New York

Tom Forrestall

Marlborough | Midtown

“Magic Realism” designates a group of Canadian painters whose commitment to sharp focus, atmosphereless renderings is tempered only with occasional touches of well-behaved fantasy. Their pictures are never properly surrealist, although they sometimes suggest a sort of dream reality.

Tom Forrestall shows the requisite virtuoso command of egg tempera and watercolor in his recent show. He also adds a wrinkle that sometimes puts his work among the most intelligent done in the style and sometimes appears as just another formal conceit. This wrinkle is the shaped canvas. It works when, as in Stella, the shape of the edge seems to be the natural resolution of the formal or metaphysical ideas in the painting, and looks foolish when the device is used simply to try and spice up a hum-drum picture.

The Cotton Mill depicts a brick smokestack beside a brick factory on three progressively smaller squares, one on top of another. The suggestion of perspective of the three squares echoes in literal terms the experience of looking up at a tall structure. The white line dividing the squares forces us to take in the tower in three bites, further reference to its huge scale, but the relative size of the top of the chimney to the top square compared to the relative size of the bottom of the chimney to the bottom square gives an inverse perspective effect and makes the top of the chimney seem to loom over one. The picture provides a remarkable series of sensations of height and scale for a painting no more than three feet high.

Other pictures shaped like a cell dividing with a subject (man, woman or tiger) in one part and what might be in the subjects' thoughts (tree, surf, and jungle) in the other, seem to hang everything on the aptness of the juxtaposition, and become by comparison rather inconsequential.

Ross Skoggard