tale of two cities and two artists
By John Bentley Mays
The Globe and Mail, Saturday, March 27th, 1982
No lover of the old-fashioned stuff and matter of
painting can afford to pass up the Harold Klunder and
Landon Mackenzie double bill at Mercer Union (333 Adelaide
St. W.) through April 2 – two focused, engaging
shows that recall much that’s good, and much
that’s problematic, about advanced contemporary
painting in Toronto and Montreal.
Since 1976, Montreal painter Landon Mackenzie has
been spending long stretches in the Yukon, and the
five paintings she shows at Mercer Union are existential
memoirs of her several sojourns in that desolation.
Excerpted from Miss Mackenzie’s Lost River Series,
each of these large works, at one interesting level,
is a recent moment in the long history of Canadian
depiction of far-flung mountain fastnesses. But unlike
the nineteenth-century Canadian painters’ works
of conquered nature and sun-lit peaks, Miss Mackenzie’s
paintings are emotionally galvanized, anxious meditations
on the long nights, fears and hungers of the far north.
Using dry, gloomy acrylic blues, blacks and browns,
sparely and beautifully handled, she invokes ghostly,
dog-like wolves which stalk and congregate in the near-darkness,
feast on their prey and (in the finest work on view)
stop by a lonely, haunted mountain pool to drink.
If Miss Mackenzie aimed to give us five powerful allegories
of the world’s deeper hungers and fears, she
has nearly succeeded. She alludes to the trendy conventions
of New York image-painting too literally and uncritically,
and her resonant glooms just stay heavy without ever
becoming profound. Even so, this young and intelligent
artist has managed to produce images which haunt and
harry our assumptions about painting and, perhaps,
about the world as well.