Harmony in Opposites: Jennifer Lefort at Division Gallery Toronto

by Anna Kovler


If there are binary opposites in the language of paint, Jennifer Lefort exploits them to the fullest in her current exhibition at Division Gallery in Toronto. In her monumental abstract paintings, thin washy paint nestles beside thick oily marks, while a gesture made with a broom-sized brush is contrasted with a skinny line sketched with a piece of chalk. Wet is set against dry, layers against erasures, proximity against distance, dark against light. With so many opposing forces at play, it is surprising the compositions exude a sense of stability rather than antagonism or pure chaos.

Jennifer Lefort. Poker Face, 2017. Oil and spray paint on canvas.

In Grand Salon of Ideas (2016), the largest work in the exhibition, black spidery shapes hover on a ground of pink and light purple, surrounded by a chorus of spray-painted lines. As the confident black shapes advance forward, the soft, spray painted background dissolves, giving the impression of receding in the way a distant mountain appears blurry to the eye. At once recalling the palette of graffiti and the speed of abstract expressionism, this painting brings together another pair of so-called opposites, the “high-minded” realm of fine art and “lowbrow” street culture.

In No level field (2016) Lefort maximizes the optical play between foreground and background, creating the illusion of deep space but simultaneously emphasizing the flatness of the painted surface. Here a cast of expressive blue, orange, and yellow shapes sits close to the surface, while silhouetted shapes in the dark background read like a distant, receding landscape. Opposing forces are brought together and neutralized, flattened in unison on the picture plane. Providing the space for radical difference to coexist is no small feat. By balancing opposing forces, Lefort suggests that difference is actually a good thing, that the high and the low, the close and the far, the dark and the light, can occupy the same space, and rather than cancel each other out, provide an exciting, harmonious variety.

Jennifer Lefort. No level field. Oil and spray paint on canvas.


Jennifer Lefort, “Desires and Relationships” is on view at Division Gallery in Toronto from September 14 to October 14, 2017.