When Tessar Lo departed Los Angeles to return to his native Toronto, one of the promises he made was that we would be seeing some major evolution from him before long. Just a few months later, that growth has already begun to bear fruit, and several of his new paintings will be on view at Nucleus Gallery's "Momentum" show this Saturday, July 18th.
In his latest body of work, Tessar is reaching for a looser aesthetic, trying to see with a child's eye and a naive heart. One could say he's trying to get lost as an artist – to break loose from the habits and preconceptions of the past and find a new path around which to construct his dreamlike themes of transformation and desire. This exploration involves an element of improvisation, which is inherently risky in an art movement wedded to the idea of the unique "brand" or "style," though it is accepted and even lauded at the higher end of the contemporary art market.
Although Tessar is pushing farther into abstraction, the work remains quietly full of wonder, somehow simultaneously dynamic and suspended, and imbued with a solitude that could evoke sorrow or longing with equal fluency. Moving farther away from the sepia-infused, muted color palette of his early, more illustration-based work, he is beginning to embrace an array of warm, rich hues which are cooled and tempered by the negative space in which they are suspended. His compounded layers of color conjure a sense of luminescence and his streaking, spattered, scribbled textures give the viewer an almost sensual awareness of surfaces, which can be somewhat frustrated by a layer of glass. As Tessar is currently working on canvas instead of his customary paper, that alienating element will be absent, which may make for a more immediate experience of the work.
In "lapinlapin," there is a real power in the depth of the negative space and how the fragments are being pulled away into it as if drawn by some outside force. The ambiguous, organic way the white fragments are integrated could be read as disintegration – stuffing coming out – or something benign and beautiful, like flower petals or snow, or memory.
While Tessar's journey is still incomplete, this is certainly an audacious start. When he finds that lostness he seeks, the result will be unique and compelling... and then he will no doubt endeavor to lose himself again.
Join me on July 18th at Nucleus to see his paintings, as well as the surreal natural history of Tiffany Bozic and the sexually charged vision of Ina Kyung Lim. Tessar is also currently contributing work to the "Monster?" show at Copro Gallery and the Kokeshi exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum. Last but not least, be sure to check out Tessar's extremely limited hand-touched gocco print on wood – another facet of his mountain/muse motif.