• Review

  • February 17th, 2015 02.17.2015

    Les Ramsay: Balancing Zing


    Slapstick is characterized by exaggeration and absurdity, physicality, and broad gestures; noisy, honest comedy. Les Ramsay’s Balancing Zing, presently on view at galerie antoine ertaskiran, is a collection of fabric paintings inspired by the genre. This body of work features exclusively two-dimensional hanging works, though sculpture is also a part of Ramsay’s practice. A tangibility relatable to a more tactile process is apparent in the selected pieces, each piece effectively referring back to sculpture in their materiality while acting under the guise of paintings.

    Many of the compositions read like controlled outbursts, the more neutral space between the pieces of found fabric holding tension, ensuring balance. Group of Heaven is one of these, the title of which being a tongue-in-cheek reference to the seminal group of Canadian landscape painters. Fittingly, the piece itself evokes a landscape, the strips of fabric assembled in such a way that a sense of undulating depth emerges. If slapstick is an unsubtle genre, then the inspiration is clear in Group of Heaven. The notion of landscape is driven out of the evocative and the reference is explicitly laid out when Ramsay introduces a rectangular cross-stitch picturing a tree in a field. Furthermore, in the very bottom right corner, a piece of a beach towel featuring footprints seemingly insinuates venturing into the composition. The fabric collage is bold and funny—bursting with allusive elements—yet, it is not crowded or overwhelming.

    There is a sense of dynamism within the body of work; while textile components recur, many of the pieces stand out and apart. A white monochrome composed exclusively of stretched bath towel, a piece where oil and plaster nearly obscure the terrycloth base and one quilted composition framed by thin wood strips are all somewhat singular among the collection of works on view.

    Navigating the small space allotted to the works in the gallery requires patience and attention. Ramsay’s pieces are at first glance stable and tranquil; it seems as though the more time is spent with the fabric paintings the louder they become, calling the viewer’s attention from one element to the next, the complexities of the compositions revealing unforeseen information, posing questions. The variety in the materials used as well as their unorthodox nature is engaging. The re-contextualized quotidian elements call upon the viewer in a visceral way, tapping into haptic memory through visual stimuli. Honest, blunt cuts strip the fragments of found fabric of contextual connotation as they become repurposed as textural components. However, the more figurative pieces of material hold more weight and are used as a method of association, as highlighters, and narrative is infused.

    The feminist reclaiming of fiber-based practices from the domestic sphere by women who brought them into a context of artistic practice comes to mind when reflecting on the work. How does this fit into Ramsay’s process? Does it come into question at all?

    Balancing Zing reads as an exercise in deconstructing the familiar, using humor as a tool for dissection. More so than pushing the boundaries of media, it challenges the notion of what constitutes a painting by drawing firmly from established traditions while recombining elements, deftly and absurdly. This exhibition offers an intimate experience of Ramsay’s work and calls for a thorough and attentive viewing, which is needed in order to investigate and absorb its intricacies.

    Balancing Zing, on view at galerie antoine ertaskiran runs through February 28th 2015.