Curated Contemporary Art Since 2003
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Kai McCall Artist Statement, Exhibition History, Articles and Education


Kai McCall was born in 1968. He lives and works in Montreal.

Artist Statement

Like characters in a work of fiction, the figures in my paintings are confronted with challenges and conflicts as they navigate the settings I have created for them. I think of them as semi-autonomous individuals whose poses evolve as I paint them, and who become defined by the eventual actions that they assume in a composition. Because I do not make detailed preparatory drawings, the physiognomy of the figures evolves gradually as I alter their hair, posture or clothing. This method offers the maximum flexibility as I work out the elements that define each character directly on the canvas while painting. References from art history, literature, illustration and film influence the narrative in my work.

Many of my recent paintings are portraits depicting imagined scenes from everyday life. They deal thematically with the idea of movement and transition. Accordingly they show figures in transit; the bicycle in "The Passion of Fred", the scooter in "Vespa", the boat in "Alone at Last" and the car in "Belmont Avenue". 17th Century Dutch genre paintings have been influential in the evolution of this series both stylistically and conceptually. Certain elements are rendered in the layered technique of the Dutch masters to create shimmering fabrics and transparent flesh tones. Conceptually I am interested in the role that genre painting occupied in the history of art. In accordance with the hierarchies that existed at the time, genre painting was considered a sub category in painting; less important than official portraiture or history painting. I find this hierarchy between genres to be interesting and relevant today in the context of contemporary art.

Part of what I would like to explore in this series is my ambiguous relationship to the whole idea of sub categories in painting. On one level I feel a need to mock the conditions that saw a hierarchy between history painting and genre painting (and therefore mock genre painting too). At the same time I find the innocence and devotion that the best genre painters brought to their work to be fascinating. I think for genre paintings to be really good they need to be lovingly made or else the whole thing does not work. Yet when familiar everyday activities are painted with such loving care the whole scene takes on a creepy sub-text. I try to incorporate this ambiguity in my work.

2023 No Matter What Pictures, Elaine Fleck Gallery, Toronto
2018 Elusive Luminosity, Galerie LeRoyer, Montreal
2016 Conversations with Animals, Galerie St-Laurent Plus Hill, Ottawa
2015 Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, Galerie LeRoyer, Montreal
2014 First Light, Galerie St-Laurent Plus Hill, Ottawa
2012 L’article indéfini/Indefinite Article, Galerie d’Avignon, Montreal
2011 The Weightlessness, KWT Contemporary, Toronto
2008 Physiognomies, Galerie d'Avignon, Montreal
2008 Rearranging Storylines, XEXE Gallery, Toronto
2005 Fictions & Mirror / Miroirs & Fictions, Galerie Avignon, Montreal
2003 Recent Paintings, Beaux Arts Bath, UK
2002 Rooms and Other Places, Galerie D'Avignon, Montreal
2001 Other Stories, Artcore Gallery, Toronto
2000 UK Pictures, Artcore Gallery, Toronto
1999 Glimpsed Then Vanished Again, Galerie McCLure (Visual Arts Centre), Montreal
1998 My Trip to the Caves, Espace 414, Centre d'art Belgo, Montreal
1998 My Trip to the Caves, Gallery 306, Toronto
1996 Too Heavy/Can't Fly, Probably Drowning, Gallery 306, Toronto
1996 Too Heavy/Can't Fly, Probably Drowning, Espace 414, Montreal
1995 The Business Beneath Your Bed, Gallery 306, Toronto
1995 Recent Painting, McGill Student Union, Montreal
1990 Recent Paintings, Hillary Gallery, London, Ontario

2022 Christmas Show, Elaine Fleck Gallery, Toronto
2022 Two Man Show, "Portraits In Style", Elaine Fleck Gallery, Toronto
2017 Group Exhibition,CK Contemporary, San Francisco, CA
2016 Group Exhibition,CK Contemporary, San Francisco, CA
2013 Group Exhibition,Galerie L’Œil du Prince, Paris, France
2013 Group Exhibition,Galerie St-Laurent Plus Hill, Ottawa
2013 Winter Exhibition,Blackheath Gallery, London, UK
2012 Summer Salon,De Luca Fine Art, Toronto
2011 Toronto International Art Fair, Toronto
2011 Unearthed,Warton House, London, UK
2011 Summer Show,KWT Contemporary, Toronto
2010 Toronto International Art Fair, Toronto
2010 San Francisco Art Fair, San Francisco
2010 Contemporary Figure, Galerie d'Avignon, Montreal
2009 Jack Fischer Gallery, San Francisco
2008 10th Anniversay Exhibition,Galerie d'Avignon, Montreal (catalogue)
2007 Something for Everyone, XEXE Gallery, Toronto
2007 Galerie Toledano, Bordeaux, France
2007 Galerie Toledano, Bordeaux, France
2005 FIAC Art Fair, Paris, France
2005 Toronto International Art Fair, Toronto
2004 Scope Art Fair, London, UK
2004 Toronto International Art Fair, Toronto
2004 FIAC Art Fair, Paris, France
2004 Reconfiguration, Stewart Hall Art Gallery, Montreal (catalogue)
2003 FIAC Art Fair, Paris France
2003 Group Exhibition, Vertigo Gallery, London, UK
2003 Group Exhibition, Galerie St. Laurent Plus Hill, Ottawa
2002 Art Cologne 2002, Germany
2001 Group Exhibition, The Nunnery, London, UK
2001 Toronto International Art Fair, Toronto
2001 Group Exhibition, Galerie d’Avignon, Montreal
2001 Winter Exhibition, Galerie Vincent, Ottawa
2000 Art Miami 2000, Miami, FL, USA
1999 Summer Exhibition, Galerie Vincent, Ottawa
1998 Absolut Secret, Royal College of Art, London, UK
1998 Christmas Exhibition, Café Gallery, London, UK
1997 Absolut Secret, Royal College of Art, London, UK
1997 Three Painters, Union Gallery, Kingston, Ontario
1990 Graduation Exhibition, McIntosh Gallery, London, Ontario


2009 Canada Council for the Arts, Research and Creation Grant
2004 Canada Council for the Arts, Emerging Artist Grant
2003 Canada Council for the Arts, Emerging Artist Grant
1998 Ontario Arts Council, Exhibition Assistance Grant
1995 Ontario Arts Council, Exhibition Assistance Grant


• Kozinska, Dorota, Exhibition Review, Vie Des Arts, Montreal, Summer, 2008
• Bernier, Robert, "Le Boulevard Saint-Laurent", Parcours L'Informateur des Arts, Montreal, Summer 2002
• Levy, Bernard, "Exhibition Reviews", Vie des Arts, Montreal, Spring, 2002
• Jordan, Betty Ann, "What's On", Toronto Life, August, 2001
• Mackay, Gillian, "Conjuring a Sense of Awe", The Globe and Mail, Toronto, July 15th, 2000
• Kozinska, Dorota, "European Art Trends Were Eye-Opener for Montrealer", The Montreal Gazette, March 13, 1999
• Latulipe, Jacques, "Une Saison En Art", Magazinart, Winter, 1998
• Marchand, Keith, "Exhibitions", The Montreal Mirror, April 6, 1998
• Kozinska, Dorota, "Best Bets", The Gazette, Montreal, April 3, 1998
New American Paintings, Boston, MA, Winter, 1998
• Ann Duncan, "Preview", The Montreal Gazette, September 27, 1996
• Scott Harris, "Watching the Hidden Theatre" (interview), Existere Magazine, Toronto, 1995
• Eye Magazine, Toronto, February 3, 1994


1991 Bachelor of Arts, University of Western Ontario