Dave Ostrem, Reading Art, 1978. Oil on Canvas.

Dave Ostrem: Reading Art, Words and Picture 1993 to 2005

Teck Gallery, Vancouver
January 10 – February 18, 2006

The six paintings at the Teck Gallery are part of Dave Ostrem's exhibition at the SFU Gallery in Burnaby.Dave Ostrem's paintings show us an artist at work in a live-work studio space that is remarkably like the one he inhabits in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Like Vermeer before him, Ostrem incorporates a window into his paintings, but, unlike Vermeer, Ostrem gives us the view from his window and not just the rosy glow from the exterior world. Ostrem's view is of a Vancouver, or a Vancouver look-alike, that seems to be suffering from a terrible bout of flatness, even though his world is painted with brilliant hues reminiscent of the primary colours in Mondrian's paintings. Each Ostrem painting is a formal proposition about the structure of the world; his ideas about structure would be familiar to Mondrian, and each version of the artist-in-the-studio that he creates explores yet another paradox of human existence in the modern world.

Dave Ostrem's painted world has a comic book appearance, but his ever-present invocation of research categories and subject-areas, as manifested on the spines of the thousands of books that inhabit his paintings, reminds viewers of Lévi-Strauss's dictum that humans will only find names for those things that are truly important to them. Ostrem's paintings are a universal catalogue of those areas of importance that, in turn, provide a context for the making of contemporary art.

The works shown at the Teck Gallery all have a male-female couple in them, one a writer, the other an artist. We have to assume they are co-habiting, living in the space we see. These couples struggle with living and with the work at hand, the basic choice between words and pictures. What role do the books play in the pictures, the pictures in the books? Ostrem's answer is that it is all bound up together in the package known as living in the modern world and that life in that world can be pretty funny, demanding, and at the same time is ironically influenced by a million different sources that are all part of being an artist living in an urban milieu in the year 2006.

Curated by Bill Jeffries.

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