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Visual arts review: David Urban, The Precious Book 

Rich, layered colours reveal a combination of music, landscape and still lives.

DAVID URBAN
  • david urban

To November 14
Studio 21, 5431 Doyle Street

The colours in David Urban's paintings are satisfyingly combative. Backgrounds of goldenrod and deep lavender house strange shapes in apricot orange, cornflower blue and turquoise—contrasting tones that Urban corrals into pleasing scenes.

These backgrounds, while home to abstract bodies, tend to feel like a horizon line or interior room has been constructed. In fact Urban plays with the line between representational and totally abstract: Square panels become windows or frames, blue patches form puddles and even botanical elements pop from the patches of colour. They often feel domestic—vibrant kitchen colours in a zero-gravity still life.

At closer inspection the texture of the paintings becomes very rich—a heavy, impasto application—lines carved into doughy walls of paint to create lines, patterns and shadows beneath the layers of colour.

A poet and musician as well as a painter, Urban is interested in the physical presence of sound. Indeed, there is something inherently musical about these canvases: Horizontal lines seem to imply a score; large bands of colour like a base rhythm; tumbling shapes like a scale, punctuated by dark green oblong high notes. Like a complex musical composition, Urban's canvases are a strong combination of grounding and frenzied elements, clashing parts that ultimately fall into harmony under a skilled hand. Urban deftly weaves elements of music, landscape and still lives in his colourful, tumbling abstract worlds.

The 10 paintings in Studio 21's exhibition The Precious Book are a similar scene reimagined—this colourful still life with a horizon/floor line, leaves and windows, and the same noodly forms falling through the frame are rearranged, recomposed and re-coloured in a different kaleidoscope of mauves, forest greens and vermilions. But while at first glance this could seem repetitive, it in fact creates a cohesive show of complementary works, the same notes arranged into entirely different songs.

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