Critical Distance

What the world needs now is a sense of humour and love sweet love: Debra Mosher
February 18 – March 18, 2000

a response to the exhibition by Cliff Eyland

Debra Mosher makes two kinds of art: photographs, many of which are portraits; and expressionistic paintings, such as those in this exhibition.

It is natural for a writer to attempt to link the separate strands of an artist’s work. Mosher’s paintings and photographs, although obviously different, both turn on a “decisive moment.” In photography Mosher’s camera must click at a precise second in order to capture something characteristic about a sitter; when she paints, Mosher must also be precise, but not about single, click-like gestures. She needs to be precise about exactly when the furious brush work should stop so that a sense of spontaneity in the painting is preserved – too much paint or too slow a gesture could ruin everything. The game in this kind of painting is to improvise freshness and fury into a painting. The work is a record of a performance with paint.

The painting process in this work shares something else with the process of the professional photographer. A photographer selects one or two images from a contact sheet for show the way Mosher culls a few paintings from many for an exhibition.

Mosher finished art school when expressionistic painting dominated the art scene, but it may be wrong to link this work too closely with neo-expressionism. The title of this exhibition, for example – “What the World Needs Now is a Sense of Humour and Love Sweet Love” – would have been too flip for the self-important American, German, and Italian neo-expressionist painters of the 1980s.

Paint on, Mosher – and have a laugh, too.


Cliff Eyland is a painter and writer who lives in Winnipeg and Halifax.