet, they show well together, as their two-hander exhibit, which opened at Christina Parker Gallery Thursday, aptly demonstrates. What they see and how they present it - the sheer quality of their observance - finds a neat match in one another.

Gough works in multi-media, and his canvases, mostly big, blend acrylic paint, screen-printing, calligraphy and collage. The surfaces of "Please Write" are painterly mille-feuilles of impressed envelopes, furrowed wallpaper, dripping colours and manipulated material. The palette is full of rose, gold and cream, spread in a rich, quiet warmth. The iconography includes lots of elegant clock faces, the numbers in Roman numerals, sometimes their hands missing; birds, and chandeliers, and birds carrying chandeliers; windows and gates and other portals; candles, and any kind of found scrap or cherished memorabilia in letters, drawings or lines of writing.

Mike Goughs I do not speak your language, acrylic, collage, chalk pastel and ink on canvas , 46 x 36. Submitted photos

Mike Gough and Brian LaSaga are at opposite ends of the artistic spectrum. LaSaga works from his environs and recreates them in a succulent realism, while Gough layers and embosses his memories and feelings onto a dreamy blend of intricate and fantastic detail in ethereal light. And yet, they show well together, as their two-hander exhibit, which opened at Christina Parker Gallery Thursday, aptly demonstrates. What they see and how they present it - the sheer quality of their observance - finds a neat match in one another.

Gough works in multi-media, and his canvases, mostly big, blend acrylic paint, screen-printing, calligraphy and collage. The surfaces of "Please Write" are painterly mille-feuilles of impressed envelopes, furrowed wallpaper, dripping colours and manipulated material. The palette is full of rose, gold and cream, spread in a rich, quiet warmth. The iconography includes lots of elegant clock faces, the numbers in Roman numerals, sometimes their hands missing; birds, and chandeliers, and birds carrying chandeliers; windows and gates and other portals; candles, and any kind of found scrap or cherished memorabilia in letters, drawings or lines of writing.

The perspective is both defined and underscored in an overt manner. For example, Gough often draws black lines across his work, providing a linear grid that both creates length and breadth and acts as a kind of hook or tendril that other objects can adhere to or hang from. Sometimes a work is enclosed in a drawn outline, while, outside of this, the remaining frame of canvas shows scrubs and wedges of paint against another field of colour. This work-within-a-work configuration gives the paintings an extra jump.

"Distance makes the heart grow fonder" includes a city skyline (London), dark against that magic-hour luster of near-twilight, above a series of five squares that include imagery like a black and white sink, a coloured line drawing of a hunched figure with hands in pockets, and a typewritten page with many of the words crossed out. The top area includes a large panel of a handwritten letter, most of the script submerged in paint, and five small stylized birds on curling, suspended lines. Many of these pieces seem to be concerned with, or haunted by, architectural particulars: windows, shutters, fences.

"I do not speak your language" is divided by an iron wrought curlicue railing fronting a garden of tall, feathery stalks. In other works, panels are neatly divided between birds and trees, or four lit wax candles. In "Humble beginnings," an area of floral wallpaper is balanced against, and almost seems to unfold into, a view of a girl on a swing.

There's a really intriguing sensibility here, a way of mixing visual planes and temporality and objects that is somehow both proper and eccentric, formal and fanciful.

By contrast, LaSaga's "Constant Observer" paintings might run the danger of looking a bit, well, ordinary. But have no fear. They are not.

Take a piece like "After the Blizzard," which shows some foliage covered in snow. Every inch of it is so tactile the effect is almost holographic. Much of his work here has the same three-dimensional impact; just look at them for a moment and you'll start to feel you're studying a diorama, not something flat. The sense of volume is amazing.

His gorgeous silvery light doesn't hurt either.

Gough's "Please Write" and LaSaga's "Constant Observer" continue at the Christina Parker Gallery until Aug. 22.

Geographic location: London

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