Galerie Trois Points is showing the very first solo exhibition of Toronto-born artist James Olley. The fresh and soulful Ever After includes large oil paintings of richly expressive brushwork and an eye-popping, candy-bright colour palette. Olley brings the viewer out of the grays of winter into his warm and intimate paintings, exploring themes of family, love and everyday life.
James Olley’s paintings are as equally socially analytical as they are formally invested. His aim is to add something to the general understanding of our social context, by producing paintings of places, people and things we tend not to think of in art, because they would normally be too private, too intimate, or too banal. The works exhibited in Ever After have an emotional quality and unabashed romantic bias, as each of the paintings picks out a domestic moment at their apex, be it lovers in a tender moment or the extension of their love, children playing in front of their suburban homes. In the first place, the paintings speak to us so loudly that it takes time to soak in the subtler, social-realist edge in the work, and begin to gather what the painter is driving at; this also allows the imagery to bide its time with us, and avoid having to rationalize the intrusion into the seemingly hermetic lives of his cast of characters. The couples, isolated against their whitened, bleached-out surroundings, exist as though they’ve sucked all the oxygen out from their environments, and breathed it into their loving realization. The children playing on the streets represent the innocence, optimism and resilience of a loving relationship.
With his candid and positive approach, Olley explores the fluidity and potential for motion in paint. My work often oscillates between abstraction and figuration, invoking movement and tension. The works exhibited in Ever After play with high contrasts, the artist using tints of white and high value colours, which lend a sense of intensity and warmth. The work has the look of being ‘inside-out’; these paintings are first completed as representational and largely resolved. I then apply tints of white and high value colours that are pulled across the surface with a squeegee. This process eradicates the initial structure of the work and opens up new aesthetic avenues through painterly incident.
James Olley received his MFA from the University of Waterloo in 2008 after completing my BFA at NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2004. Since graduating he has participated in number of solo shows both locally and abroad. He has been awarded the Emerging Artist Grant and Exhibition Assistance Grant from the Ontario Arts Council, in addition to the Vermont Studio Center Residency and was most recently invited as a guest instructor to teach at NSCAD University.