2005 The Globe and Mail- Gary Michael Dault

2006 The Globe and Mail- Gary Michael Dault


KIM DORLAND, "The Edge of Town," painting. Contemporary figurative painting is either a readymade thrill ripe for art-market fetishism or else it is an art-word pillar, upholding a revered tradition of representation. So then just what is it that makes today's figurative painting so different, so appealing? The only thing special about the content of Kim Dorland's paintings--teenagers hanging out in derelict places--is that it acts as the impetus for the transfiguration of gooey paint. Dorland's manipulation of paint underlies the structure of his precise forms (cars, a bridge, trees, people)--although they are not photographically exact, they are exacting in their ability to suggest a form's presence. Dorland thwarts the banality of his own scenes and the homogeneity of contemporary figurative painting with a touch that approaches the alchemical. These paintings embody the pleasure of seeing, as if to see is to feel with the eyes. (Jason Foumberg)


Losers and winners
Kim Dorland homes in on Generation Y

A party’s taking place at Skew Gallery, and it’s not just for the cool crowd.

Kim Dorland, who lives in Toronto, marks his artistic return to Calgary with works painted solely for this show that say, “Dude, skip school and get down here.”

Dorland’s largest work , entitled The Loner, epitomizes his interest in the malaise of a forgotten generation. A longhaired teen slouches in a field. A cigarette extends from his hand. He wears the trademark heavy metal T-shirt, unlaced sneaker, (only one leg is fully painted), jeans, and retro-plaid hunting jacket. The monstrous trunk of the only large tree in the field partially hides his lanky body — a loner tree impinging upon the loner boy. The tree’s gigantic branching energy contrasts the inwardly collapsing introspection of the teenager. He is just one of the fretfully selfconscious, the Gen-Y of the small town, the young adults who feel they just don’t fit in who Dorland chooses to represent.

Currently a return to figuration is all the rage, in large part because it’s being widely touted by the influential London-based Saatchi Gallery. A good deal of the current figuration is crudely drawn, perhaps as a rebellion against the history of the figure in art and the influence of photography. Irregardless of imagery, however, bad painting usually remains bad painting.

Dorland’s paintings rise far above the crowd not because he sketches the figures
with a particular sophistication, but because he masterfully combines a psychological
perspective with painting fluency. He understands the delicate balance between what
he paints and how he paints.

Originally from Red Deer, Dorland presents bush parties in a number of paintings. These impromptu events provide reason for teens to don their latest detritus of consumer culture: trucker hats, glossy primped hair, high-top sneakers.

Then all dressed up, they rush to nowhere in particular, the woods or the edge of a field, where they can bond, and drink, and forget that in reality they are trapped in the vortex of the small town.

They are members of a generation consistently subjugated by life, and unlucky for them, Dorland has decided to bully the teens further into submission with his paint handling. Bodies are obliterated by colourful slashes, figures are half-finished, individuals exist only as fluorescent silhouettes. Yet, the teenage desperation is a strong antidote to life’s injustices and we discover that individuality springs forth.

One figure displays her Calgary Flames shirt, another holds a bottle of whiskey instead of beer, a boy slips his hand into a girl’s back pocket. The paint cannot fully erase their identities — not that it matters, nobody’s around to care and they rarely care about much beyond themselves. A two-headed deer wanders unnoticed through Bush Party III as the teenagers gaze blankly toward each other and out of the canvas toward us.

Over the past two years, Dorland has moved from gawky depictions of mundane subjects to narration saturated with a droll humour and a proficient fluency with paint.

Generally, works presenting this ease of construction are the result of a past strewn with acres of ruined canvases and so Dorland’s alacritous jump in artistic growth is impressive. The previous messy greys, clunky depictions, and generic themes are now replaced with fluorescent colours, fluid shorthand marks and intense psychological overtones.

Clearly, Dorland is an artist who learns while running. He never hesitates to contrast thick swipes with flowing strokes and rich washes. This technical ability contrasts sketchy figures that on first glance appear to be scrawls by a high school student the age of Dorland’s subjects. It’s an interesting idea: to paint a subject the way that subject would paint if given a brush. Dorland fools us, however. A close examination reveals individuals constructed with deft marks that merely mimic the high school style.

Non-human subjects also appear in Dorland’s show. Bigfoot grins beside his dropped fish. A wolf with many legs stands upon a carpet of confetticoloured leaves. These are loners of the animal world, but the paintings lack the complex psychological associations Dorland conveys with humans. It’s simply easier for people to empathize with people.

Perhaps as a nod to his first exhibition in Calgary, or to his upbringing near Calgary, Dorland has painted Lonesome Cowboy. Again there is a teenage boy, this time dudedup with a 10-gallon hat, belt buckle, holsters and six-shooters. In the background near blocky trees stands his horse, rendered as a pink silhouette. The young cowboy faces us, hands at his sides. We understand his pose of awkwardness and we share his knowledge that parading down Main Street in this outfit just won’t fulfill his longings.

Dorland deliberately recognizes the outsiders and awards them status on painted canvas. The show’s about losers, but the paintings are winners.