Shelley Adler: 5 Women

March 9 - April 1, 2017

Opening reception: Thursday, March 9, 6 - 8 PM

Nicholas Metivier Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings by Shelley Adler. The exhibition will open on March 9th and run until April 1st with an opening reception on Thursday, March 9th. This is Adler’s fifth solo exhibition at the gallery.

Shelley Adler has been painting faces for the last 30 years. She is widely regarded as one of Canada’s preeminent contemporary artists working in this genre. Her portraits are loosely rendered and avoid specificity as she prefers to communicate through intense colour and arresting compositions. In recent years, Adler has expanded her compositions to include the body, advancing her ability to convey a particular mood or character using gesture. In many of her paintings, Adler dramatically crops the figure, placing the subjects in close proximity to the viewer. This positioning combined with the subject’s often outward gaze creates a compelling tension between subject and viewer, negating the option of passive observation.

In her latest body of work, Adler thoughtfully paired down her subjects - as the title suggests - to five women. Paintings of her daughter, Zoe, who has been a consistent muse to Adler for several years, and three models complete the exhibition with the exception of a single self-portrait. Adler has always been interested in the politics of portraiture while simultaneously being a participant. Here she investigates the complex relationships and connections between artist and sitter. Spending more time with fewer women enabled Adler to engage with her subjects in an unprecedented way, resulting in some of her most confident and least idealized portraits of women to date.

Adler’s paintings only marginally adhere to the superficial appearance of the women, as is evident in the variations of representation within each subject. Conversely, the less continuity there is between portraits of the same woman, the more powerful our connection with them seems to be. Adler is renown for her intuitive and dynamic use of colour. Her saturated palette supports the strength and the depth of the women featured in these paintings, particularly her abstracted backgrounds described in large planes of unabashed colour.

Shelley Adler brings depth and verve to her ongoing investigations of the figure by capturing each of her young female subjects in a variety of poses, moods and media. Boldly limned against glowing fields of oil paint or edgily roughed out in ink, a single subject can shift intriguingly between self-possession and vulnerability, hooded ferocity and startled innocence. Even as these searching portrayals flesh out complexities of character, they testify to the painter's own hard won virtuosity and commitment.

– Gillian MacKay


Shelley Adler received her MFA from Boston University and her BFA from York University in Toronto. She has exhibited across Canada and in the United States and her work is held in many prominent collections.