David Urban

Wyevale, 2006


The new body of work by Canadian abstract artist David Urban presents large oil abstractions and their relationship to painting’s representational traditions.  The creative layering of paint becomes a particular feature in Urban’s artistic process; carefully controlled elements are juxtaposed with energetic, passionate strokes.  Urban is involved in the act of painting.


This body of work is about a place called Wyevale. Wyevale is a real place and for Urban, an existential place. David Urban has been driving through the town of Wyevale on the way to his cottage for decades. He went there as a young boy and now he and his wife experience taking their own son there. The work is about our place in the woods. It is about going to the same place summer after summer after summer and experiencing that the place never changes, but we change. The tension in these works is created by the space between happiness and sadness; the real and the existential; adulthood and youth. One gets the feeling that Urban is trying to preserve the innocence of childhood in these Wyevale works.


Urban’s works explore the interplay between representation and abstraction, while maintaining a strong sense of connectivity and rhythmical structure.  Dr. David Moos, Curator of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of Ontario, writes that Urban’s “interlocking networks take the viewer on imaginary trips through painted space, fictive depth and chromatic horizons.”  The stability of the emerging figurative forms preserve the tension and monumentality found within the works.


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.