Aidan Pontariniꞌs images are of a world that continually congeals. Body parts collapse into puddles. Organs sprout from limbs and torsos vanish into their surroundings, leaving only isolated parts suspended. The area around them has the quality of condensed grime and filth. Bits and pieces seem stuck and dissolving into excrement. The sense of grimly hilarious nightmare saturates his work. Thanks to frequently sickly colour schemes, this at times comes off as an ethereal swamp. They are paintings you might perversely wish to smell.
Like his sometime collaborator Joe Becker, Pontarini has a grand guignol take on the septic swamp that constitutes the contemporary Canadian imagination. And like many of his contemporaries, he is heavily reliant on imagery taken from cartoons and childrenꞌs culture. However, Pontarini is not exactly celebrating it or cultivating the Modernist ideal of the intuitive wisdom of childish sight and affectivity. His work on display at Lillian Rodriguez is deliberate, though not meticulous, using scatological imagery as a rhetorical sieve to pass experience through. Though cartoonish figures circulate in both his drawings and his paintings, their nature changes essentially. In the former, their lines are harsh, the figures caught inside of gestures that are involutionary or collapsing. In the latter, they are increasingly flattened onto the plane of the image, their distinction from their grounding harder to maintain. This is magnified in his larger works while some of the smaller pieces come closer to his drawings with articulated asses, noses and eyes seemingly pasted onto the background. Even here though, these painted body parts lack substantial anchoring and are not graphic enough to create a sense of rhythmic dynamic. Instead, the body parts have a distinctly glitchy quality. Summarily then, the works on display offer a kind of collective narrative of decomposition manifest in a trailing off of forms, echoing of elements, sporadic doodling and smears of colour.
What becomes remarkable when looking at many of the paintings is where they manage to stabilize. For instance, his, at least marginally, human figures increasingly become flattened clots trapped at the surface of the already shallow depth. Poking out from them are the two most solid members of his cast of creatures: various protruding hairs and an army of worms. More than the glazed golf ball eyes of his dessicated faces, it is these that gape out at the audience. These are often placed within the context of a shoe, frequently the most present of objects in his images. A shoe, of course, is both a parody of the foot and its de-anthropomorphization into an object: a translation device that renders the body into the worldꞌs furniture.
When he keeps his work relatively small, it possesses a slightly nauseous immediacy. Their size keeps them intimate enough to be uncomfortable and their brushwork is detailed enough to make them arresting. While from a certain distance, his larger paintings seem interchangeable with the more intimate canvases, the closer you come, the more this changes. It may be due in part to the somewhat murky lighting of the gallery, but there seems to be less sureness in the brushwork of the larger pieces and the vibrancy of the colour is diluted; the gestures become too broad and sloppy. Space around the figures often comes off as arbitrary and the sporadic drips and drops that he includes seem faddish and unnecessary. All the same, there are striking moments in the larger pieces, such as the red phone in The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train that registers with a hallucinatory potency.