David Urban

Actual Fiction, 2007

Artist Statement


These new works on paper return to the kind of poetic abstraction that I have practiced for twenty years.  The images have their roots in the lineage of Abstract Expressionist painting as exemplified by Guston and Rothko, and also refer to the early origins of abstraction, as well as works by Mondrian and the Russian Constructivists.  The vocabulary for this body of work includes looping ribbons of line, the dramatic use of brushed ink and spray-paint, and an engagement with Chinese calligraphic tradition.  What I am after in this work is a kind of radical impurity which ties all these disparate interests together.  Ultimately, these improvisations in line and colour are meant to recreate a state of being; they signal both the dissonance and the poetry of being in the world.


The art practice of David Urban is defined by bold collisions of line and shape, clashing tones and kinetic brushstrokes. Urban builds his dynamic paintings, layer upon layer, into a strange borderland between abstraction and representation. Rhythmic geometries conjure up networks of boards, beams and girders. These improvisations incorporate the traditions of still life and landscape, abstraction and realism within an abstract framework. Urban produces forms that confound in their perception and pursues an endless investigation into how and why we see.


Urban reflects on music, childhood and the primacy of the imagination, becoming a summation of thematic ideas pursued in his paintings. He is deeply implicated in the history and methodology of paint. Urban is a poet and a musician, playing several instruments and investigating the physical presence of sound. His work explores the interplay between representation and abstraction, while maintaining a strong sense of connectivity and rhythmical structure. He integrates both real and abstract elements, simultaneously presenting two disparate threads of modern painting.


Urban completed both of his undergraduate degrees at York University in 1989, graduating with a BA in English Literature and a Visual Arts BFA specializing in Painting and Drawing. He received his graduate degrees, an MA in English Literature and Creative Writing in 1991 from the University of Windsor and an MFA in Visual Arts in 1994 from the University of Guelph. Urban has had 30 solo exhibitions and participated in nearly 40 group exhibitions. Urban joined Queen’s University in March 2012 as the Koerner Artist-in-Residence, an annual professional residency in the Fine Art Program. His work is in numerous private and public collections including the National Gallery of Canada; Musée des Beaux Arts, Montreal; and the Art Gallery of Ontario.