Trevor Kiernander: Here. Not Here.
Meditations in an Emergency
Text by Cameron Skene
Trevor Kiernander’s paintings approach a perceptual problem that dogs some painters at this historical juncture: with images easily and quickly plucked from a constant digital flow available to all, and with an urban environment that is constantly shifting and re-contextualizing constructed surroundings, the question is what on earth do we do with all this STUFF? The mid-twentieth-century American poet Frank O’Hara considered his art to be one of absorbing the churn of his surroundings, digesting and leaving a kind of quickly-assembled psychic popcorn trail that made sense of existence. It required an urgent and immediate note-taking, but an urgency that could easily be channeled into his lunch hours away from his job at the MOMA.
More recent painters of Kiernander’s ilk adopt strategies of visual note-taking: in the 80’s and 90’s, David Salle managed to rig his television to his computer (prior to more convenient and less expensive technology) in order to capture imagery as he channel-surfed his bloated CRT. In a less lazy mode, Wanda Koop’s recent exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada showcased a diligent, if undocumented production of hastily-drawn pictures on post-it notes, accumulated in a huge pile of them under showcase glass at the exhibition.
Similarly to Koop, Kiernander’s canvases strike one as being derived from snippets – as if one was listening to several different conversations at once, drunkenly memorizing them, and recounting them the next morning to a spouse over red eyes and corn flakes. But the calibrated precision by which Kiernander tells the story convinces you of the truth of the account.
The painter takes his cues from widely varied media, as well as his immediate surroundings. Sources seem incidental: color and composition is the crucible in which experience is cooked. Rules of painting are strictly – almost conservatively – obeyed. Kiernander treats space like the object it is. In one piece he allows a wash to drip, finishing the composition upside-down, drip-up, so that it works spatially with other seemingly disparate painterly textures and moves. It maintains a sense of visual unbalance that mimics the disjointed, recurrent de-contextualization of space in contemporary surroundings.
With some background in design, and an obvious interest in his architectural surroundings, each imagistic snippet is precisely calibrated and knit into the next move on the canvas. There’s a refreshing crispness in the intent, which clarifies a perceptual solution to the Shiva-like activity of everyday urban experience: a stalled snippet of time.