Corkin Gallery is pleased to present Revisiting Motifs, an exhibition of work by Toronto-based artist David Urban, on view in the Distillery District and in the gallery’s online viewing room. The exhibition brings together a selection of paintings from 1995–2015 that chart the interplay between gestural, figurative, and abstract techniques, highlighting how Urban’s methods generate a kinetic visual language.
For Urban, painting begins with the familiar. His works often depict figures in rural landscapes, inspired by time spent in the country and views from his studio window, while recurring motifs, such as radios and amplifiers, reflect the artist’s engagement with music. Urban’s work oscillates between an expressive yet realistic treatment of his subjects as well as gestural abstraction, using floating signifiers to convey figure, poetry, and music.
The physicality of painting is central to Urban’s practice. Defined by dynamism, collision, and thick impasto, his works build on modernist traditions, deploying energy and movement as markers of expression. Rhythmic geometries conjure structural elements — boards, beams, and girders — unmoored from their physical contexts; frenzied brushstrokes suggest sound wave frequencies; and in later works, bold lines and shapes displace realistic points of reference, such as windows, landscapes, and figures. Urban’s canvases flatten perspective, multiply vantage points, and disrupt sightlines to raise questions about the nature of perception and the ephemerality of human experience.
A true Renaissance man, Urban has spent his life studying histories of art, literature, and music. He completed both of his undergraduate degrees at York University in 1989, earning a BA in English Literature and a BFA in Painting and Drawing. He received two graduate degrees: a Masters in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor in 1992 and an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of Guelph in 1994.
Revisiting Motifs is Urban’s 10th solo exhibition with the gallery. Over his career, Urban has had more than 40 solo exhibitions, including a presentation at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and participated in nearly 40 group exhibitions at galleries and institutions, such as MOCA Toronto (Toronto, ON), Shanghai Art Museum (Shanghai, China), Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver, BC), Musée d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne (La Terrasse, France), Galerie René Blouin (Montreal, QC), and Sable-Castelli Gallery (Toronto, ON). His work has been acquired by numerous private and public collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, ON), Musée des Beaux Arts (Montreal, QC), and the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, ON).