In any depiction of reality, one must consider the areas of representation that exist on the outskirts of truth, where veracity is replaced by imagination and the subconscious. In this exhibition, artists Jorge Castellanos, Michael Fanta, Kate Lyddon, and Pawel Sliwinski demonstrate a prevailing desire to reconcile the real with the unreal, and the conscious with the subconscious. Each of the four artists has devised a cast of characters who represent the proverbial outsider, isolated as a result of their own foolishness, made tragic through the possession of some elusive knowledge, or abandoned through some grotesque realization. These images and objects transcend metaphor: they provide us with a subversively realized document of that which remains unseen, yet lurks ever present beneath the surface of reality, maintaining both symbolic and psychological significance within their selected media.

In the paintings of Pawel Sliwinski, bizarre figures drift through a backdrop of emotive colours and vaguely disconcerting abstracted landscapes, occupying a space outside of certainty. Despite their colorful, often cartoonish appearance, they embody a psychological immediacy that cannot be understated. In Bums, we are subjected to a vibrant and distressing scene of social disintegration. As the characters in Sliwinski’s painted worlds collapse in upon themselves, we are left with the sense that these paintings offer more than they at first present; they are perhaps Sliwinski’s critical perspective of society: a mirror into revealing truth of the human condition. Similar in psychological impact is the work of Michael Fanta, in which a recurring (and increasingly forlorn) floating head becomes a metaphor for internalized fears and phobias. Is this figure hiding, or hesitantly presenting itself to us? Minimal and unpretentious in content, Fanta’s paintings are nonetheless fraught with social and psychological implications. The half-concealed figure, immersed in an unending sea, takes on the role of an everyman. Peering out from the surface of the water, this figure fails to act: indelibly isolated and immobile upon himself.

The notion of immobility and internalization is also present within the visceral paintings of Jorge Castellanos. His misshapen, inverted human forms are depicted with a physicality verging on the grotesque. Yet even as they emphasize viscera and organs, they avoid classification as merely anatomical, culling from a history of Mexican retrato paintings that focus on death and transcendence. Drawing both indignation and inspiration from the violence found all too frequently in his home country, and in the world at large, Castellanos’ writhing figures are a simultaneous ode to resilience and futility. Even as they reference a physical injury of the body, they create an equally powerful commentary on wounds that are far more psychosomatic in nature.

A correlation may be drawn to the work of Kate Lyddon, whose sculptural figurehead draws on the historic tradition of the grotesque, while simultaneously surpassing this precedent in favour of a highly contemporary perspective. Lyddon’s Lunatic sits proudly as a proclamation of the malleability of the human body and mind. Its severely malformed features transport the viewer into an alternate reality in which dark humour prevails, and the verisimilitude of representation is in a constant state of flux.