too near the bone

John Kissick
Solo Show & New Works

July 10 – 25, 2020

Above: John Kissick  My Gift in Ashes, 2020  One of a Kind 72 x 132″  Oil, Acrylic on Canvas

To view the full show virtually please click here.

too near the bone
by: Josephine Minhinnett

The work then has a chance to electric service become cliché. Luggage. This is the inevitable fate fair ground of any inanimate object freightways by this I mean anything that does not have inconsistency as a possibility built-in.
                                                                                                            -Robert Rauschenberg, Note on Painting, 1963
Over the past two decades, Canadian artist John Kissick has been making works that disrupt a logical order of things. Like the jumbled syntax of Rauschenberg’s manifesto, Kissick’s paintings are jam-packed abstractions that combine visual sources as disparate as dots from colour-blindness tests with patterns on shower curtains. By arbitrarily mixing fragments of high and low culture, Kissick deliberately avoids becoming too precious; there is the sense that if left to convention, painting, like language, will only slip back into its own rhetoric and self-serving rationale. To create possibility, one must confound existing systems and rules. Kissick’s work delivers unpredictability in place of tidy conclusions.

Long critical of the foundations of Abstract Expressionism, Kissick interrogates an envisioned progress towards individual expression or higher truth in painting. He often works on several pieces simultaneously, building up layers of visual noise in a never-ending process of collage. His earlier series Burning of the Houses of Cool Man, Yeah (2016) and Sugar Won’t Work (2014) overlap meticulously painted areas with coarse marks, closely resembling graffitied walls with their competing drips and gestures. The artist describes his paintings as “walls”— in a literal sense for their flat, claustrophobic spaces as well as figuratively, for the way the disordered compositions create a barrier to meaning. Guided by a posture of irony, the paintings seem to ask, “Can it really mean anything?”

In this new series of works, Kissick continues to wrestle with questions of authenticity but seems less embittered by the answer. His compositions are airier, revealing an exploration of space and painterly gestures inspired by the artist’s fascination with late Turner. In these pieces, Kissick replaces walls with “veils”, opening the picture plane by covering up the more graphic qualities of his work. In his manipulation of found objects, Kissick utilizes a combination of painting and printing to re-make existing prints. He likens his role to that of a DJ hired to re-spin old classics into new tracks, setting a finished work into flux.

It marks a transition in the artist’s career. Where his last exhibition Burning of the Houses of Cool Man, Yeah (2016) reached the limits of skepticism, this new series approaches painting with a greater earnestness. Still devoted to the “cut-and-paste aesthetic” of his earlier collages, Kissick’s new works are quieter in their resistance to the absolutes of painting. Like a welcome caesura, the abstract forms hover loosely and indefinitely, animated by the possibility of space. Bearing a deep concern for painting as language, the artist invites viewers to scrutinize the legibility of his marks—the manner in which they may obscure rather than elucidate the composition, leaving the picture in varying degrees of completeness.

For more information contact Gallery House at 416.587.0057 or

Above: John Kissick  Pulling the Pin, 2020  One of a Kind 54 x 60″  Oil, Acrylic on Canvas