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You may not have had time to walk through the corridors of the newest exhibit at the McMaster Museum of Art, but I encourage everyone to make that walk up the stairs to the third floor to see Chris Cran: It’s My Vault. It is a glimpse into the mind of Canadian artist Chris Cran and the works that make him tick.

His criteria when selecting the pieces?

“The works I selected for this exhibition hit me. They hit me first with pleasure and then they hit me relative to others that I had already selected.”

The result is a wonderful collection of paintings that you are unlikely to find in the same place at any other time. Abstract paintings are hung beside impressionist landscapes, which you can find across the hall from wall-sized collages. In Cran’s vault, anything goes.

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Isa is a small portrait by Gerhard Richter of a woman and is hidden inside a little room in the center of the exhibit. The oil on canvas painting is cleverly disguised as, what I first thought was, a blurry photograph of a woman. The piece is so well done that the painting comes across as photo film. It is almost as if Richter painted Isa with precise strokes, yet while the paint was still wet, decided to swipe across the canvas with a paintbrush. It is a simple, muted, unassuming piece composed of greys, greens and blacks, yet the time and detail it must have taken to create the piece struck me. To create something in such realistic perfection and to reverse that completely is astonishing.

Alfred Pellan’s Fondre Un Désir de Plume goes outside of the lines as well, only this time in a totally different way. His painting is a cohesive blend of shapes of colour that sometimes fall within the lines of the drawings, and other times spill out of their sides. What results are two layers of a painting in mutual dualism: the coloured background setting the stage and the black outline of the woman, and feather in the foreground. Even Pellan’s shading is a reflection of the line between rules and rule breaking. At times, his shading adopts the traditional diffusion of colour, while at others, shadows are entire blocks of black. What’s more, Pellan’s painting changes every time you look at it. This piece, maybe more than most, is bound to have you musing about where shapes end and where they begin for a while.

Soviet/American Array 1 by Paul Rasuchenberg is another work integral to the exhibit. It is a collage of pictures taken in Soviet Russia, however the photographs seem to have been dipped in only one colour. Entirely red, navy or ochre photographs are overlaid over each other, a visual representation of the striking division between the rich and poor. Images of deserted cobblestone backyards are striking when paired with pictures of lavish palace towers. Some photographs are repeated, but not identical– while one picture is sharp, the other is muted as if by a hazy filter. The wall-sized mural is certainly striking as a whole, yet every photograph that makes it up could stand equally well on its own.

These three pieces are only a few among many striking works in the exhibit, among which is Cran’s own The Disputed Sculpture. It’s My Vault is open until May 9, but I strongly suggest the people go long before the snow even has a chance to melt.

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