by Claire Haasl
The LivingRoom Gallery in East Village sounds like it might be the kind of place where one might plop down on a comfy sofa and casually discuss the meaning of art while sipping a glass of red wine. Instead, it is your typical white-walled gallery space filled with friends catching up on this and that over homemade cookies, unique beers and Ian McLaughlin’s Synesthesia for the Times. With cookie and not-your-ordinary brew in hand, I squeezed my way through the crowded space to get a closer look at Ian’s work, a collection of phantasmagoria put to canvas. Immediately, I could tell that McLaughlin had studied film as well as painting. The movement and color shifts that occur in his work create the sense that we, as viewers, are going on a journey through an imaginary world of fancy and adventure. The scenes within one painting seem numerous as the eye moves through each layer of color. And color is not something McLaughlin is afraid to use. His colors are vivid and powerful. They help tell the story of these dream-like scenes, forcing the viewer to participate in the knowledge that they have been given by McLaughlin’s brush. The spiraling shapes and brush strokes of “Geographic Sound Spots” in particular are almost hypnotic in the way they keep your eyes from leaving the canvas.
Another component of Synthesis for the Times is animation piece with sound, “sonar donkey deer days.” For this animated piece McLaughlin collaborated on with horn musician Tobias Kaemmerer. Here, just like in his paintings, it is apparent that McLaughlin’s work is about the waking of senses in a way that almost carries its viewer back into a dream-like state. The piano lulls the viewer as lines and shapes punctuate the world on the screen. Layers of images pop up here and there as the horn stops and starts not as a warning, but as a welcoming into the dreamscape.
The mingling of visual and audio stimulation is more hypnotizing as a combination and it was hard to move from the screen. However, the time I spent watching the animation was met with a slight disappointment as I felt as though it should have been more apart of the rest of the show. I wanted to feel the way I did watching “sonar donkey deer days” while taking in the layers of ocean-cloud chiming. Perhaps the animation would have been more impactful had it had been projected onto one of the gallery walls with the volume turned up just a bit. That way the sound “installation” may have added experiential value to the rest of McLaughlin’s work. It needed to be made apparent that the video and sound help to make an important statement about the artist’s work; it is all about the layering of senses, imagination, scenery, geography, dreams, and not about the singularity of one painting at a time or one experience at a time. Consequently to have the paintings so separate from the animation and sound in this exhibition created a significant gap in a “show [which] aims to provoke and weave the senses.”