LEOPOLD PLOTEK: YAJIMA/GALERIE, APRIL 19 - MAY 12
by LUCIE DORAIS
The six oils and three of the four drawings on acetate exhibited by Leopold Plotek have titles suggested by Arnold Schoenberg’s 21-song cycle, Pierrot Lunaire (the fourth drawing, Malatesta, 1979, refers to the artist’s recent trip to Italy). Plotek once stated that music held as important a place in his life as painting, and Pierrot Lunaire has been a favorite of his for the past four years. But the relationship between the paintings and the corresponding songs in Schoenberg’s cycle is hard to establish. The paintings present themselves as huge, abstract flat forms surrounded by equally flat areas; the colors, mostly sombre and almost never pure, are on the whole quite seductive, as are the sensuous lines predominantly used by the artist. On closer examination, though, these works are not as easy to understand as one might think: patches of violently contrasting colors appear at some edges suggesting the presence of a whole new painting underneath, and emphasizing the intervention of the artist, as does the non-uniform application of the paint.
Plotek, who now teaches painting at Montreal’s Concordia University, was born in Moscow in 1948 of a Polish family that emigrated to Canada in 1960. He followed a Bachelor ofFine Arts degree at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) with 18 months at the Slade School in London (1970-71). After a first exhibition in that city, he has shown his work regularly in Montreal.
During his student days in London, lack of money prevented Plotek from using artists’ oils and also led him to abandon the stretcher and to nail his canvases directly onto the wall. He soon started to shape them deliberately. The use of oils in the Pierrot Lunaire (I977-79) series and, more important, the return to the traditional devices of stretcher and frame (although very unobtrusive) thus mark a slight retour en arrière for the artist, as if indicating a time of reflection after the earlier and daring ventures into the field of support/surface research. Actually, in spite of their huge size — to which the small Yajima Gallery, usually devoted to photography, does not do justice — and sensuous forms, Plotek's paintings have something in them of Russian Constructivism. It is as if the artist wished to bridge the gap between the present time and the highly avant-garde years before World War I (to which Pierrot Lunaire, composed in 1912, belongs) in search of something more assured and respected than the indeterminate state of painting in the late seventies.