Galerie Deux Poissons is pleased to announce Tout croche, an exhibition of new paintings by Montreal artist Barry Allikas. In tandem with an upcoming solo presentation at this October’s Art Toronto fair, this exhibition features an all-new grouping of canvases by Allikas, in which he has found his strongest rhythm in the studio, and produced a masterfully achieved body of work. Sticking mostly to a rich use of primary colours and black, along with occasional glimpses of raw canvas and other hues, this grouping of paintings projects a powerful gestalt, engaging the viewer with motifs that combine fluid, clarified simplicity with complex, interlocking compositional sections.
These paintings have a wonky rightness, and are unlike those of any other hard-edge painter, Canadian or international in their visual impact or personal stance. While emerging from the line of descent of the Quebec Plasticiens among other historical influences, Allikas pushes out into new territory, combining numerous ideas into a personal hard-edge style that is as close to rock music in feel as it is to Pop Art. Adding to the exuberant atmosphere the works project is a subtle interest in storytelling and mythology — specifically, Allikas’ interest in Homer’s epics and the character of Odysseus in particular. The multivalent figure of Odysseus, as traveller and trickster as well as fighter and strategist, appeals to Allikas as the sort of hero who makes sense to contemporary sensibilities, someone who gets lucky and unlucky beyond their own ability to choose, and who doesn’t possess the greatest strength or centrality, but who wins out by playing the odds, and knowing when to act. In a loose sense, Odysseus is the guiding spirit for Tout croche, which in this case refers to the kind of thing that becomes just right by going the wrong way, being crooked, off kilter, a bit bizarre.
Within the purview of hard-edge painting, Allikas has over the years explored a panoply of pictorial and compositional motifs, and a broad range of colour palettes. From eye-popping Op contrasts and blazing chromatic effects, to soft lyrical shapes and pastel hues, he has for decades exhibited an exciting and particular command of the hard-edge style, while always maintaining a skillful and personalized use of line. Allikas’ signature hard-edge line now as always is peerless, combining laser-like precision with the suppleness of the hand drawn. To stare at his line is to experience a species of the ideal, near perfection — where the crooked and the straight meet and come into balance.