Kim Dorland’s works remind us of the power of nature and the impact that humanity has upon our environment, present, and future. His paintings are typically inspired by the landscapes of his native Canada, as well as more traditional landscape painting and portraiture such as that explored through Tom Thomson, of Canada’s famed Group of Seven who painted in the early 20th Century. But what is perhaps most indicative of Dorland’s trademark style is a seemingly post-punk aesthetic: like glowing embers from a fading campfire, Dorland’s tableaux suggests the harsh burn-out of a long party, a suburban riot, or a torrid affair – a recent self portrait was titled Self at 44 – perhaps suggesting an awareness of time and mortality. Just as Neil Young continues to release rock-music tinged with his experience, so to does Dorland release paintings where the party-haze seems to have mellowed. Through their use of bright colours and thickly impasto paint, Dorland’s scenes often depict a relatively tongue-in-cheek idea of modern life versus nature: graffiti-ridden walls, bridges encroaching into the wilderness, sunrise in suburbia littered with beer bottles, or trunks of trees with expletives ‘carved’ into their bark with paint.
There is a cheeky, albeit sinister undertone to his perspective, but the work is levied by its sense of humor, colour-use, and apparent irreverence. Even his figurative work operates similarly, where portraits of friends or family members emerge almost conceptually: often through a vigorously applied mountain of paint, as though the paint were a type of metonym or stand-in for memories. Other times, faces are ghostly, shadowed or obscured behind hoods and blankets. Applying paint in a fevered, immediate manner, Dorland uses a combination of flattened acrylic grounds layered with viscerally and liberally applied oils. Lately, his approach combines ‘digital painting’ with his instantly recognizable style. These are paintings that prefer to elevate their medium – as opposed to their subject matter: Dorland has alluded to celebrated painter Frank Auerbach as a pivotal, early influence, stating he’d “never seen anything like it, the way the material looked and felt. It was sort of icky’. Like Auerbach, Dorland paints his subjects with a sense of freedom from traditional representation combined with an unsettling, almost violent immediacy – usually typified by his signature neon underpainting or application of a wide array of circulating motifs: butterflies, trees, skulls, plastic-bags, self-portraits, even a hazmat-suit here or there. All of this growing mythology seems to provide – for both artist and viewer – a method of exploring humanity and the uncanny while simultaneously keeping it at a curious psychological distance.
KIM DORLAND (b. 1974, Alberta, Canada) lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. He graduated with an MFA from York University, Toronto, in 2013, and a BFA from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver, in 1998. Solo Exhibitions include: Same Old Future, Arsenal Contemporary, New York City (2018); Nemophilia, Equinox Gallery, Vancouver (2017); Get Out, Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran, Montreal (2017); and I know that I know Nothing, Angell Gallery, Toronto (2016). Group exhibitions include: Tantamount, Castor Gallery, New York (2017); Aidas Bareikis, Kim Dorland & Bill Saylor, Mier Gallery, Los Angeles (2016); and Major Works, Equinox Gallery, Vancouver (2016). Dorland was the Globe and Mail’s Artist of the Year 2013. His works can be found in the collections of the Art Gallery of Alberta, Musée D’art Contemporain De Montréal, The Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, The Richard Prince Collection, and the Taschen Collection. Dorland’s first group exhibition with BEERS London was in O Canada! (2017). He had his first solo exhibition with BEERS London in September 2018, entitled, Terror Management Theory and had a solo booth presentation with BEERS London at Untitled Miami in December 2018.