Menunkind: New Iron Men Paintings (collaborative works)
The Iron Men have been painting together since 2005. The creation of their works is an act of continual, consensual critique, with each of the artists taking the suggestions and actions of the other two seriously until some mutual agreement is attained -- which brings the work to its final form. The Iron Men work midway between the realms of abstraction and the generation of raw, gritty paintings often built upon strongly realized shapes or images -- usually reinforced by spontaneous applications of text.
Gary Michael Dault is a writer, art critic and visual artist currently working in Napanee, Ontario. He has taught at several Canadian universities and is a prolific writer of books, articles and catalogue essays about contemporary art. His weekly art review column, Gallery-Going, ran in the Globe and Mail for over a decade. He exhibits widely and is represented by Peak Gallery in Toronto.
John Scott received the first Governor General's Award for Visual Art in Canada in 2002. Scott's paintings and sculptures are held in numerous private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the National Gallery of Canada. Themes in Scott's work include destruction, oppression, machines and human desire and frequently feature imagery involving war machines, missiles and victimized rabbit-like figures. Scott is represented by Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto.
Matthew Varey is the Head of the Visual Arts department at the Etobicoke School for the Arts, and has been exhibiting his paintings, sculpture and photographs nationally and internationally for over twenty years. Varey’s work has evolved from large works containing figurative elements with a focus on the physical surface and themes of protest, towards a combination of abstraction and colour photography. Varey continues to explore abstraction in his current body of work maintaining similar themes of visual texture, vivid colour and the use of various perspectives simultaneously. Recent works are available at Telephone Booth Gallery.
The term "Iron Men" in relation to artists Gary Michael Dault, John Scott and Matthew Varey can evoke thoughts of an engraved Trans Am, dark forbidding airplanes, reinforced war bunkers, cereal-box landscapes and lashings of caustic wit. The group was named Iron Men by collective member Gary Michael Dault, and playfully--and ironically-- suggests that the three artists are "marathon men of art" with over 90 years of exhibition experience between them. The Iron Men have been painting together since 2005.
The Iron Men create the works together, simultaneously, each member drawing and painting according to what he feels the work requires. It is an act of continual critique with each artist's suggestions being taken seriously by the others, until some mutual agreement resolves and closes the work-in-progress. In their Manifesto, Gary Michael Dault explains their process; "one of us makes a mark or a drawing or paints in a section or glues something onto the canvas; the other two look at what's happened and agree to leave it alone, modify it, embellish it, or simply paint over it."
The Iron Men work in the interstices between the realms of abstraction and the generating of works containing strong shapes or raw images, reinforced by applications of text. According to the Manifesto, recurring themes within the works include "vestiges of the epic journey (Odyssey/Iliad-derived ships, seas, distant horizons), isolated and displaced faces and figures, and a preoccupation with boundary, invasion, transgression, exploration and haven. There are emblematic animals—both victims and familiars. There is a certain preoccupation in the paintings with the act of listening, both in the intimate personal sense and in the invasive technological sense. There are modes of travel, both intimate (airplanes, tanks) and stellar (space vehicles)."
Interestingly, many of the texts found in the works are not supplied by the writer in the group, Gary Michael Dault, but more often by John Scott. Scott draws roughly, incisively and caustically. Gary Michael Dault favours softer symbolic shapes and images in gentler, modernist hues, whereas Matthew Varey stabs at the canvases with brush or oilstick with all the pointedness of a cowboy branding a steer. Considering the years, the careers made up of investigation, critique and mark-making that lie behind each stroke of the Iron Men works, it seems true that three heads are indeed better than one.
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