Critique by L.C. Russell Edited by: George C Koller
Toby Malek’s art is not for the faint of heart. These nude watercolours exude a visceral quality that draws a viewer in and renders them unable to look away even when the subject matter might make them uncomfortable. His paintings show a very strong cubist influence with a good sprinkling of surrealism for a bit of extra zing. They’re alive, vibrant, well crafted and provocative. They will make you question and wonder. The subject matter in this particular series ranges in feeling from serenity to sad to orderly chaos.
In the first painting that you see here a nude, heavily pregnant woman sits primly in the foreground. She has an almost smug Madonna-esque tranquility about her. She’s elaborately coiffed and adorned with jewelry. She is seemingly an object of adortion, almost deified A hulking male figure stands behind her looking on with rapt attention as fish swim overhead. The schooling fish are a repeated theme throughout this series. They evolve each time you see them.
Fractured Fantasy, 2008
The couple in the second painting is no longer in harmony. The adornment is missing, the tranquility is gone. There’s tension in the layout. The female form is almost broken , legs splayed, her genitals exposed and stained deep crimson, The male’s mouth looks almost as though it’s been sewn shut, the fish have grown wings and they to seem to be silenced by stitches. Their expressions are worried. They stare as they fly over. It’s very disturbing imagery that leaves the viewer with questions about what happened.
Self Fulfilment, 2008
The third painting has an emphasis on voyeurism. The female figure sits in the foreground pleasuring herself apparently unaware that she’s being observed. The lurking male figure seems much older and larger than the female. There’s a very sinister feel to it .
Walker Fish, 2008
In the final painting there’s a bottle in the foreground ahead of the couple. The fish have returned, this time they plod along on legs. The male and female images seem more disconnected from one another than they were in the other three paintings. There’s a subtle air of futility about it.
Mr. Malek’s use of color is masterful. The tones have a sweetness and purity to them that makes the subject matter more raw. Soft greens, pastel pinks and pale yellows are accented by bold blues and startling reds. All the colors are carefully controlled even in the blended areas. The brush strokes are sure and strong but still fluid. Each splash and mottle of color has a purpose, motion and depth. Watercolor is not a forgiving medium. Once the color is down on the paper you cannot go back in and paint over it if you make a mistake You have to work with your errors and build on them, you cannot cover them up without ruining what you‘ve painted by muddying the colors.
Toby Malek‘s watercolors are interesting and unique. They embody the best of modern cubism with a surreal whimsical edge. They unsettled me and made me think. More importantly, they left me wanting more.