Edward Cella Art + Architecture is pleased to present New Work, the gallery’s second solo exhibition of drawings by acclaimed Canadian artist Cathy Daley. Daley creates black oil pastel drawings of billowing dresses and gestural silhouettes on vellum that recall the aesthetic conventions of vintage fashion and cinematic glamour. Graphic and yet lyrical, the artist’s imagery draws from a repertoire of popular culture, fashion, fantasy, memory, and dream, and explores the kinesics of the dress – a looming presence in our shared cultural imaginary.
Her work loosely borrows from iconic images of 20th century popular culture, and delves into our inherited imaginary of the feminine. Invoking the idolization and fetishism of glamour and beauty, while ambivalently participating in its pleasures, Daley’s work effectively conveys the nostalgic mystique of its legacy in the wake of post-feminism. Her simple compositions allow the spontaneity of her gestural mark making to stand at the fore, and the dress itself, often disproportionately engulfing the figure around which it swells, becomes a metaphor for the elaborate cultural accretions surrounding and enveloping the feminine. Daley’s work is about the pleasure of viewing, and the excavation of a complex visual inheritance; one defined by longing, pleasure, and myth.
In keeping with the revitalization of contemporary drawing practices, Cathy Daley’s choice of medium eliminates any extraneous or competing information from the immediacy of the gestural “mark”. The physicality of drawing bestows its end result with an aura of imminence. This is clearly visible in the movement and sensitivity of Cathy Daley’s work. The shifting density of her application of black pastel creates luxurious depth and space through minimal means. The work feels spontaneous and unfeigned, contributing to the sensuality of its overall effect. At times whimsical and playful and at others dramatic and authoritative, the perfect compositional simplicity of Daley’s choice of subject matter and medium allows for an unexpected proliferation of variety and idiosyncrasy. Each piece is strikingly different, even when executed with the repetition of similar elements. One is left with the impression of an unmediated and temporally inflected practice, in which the artist’s hand is clearly and visibly channeled through each intuitive drawing.
Cathy Daley’s drawings play, reiterate, and perform the iconicity and nostalgia of the dress as a cultural signifier for the feminine. In the tradition of post-feminist contemporary art practice and its explorations of gendered subjectivity, the artist re-articulates a symbolic vestige of the feminine construct. The artist’s prolific repetitions invoke its sensual mystery in endless shapes and forms, and seem to enact the indefatigable fascination it holds for us. The artist’s ongoing series Dance, and The Little Black Dress, continue to repeat and invoke a symbol that will indelibly fascinate and transfix. We are held by the fantasy, the pleasure, and the ambivalence for an ideal that has permeated visual culture. Daley’s work remains fascinating in its engagement of the myth; at times iconoclastic, and at times complicit, the work explores the complexity of a conflicted longing.
Cathy Daley has exhibited internationally, and has shown extensively throughout Canada and the US. Daley’s work has been featured in several publications, including Art in America, Border Crossings, Canadian Art, Toronto Life, and ELLE magazine. She has participated in innumerable international art fairs, and is held in several private, public, and institutional collections, including: The National Gallery of Canada, The Art Gallery of Ontario, The University of Toronto, and The Canada Council Art Bank. Daley will be exhibiting a new body of abstract work at Newzones Contemporary in Calgary, March 2013, and her paintings will be featured in a group exhibition entitled “The New Abstraction” at The Art Gallery of Peterborough in the Fall of 2013. Cathy Daley’s work was recently acquired by the Bank of Montreal, and is prominently featured in their Toronto head offices. The artist is an Associate Professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) in Toronto, a position she has held since 1988.
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