Driscoll’s shift

Karla Hayward
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‘New Paintings’ documents artist’s ever-changing palette

There are artists who seem driven to create less as means of expression than as a way to soothe an obsessive compulsive itch. They worry at a theme or subject, endlessly reiterating, producing a similar work time and time again, with just slight variation.

Steve Driscoll isn’t one of those. From troubling, muddy industrial works built on chicken wire and festooned with vinyl tubing, to delicate flowers viewed at the macro level and executed in clean high-gloss pigments, to multi-layered, snow-veiled Canadian landscapes, Driscoll is a painter who is ever-evolving. One constantly learning and growing in his craft.

Want to judge for yourself? Just head to Bianca’s on Water Street and check out his latest show, “New Paintings.”

Natural occurance

According to Driscoll, changes in technique or subject aren’t part of a conscious plan. Rather, they’re something that happens organically.

“I’ll learn something in the studio that will inform how I look at the work. … (For instance) when I learned about carving, I became focused on line work. I started to think about vines, branches. … I realized I had a new way to control the urethane. I could approach a piece completely differently after that.”

From this discovery, sprang Driscoll’s simply gorgeous floral series, punchy and intricate on their high gloss black backgrounds. (This carving technique, in which Driscoll gouges channels into board to contain areas of colour variation, can also be seen in several of the landscapes in his current show.)

The idea for a new series can also come from the exterior world. Recently, while spending a week in a secluded log cabin in Northern Ontario, Driscoll was struck by how a house can be seen as a portrait of the people inside it. A previously uninteresting, “nothing special” structure suddenly became enthralling, spawning pieces based on the small homes and cabins near where he vacationed.

The works in Driscoll’s latest show are largely literal landscapes that Driscoll was exposed to in Ontario, Newfoundland and the northeastern U.S. Many, which he collectively nicknames “the birches” are landscapes seen through the trunks of a stand of trees. Most are also seen through falling snow.

“That’s sort of a Pollack thing; a veil of paint on the surface. Then there’s the trees, then the landscape, then the black background. … It’s all designed to keep the eye dancing, moving. Within this image of stillness, there’s still so much happening.”

Unusual in Driscoll’s work are figures. Barring his samurai series, the works rarely show any living thing with a pulse. In this show however, we find a lone man, wrapped in broad stripes of colour, outside a red barn (“Site to See,” 24 X 30).

“I’ve always wanted to do (figures). … We were near Lake Placid, and a freak snowstorm came up. We had no jackets, nothing warm. My friend found this Hudson Bay blanket in a thrift store and wore it around for days. There was just something so amazing about him standing there. … Something so Canadian, even though we were in the U.S.”

Driscoll, along with James Baird, will present a series of his most recent work at Bianca’s on Thursday. All art lovers are encouraged to attend and chat with the artist, Driscoll being a fantastic host, happy to discuss any and everything, painting related or not.

“Steve Driscoll ~ New Paintings,” opens Thursday, Aug. 26 at Bianca’s, 171 Water St. with a reception 5-7 p.m. Learn more at www.stevedriscoll.com.

Geographic location: Water Street, Northern Ontario, Ontario Newfoundland Lake Placid Hudson Bay U.S.

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