David Trautrimas at Smokestack Gallery, Hamilton

If there is any silver lining to be scratched out of the dwindling loss of grassroots art galleries to Hamilton’s accelerating gentrification, it is the nimble adaptation seen in developments like Smokestack’s new gallery space in The Cotton Factory. An enthusiastic crowd converged there last week for its inaugural opening with new works by local artist David Trautrimas. As an expansion of brothers Jonathan and Laine Groeneweg’s digital and analog print studio (and satellite location for Toronto’s Superframe), the modestly scaled Smokestack Gallery is a cleanly polished space well-suited to the premiere of Trautrimas’ laser-etched drawings in A Developing Null. Each work, barely incised into the surface of a white sheet of paper, hovers at the edge of perceptibility through a matrix of finely machined lines and layers that render their scenes as ghosts transmitted by some unseen mechanical device.

David Trautrimus, Seeing What Doing Nothing Changes, 2019, laser engraved paper

Trautrimas’ subject matter could be read as the nostalgic dreams of the technology he employs: an antenna tower raising its assertive vertical finger over the downward slope of a suburban rooftop, blocky space saucers parading across a cathode ray television screen. However, these images are grounded in a too-human domesticity of kitchens and closets. Private scenes estranged by unusual framing choices provide for both the too-closeness and distant chill of surveillance, eerily filtered through the artist’s spider-fine lines. A drone’s eye view of a swimming pool transforms the geometric oddities of woven-plastic lawn chairs into ominous cages at first glance. A butter knife completes the close-up riddle of a toaster’s gap-mouthed upper surface, tangled beneath a fine web of curling lines that suggest heat and the possibility of fire.

This latter work’s title, Being Done Is A Spectrum, suggests the sprawl of time at the heart of any making – be it art, spaces, or communities – in which one’s work is never truly done. Trautrimas, by premiering these works in the same location that supported their creation, sensitively carves out space for the human heart of his surgical, machine-guided print process – one that offers reflection on the things we have lost and those that are waiting to be won.

David Trautrimas: A Developing Null continues until November 16.
Smokestack Gallery: https://www.smokestack.ca/gallery/
The gallery is partially accessible.

Stephanie Vegh is an artist and writer who has exhibited her work in the UK and Canada, and publishes art writing and criticism both locally and nationally. She maintains an active profile in regional arts advocacy, and currently serves as Manager, Media and Communications at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. She can be followed on Instagram @stephanievegh.