For post-modernist painter David Simpson, light is both a pastiche of past artistic traditions and a peek into the future of its essential nature. The monochromatic paintings that greet you upon walking into his current exhibit at the Parisian Laundry gallery are defined by light, as the interference pigments of his paintings reflect and play with each ray. It makes for an almost interactive experience, where every tilt of the head offers the possibility of making a new discovery in his work, and you are immediately introduced to just one of the artist’s many creative nuances.
Simpson, who was present for a special event at the gallery when I visited, is charmingly sincere and traditional in his techniques and approach to art. The gallery itself is a beautiful, open second-floor space with large windows and old wooden floors, with the paintings simply mounted on floating white boards, creating an inner square of empty space. The entirety of the experience was incredibly authentic and genuine, built by a team of sensorial experiences including the artwork, the gallery, the artist himself, and the audience’s positive reception of the exhibit.
The Giverny Capital collection, owned by François Rochon, presented the exhibit and chose to do so in an intimate setting—a table of champagne glasses welcomes what the modest Simpson deems the “few disturbed people” with the desire to see his magical pieces, as Rochon enthusiastically interacted with those present. Early on the gallery was fairly empty, but it quickly filled up with the chatter of contemporary art enthusiasts. The rainy day and subsequently dim lighting lent the paintings delicate and silver-toned hues, and one can only imagine the “dangerous” brilliance they would have exuded with direct sunlight. The simplicity of the venue synchronized with that of the works of art to create a bewitching sense of harmony in the space.
The simplicity in the artworks is distinguished by Simpson as “reducing the work to its essential” as opposed to the minimalist idealists of recent years. He expressed to me very eloquently that he does not consider himself Avant Garde, nor is he pushing to find a new art form. His work is that of a post-modernist, drawing from past traditions, with gratitude for how Vermeer “swept up” the mess of the past, but also for the expression of light in the older works of Fra Angelico. He finds inspiration in the natural sunlight of his home and studio in Berkeley, California, which he begrudgingly left to come to Montreal—begrudgingly because Simpson is very reluctant to leave his artwork, and finds the most valuable use of his time spent in front of his hand stretched canvases. It is this kind of dedication and devotion to his medium that makes Simpson so engaging and endearing. His paintings speak for themselves, but one word from Simpson adds an entire other dimension to his work.
The authentic, and somewhat traditional approach to art taken by Simpson feels like a breath of fresh air in an art world commandeered by growing digital technologies and corporatization of our present day reality. This man grew up in the depression, teaching him to appreciate life in it’s simplest form. He rejects fame and riches on principal, and insists that the “battle is in the studio,” not in the incessant self-publication taking over the world of arts today with social media. Simpson’s redefinition of monochrome painting as he plays with light, colour, and texture gets down to the gritty, essential and inexpressible truths of the world, making for an all-consuming experience that is unshakably down-to-earth.
“A Tribute to David Simpson” is running until Oct. 11 at the Parisian Laundry gallery (3550 St. Antoine West).