'YOU'RE A TOURIST IN MY TOWN'

A tourist is defined as anyone that travels to a country other than the one in which they have their habitual residence, a place outside of their environment. No matter what the reason may be for travel, I would say that the term tourist itself expresses an experience of a double vision.
On one side an expression of limitation: generally as a defined time length, a specific portion of
time in which the tourist operates, and a limited scope of what a tourist is able to see and understand of a place within that brief time frame; and on the other a sense of possession, perhaps innocent, perhaps involuntary, but still a possession. This possession can manifest in the expectation of going back to his or her own original territory in possession of something else, ownership of a memento or memory gained from one's travels, generally looked upon as something that as enriched the tourist, something that they couldn't have gained without physically being there, something that they have acquired as physical proof of that experience.

The idea of the tourist can't avoid being surrounded with questions of power, specifically
the power of the local to control the presentation to the tourist of what they would like for them to see, and the power of the tourists monetary influence on a place and its character. The angle chosen in this exhibition engages the complicated term of tourist, opening up a very bold and intelligent reflection towards identity, limit, displacement, geography, and ultimately subjectivity.
In addition the work hints at the risks that geography has produced of what today, with some
boldness, is called a 'western' identity, showing the naturalization device through which
a thought becomes a belief and therefore an active will.

The term subjectivity here is also questioned as a category through which our gaze of perception
is inevitably conditioned and turned on, as well as an activator of cultural meanings that affect
the surroundings. Within the space of the personal experience of a tourist there is a utopic
representation of that same experience that draws a paradox: there is an insuperable gap between our world and the idea of this world.

Barcelona's current political climate is thick with controversy surrounding mass tourism,
an influence that can not be understated in these artists interpretations on their experience here. Schmeltz and Dubois have configured this installation as a stage set borrowing typical Barcelona
motifs to mark their own space, transforming the site into their territory, the artists commandeering the role of locals in their space of the gallery, the viewer as the tourist.

In the Christian Middle Ages a the entrance of many churches there was a stone called the
stumbling stone (Stolpersteine), which had the function of reminding the sinner of his sins before entering the church to clean them off. Formally, the work here develops a similar apparatus: a stage of barriers that engage the tourist viewer to rethink our position, what we are looking for, and how we interact with the land that we are walking on. The installation uses barriers as forms of respect seeing beauty and dignity in the act of being obstructed and being kept at an arms length, the artists here are not asking to be let in, and in turn they ask the viewer to consider their ideas and preconceptions. Being this sort of incognito tourist is a very rich position to be in, a type of liminal space that one can strive to be respectful, to entertain the possibilities of counteracting the
stigma of the tourist. Everyone, after all, fluctuates in between the roles of both a tourist
and a local, the boundaries of such stereotypes are blurry and overlapping, a continual
negotiation.

Valentina Casacchia, Artist Pension Trust, Barcelona, 2017

Gabriel Dubois’ (b. 1982, Collingwood, ON) has a command of kinetic energy. His paintings have the illusion of being in a perpetual state of action: they buzz with vitality and dynamism. A striking penchant for colour, a fine feel for formal positioning, line and balance result in highly orchestrated compositions on panel and in public spaces that draw the viewer through curving, complex and intricate circuits.

Dubois’ practice ranges from collage, installation, traditional painting, mural and architectural interventions. Raised in Vancouver and recently returned from living and travelling abroad in Germany, India, Japan and Britain for the past decade, Dubois’ style is influenced by a nomadic lifestyle and the diverse international cultures he has been breathing. Even the surfaces he chooses to paint on are often poised in anticipation of imminent movement: he began expressing himself through writing graffiti on the carriages of Canadian freight trains, a vessel always about to take off for somewhere else. He has executed colourful, intricate murals in spaces such as doorways in France, abandoned temples in India and shopfronts in Vancouver. In 2008, he began constructing temporary shelters made of assembled and painted wood; the vibrant installations representing the human need for home, preservation and survival. Seeing painting as a way to plan for the future and as a universally understood language, Dubois uses his material as a way to cover the old and project the new. He often paints directly on wood, leaving natural grain show through behind layers of collaged line, words and shapes.

The exhibition 'DEFT SENF' features a new body of abstract paintings on panel exhibited in the gallery in conjunction with a public mural commissioned by *BAF at 259 Powell Street.
The mural features the spiral form frequently found in Dubois’ practice: geometric lines winding in a continuous circuit around a central point. The shape can be read as a numerical 9, the last solitary number before the consecutive digits that follow are evermore joined with another. Nine is also a cross-lingual homophone: “nein” means no in German: a language Dubois is fluent in having lived in Berlin, Hamburg, and Leipzig for many of the past several years. The spiral also refers to infinity, an unbound, non-terminating, unending phenomenon that corrupts and upsets all others with a pledge of unending being. Infinity is where everything else ends by never ending: in its presence, all else becomes insignificant.

