Giant, an acrylic on canvas painting measuring 72 x 48 inches, is one of the giant paintings in Anne-Marie Cosgrove’s new exhibition Giant: New Paintings by Anne-Marie Cosgrove in Toronto. Image
ONTARIO, CANADA– When Tamara Tunie said, “I believe that you can always learn from observation,” she evidently had someone like Anne-Marie Cosgrove in mind. Anne-Marie’s new exhibition titled Giant: New Paintings by Anne-Marie Cosgrove at Unit L, Toronto is the result of the power of observation, reflection, and experimentation.
Anne-Marie got the idea for the giant paintings in her new show after a chance encounter with birch trees deformed by graffiti. In these trees, she saw what many have missed or overlooked. In spite of all the violence and defacement done to the trees, they still found ways to survive by integrating the graffiti into new forms of growth.
For Anne-Marie Cosgrove, there is something to learn from the birch trees encounter. The ability of the trees to adapt was worthy of emulation. The metaphor of the relationship between the birch trees deformed by graffiti was not lost on her. She saw in them coexistence within the density of an urban environment. In a world riddled with controversies and conflicts, the only question the artist could ask herself was “How can we figure out how to co-exist?”
That power of observation and experience led to the giant paintings in Giant. The word “Giant” references the size of the paintings. Unlike her earlier paintings, Anne-Marie’s recent works are huge, measuring 72 x 48 inches. The giant paintings are characterized by oversized brush strokes and abundant self-expression. The urgent motion of brush strokes swiveling over the large canvases are perfomative, and in some instances rhythmical. They articulate a sense of liberty for artistic expression.
In one of the paintings titled Giant, that sense of freedom for creative flow is adequately expressed. Black paint cascade across the canvas, mingling with white, grays and greens in dramatic and pulsating waves. Behind the bold brushstrokes are underpainting giving credence to the paints on top of them. Just like the birch trees deformed by graffiti, the colors coexist within the large canvas.
The harmonious relationship of layers of colors continues in Captain Marvel. In the acrylic on canvas painting, Anne-Marie combines shades of red paint with grays, pinks and black in audacious brushstrokes. The colors intermingle and leap off the canvas like Superman in his hurried quest to save a victim. The forceful gestural movement of the brushwork reveals tension, passion and the urgency of why Captain Marvel dashed off the large canvas. The paints burst to life in rich impasto.
There is a suggestion of narrative in these new giant paintings. From the titles of the paintings and the dramatic brushstrokes and gestures, each piece tells a story. They are stories of displacements, abundant, super-abundant, homogeneous, different, dense, opaque, clustering, strong and rhythmic.
Many of the stories from the giant paintings in Giant were evidently influenced by Anne-Marie Cosgrove’s chance encounter with the birch trees deformed by graffiti. In Curtains for Little Grace, for instance, there seems a longing for that elusive childhood experience. The colors are subtle, yet, the vivid brushstrokes are subtle reminders of the turbulence of life.
Although the giant paintings in Giant tell their own stories, they also reveal a lot about Anne-Marie Cosgrove. Working on each piece was an opportunity for the artist to reflect on her own existence. Evidently, the question was “how will I respond if I was the tree with all the graffiti?” For her “it’s not about a studio practice – it’s about myself as an artist and what I can do – about how I adapt to new situations and what I can create out of that”.
Even as Anne-Marie Cosgrove continues to ponder the question of adaptability, it is clear that she is intuitive and adept in the three principal means of acquiring knowledge. Denis Diderot describes the principle thus: “There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge… observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination”. All these characteristics are evident in Anne-Marie’s new works.
Born in Montréal, Anne-Marie Anne-Marie has an MFA from York University in Toronto and a BFA from Concordia University in Montréal. Her paintings have been exhibited nationally and internationally in Venice, New York, Miami, Seattle, Vancouver, Montréal, Toronto, Washington D.C. and elsewhere. Recent exhibitions include Differences on Identity: Artistic Perspectives, Sale del Portale, San Lorenzo, Venice (Italy); Continuation, Red Head Gallery, Toronto and Writing On The Wall, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Multiple awards include the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. Her work has been reviewed in major art magazines and numerous online publications. Anne-Marie currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada.