Kim Dorland's Way Lost @ Patel Brown Gallery, Toronto
From Hansel and Gretel to The Revenant, the concept of being lost in nature is seductive and frightening. Robert Frost’s words, “the woods are lovely, dark and deep” evoke anticipation, as well as a wrong turn and inevitable nightfall, and The Couple, a poem by Andy McGuire that accompanies Kim Dorland’s current show considers how “We get up without waking the dream.” Way Lost, currently on view at Toronto’s Patel Brown Gallery, does more than ask, “Does man control Nature or does Nature control Man?”; it portrays them as dynamic elements in a timeless tango of clash and concert.
Landscape painting doesn’t begin to define the style of Kim Dorland, who has always been lured by the mysteries of Mother Earth. With his expressive impasto method, colors rise from the canvas with urgency and movement. How much is perceived and is something or someone else watching? Are we leaving clues or finding them? As leafy vines regenerate, who or what is in charge? Incineration, decomposition and regrowth are a natural process, but with oversaturated neon hues, Dorland references the massive wildfires that scarred land from Washington State to Australia, reminding us that fairytales don’t end when the book is closed, that we are active participants in the story. Scorched tree stumps and pitch-black, charred ground haunt the atmosphere against an orange glow sky. As The Couple concludes, “This is not the sunset we ordered.”
The presentation also includes a series of original drawings from the artist's recently released graphic novel. Two years in the making the book features those two main characters, the artist refers to as the “couple.” Rarely seen in the same frame, Dorland shows them navigating life together, but also, inevitably, alone. —Sasha Bogojev
The show is on view through November 14, 2020 and the book available for pre-order through the Patel Brown shop