[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbPiDLlEfgo]Color – this is the first thing you notice when you look at the Rhombus series. I asked James Lahey about the significance of color. He referred to something Molinari had said in the 60’s – there are no colors, only relationships between colors. In other words, red by itself is not red. It is only red in how it relates to blue (red and blue being examples). To this end, what actual color begins a series such as the Rhombus series is arbitrary, almost irrelevant. It is merely the catalyst for determining the next color and so on.
Think of music. Think of one note following another. Think of the pulse, the rhythm, the cadence. Now imagine yourself sitting on the couch in front of the Rhombus exhibition, be it London, Ontario or Montreal, Quebec. In our interview (over the phone on his drive back to Toronto) James Lahey said that if Philip Glass was a painter, then this kind of work would be his art. Hence the Philip Glass music (press the arrow in the centre) and hence the invitation to imagine yourself on one of those couches.
Another question I asked Lahey – Did his use of color substitute as language? I loved Lahey’s answer. To paraphrase, Lahey said that he has no expectation of people’s reactions. As far as he is concerned, he can no more explain the occasional moronic Member of Parliament’s objection to art (think of the purchase of Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire by the National Gallery of Canada) than he can someone breaking down to tears when entering the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.
The Rhombus exhibition is the end result of a six year exploration initiated by a conversation between Guido Molinari and Lahey.
The two artists were good friends and many of their conversations were spent on painting, abstraction, and representation. In 2003 (one of the last times the two met) Molinari urged Lahey to paint “on the point”. Lahey promised that he would. The point may not be so obvious for some. I asked Lahey about this. He made reference to the two traditional formats in painting – those being portrait format and landscape format. The portrait format is vertical. The landscape format is horizontal. The point is usually the focal point, meaning the part of the painting that pulls in the viewer’s eye. In other words it is the painting’s centre of attention. Get somewhere past this point and this is where the compositional and formal problems begin. Taking Molinari’s Mutation paintings from the ’60’s as his inspirational departure, it is clear that Lahey has fulfilled his promise to paint “on the point”.