Psych Out: Winnie Truong and Max Wyse

Two new shows at Galerie Trois Points, Winnie Truong’s Double Twist and Max Wyse’s Vol de Nuit, combine the cute and the creepy.

“Loop de Loop,” by Winnie Truong.

The women of Winnie Truong’s colourful drawings give new meaning to bad hair days. The portraits by this Toronto-based artist are far less about the doll-like faces than about the fantastic riot of hair. It is as if Vidal Sasson was given the opportunity to coif Marie Antoinette with hair stretches, twists, bows and braids in a rainbow of colors in defiance of physics and gravity. Each one embodies the tension between the beautiful and the ugly, or better put, the cute and the monstrous. The faces are delicate. Eyelashes curl open over sparkling green and blue eyes. Eyebrows arc gracefully. Pert noses and cute pursed lips lend each face a girlish character. But the soft skin of these feminine portraits looks like brushed fur, with Truong’s colorful use of lines that trace facial features. In one portrait, the layers of hair alongside the face continue under the chin to form what might be a beard — or not.

And, of course, there is the hair — feminine but dominant. Strands of hair break away, making an aura-like fringe around the face. The styles are elegant, dainty and imperfectly symmetrical. Each one is beautiful in its ambition, but ugly in its execution. Strands that form cute bows and pretzel twists are creepily Escher-esque, rather than charming. This is all the more so the case in pieces that feature the same face seen from different angles or sizes. Hair from the front or side of one face joins to the back of another.

Each drawing is set against a white background, disembodying the portraits in time and space. There is no jewellery, no physical mark to distinguish one face from the other, save for the color of the eyes and hair. They are larger than life size, turning them into icons, objects of worship or study.

Alongside Truong’s work are Max Wyse’s psychedelic acrylics, reminiscent of 70s prog album covers. Set against abstract backgrounds built of geometric shapes, animal-human hybrid creatures vie for attention amid more symbolic images of Freemason pyramid eyes, teeth and mushrooms. Although monstrous in shape, even nightmarish, the dominant Easter pink and green colour scheme renders the paintings into playful stories. Small details done in pen and ink, but blacked with different matte and iridescent washes, pop out and recede again.

The pairing of these two artists at Gallerie Trois Pointes is highly satisfying. Both artists echo one another subtly. For example, they share an interest in imagined architecture. In Truong’s case, the structure is found in hair, while in Wyse, it is found in geometric backgrounds. Both take an interest in the subhuman or the transformation of the human body. ■

Winnie Truong’s Double Twist and Max Wyse’s Vol de Nuit are on at Galerie Trois Points (372 Ste-Catherine (Belgo Building), #520) through Nov. 10

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