Dubois’ recent studio paintings are pared down from his earlier compositions yet the room hums with their spirited and formative qualities like an impromptu ensemble. Chords are struck between combinations of colour and line: lavender, olive, mustard and grass green repeat and reverberate through the new body of work. Citrus runs through on a sweet, fresh high and blood-red and flesh-pink provide meat for the bones. His hand is measured yet always evident: remnants of brushstrokes show evidence of his gestures in unmistakably painterly washes. Many of Dubois’ paints are mistints purchased from hardware stores (tin cans rejected by unsatisfied customers) leaving his use of pigment up to chance. He deliberately makes allure of someone elses’ cast-offs; loves the vagrant hues left behind. A stray drip on the panel is allowed to stay. A circle and a figure wandered in and made themselves at home.

There is a quality of line and form in each painting that reflects Dubois’ interest in architectural aesthetics; a cross struck through a painting resembles a structural support. Each work softly speaks of the bones of a building. That Dubois’ paintings hang on all four sides of an enclosed space directs one to move about the work in his signature spiral - a form found too in the gallery paintings as echos to the shape repeated in the mural at the bottom of road. The works speak a language of balance forged between freedom and form, of work and play and of mind bowing to heart. They build spaces of colour and form, each one a sturdy shelter.

Elliat Albrecht, Burrard Arts Foundation, Vancouver, Canada, 2014

Gabriel Dubois’ surefooted relationship with abstractions of the past permits a
characteristically personal humour, variation and wit. A powerful strength in line
and curve play in these new works with the non-art colour of brown and the textures
of wood grain juxtaposed with singing strips of lilac, turquoise or green. In these
newer, more rigorous rectilinear abstractions, there is a sense of a three-dimensional
object bursting to leave the constraints of a picture plane; of constraint as a game
which knows very well where it is coming from (the Bauhaus, De Stijl, later geometric
abstractions) and where it is going. Dubois’s confidence and optimism is striking. He
takes his precursors on a trip to new cities and more challenging spaces where tagging
persists in illicit signs and names, the persisting fire-crackles of anarchism. A sense
of mischief is countered by a feel for positioning and balance, so evident, too in his
collages, where not only the juxtaposition of words (‘Chopin’, ’fingerpuppet’ - inverted)
delight in a high/low clash, but his textures, colour reproductions, letters, squared
paper, are orchestrated with slabs of colour. Specific double curves and circles, create a
hybrid poetry of words, images and silent forms.

Works on external walls, whether on an abandoned temple in India or an ancient
doorway in Saignon, Provence are of a particular elegance and power. If the sign says ‘I
was here’ this message seems submerged by the sense of a recondite meaning , a secret
sign, pointing to a past or future event. The snaking lines seem like twenty first-century
circuits, but yet again ancient labrynths, with a hint of the Eastern shop-sign. So fresh,
reterritorialising the space, we know that they will weather and one day disappear;
hence the preciousness of his photographs taken at the moment of watching paint dry.

Dubois brings the vitality of the survival instinct into the gallery space with his stripy
huts of found wood, built inside the gallery - a paradox in an already-curated situation,
the ‘white cube’ that offers a modernist ground for his smooth and witty paintings.
Yet his creation of a ‘space inside’ the cabin creates a closed and intimate place for
conversation, a sneaked cigarette, a caress or a curse, beyond the gallery’s own
jurisidiction and surveillance. The huts elude not only gallery decorum but often the
market itself, always retaining a dash of Hansel and Gretel, a whiff of the Brothers
Grimm transported into the present.

Just as painting can become architecture, so his new Obelisk sculptures can be table-
top size or expand to the monumental. And just as words are a game with meaning —
Okeneko, N’fumo, Das Kykkeliky Eingang — scale, too, is one of a set of variables. The
relationship between sport or play and Dubois’s intensity of focus and form (the hut
as a survival mechanism — art as a survival mechanism) is clear. Dubois’s traversals
of time and space, Canada, India, Britain, Germany, his polyglot and nomadic existence,
so typical of now, give his works both a sense of security, of being made in the here and
now, and a slippery elusiveness. Many of those huts no longer exist; what if the signs on
wall or canvas were one night to disappear, leaving surfaces bare? Beware.

Sarah Wilson, Courtauld Institute, London, England, 2012

Uniquely straddling the doctrines of street art, postmodernism and arte povera, Gabriel Dubois’ practice is borne out of an innate desire to express and inscribe his heterogeneous life experiences through the formal language of abstraction.

In its earliest form, Dubois expressed this through painting the carriages of Canadian freight trains, creating mobile public displays of his work across his native country. Time spent as a house painter furnished his artistic vocabulary with an acutely measured brushstroke now synonymous with his practice from Berlin to Sri Lanka, wherever the artist has been based.

Dubois’ work channels his nomadic existence through an equilibrium of signifiers and symbols; energetically painted geometric forms are punctuated by collaged magazine and flea market imagery, synthesizing the chaos and detritus of urban life, and its indifference to cultural specificity. High art, religious symbols, graffiti scrawls and everyday media merge, forming an absorbing abstract picture plane.

In a parallel practice similarly employing found materials, Dubois creates wooden shelter-like structures, reminiscent of the hippy colonies built by US draft dodgers during the Vietnam era on the islands off the Vancouver Coast.  Regardless of where he finds himself, Dubois has continued to create these shelters as temporary studios, places of refuge, and formal counterpoints to his painted abstract compositions.

Jermey Epstein, Edel Assanti Gallery, London, England, 2011