Nuit Blanche 2015

Last Saturday, Nuit Blanche took over the streets of Toronto. While you can find plenty of complainers online, I really enjoyed the 2015 edition. Here is a short review.


ABOVE: JR, Inside Out, 2011-15, interactive photography installation (a socially engaged project, participants lined up [for hours] to have their picture taken and pasted to Nathan Phillips Square)

Every October, Nuit Blanche – an all night art party – comes to town, and every year, I stay up past my bedtime trying to see as much as possible.

This year, Mother Nature threatened to rain, but while an umbrella was needed to start the night, she held off, and the temperature stayed comfortable. Thanks Mom! And thanks for keeping the crowds down too.

While no one piece stole the show, the 10th edition of Nuit Blanche was definitely one of its best. Many of the works were conceptually strong (even when the execution wasn’t) and their messages were timely and relevant – especially those that addressed the environment.

In addition to the JR piece shown above, here are some of my favorites:

ABOVE: Heather and Ivan Morison, The Cleaving, 2015, sculpture (a wooden barricade across Queens Quay)

ABOVE: Los Carpinteros, Frío Estudio del Desastre, 2015, installation (a three-dimensional reconstruction of an exploding wall)

ABOVE: Anandam Dancetheatre, Glaciology, 2013/2015, performance (over the course of 12 hours, a human glacier drifted across the city)

ABOVE: Robert Wysoki, Lava Field No. 2, 2015, installation/performance (the product of 5 years of experimentation, this ‘mobile volcano’ used a coke fired cupola to produce a geomorphically accurate lava field)

ABOVE: Sean Martindale and JP King, There Is No Away, 2015, sculpture (an examination of our consumer habits, and Toronto’s waste management strategy, done with [smelly] recyclable cubes)

Kim Dorland on Art with Heart

I recently had the opportunity to speak with artist Kim Dorland about his involvement with Art with Heart, an upcoming charity auction to benefit Casey House in Toronto.



ABOVE: Kim Dorland, FUKD, 2015, oil, acrylic, ink and spray paint on paper, 40 x 60 inches, courtesy of the Angell Gallery (Lot 31, donated by the artist, estimate: $11,900)

Last week, I received an email asking if I’d be interested in writing about Casey House and Art with Heart. Being familiar with the them, I quickly agreed.

First, a little bit about Casey House:

Founded in 1988, Casey House is a specialty hospital committed to providing compassionate, inspired health care to people living with HIV/AIDS. Originally a hospice, it has evolved through the years to include home care and outreach programs in the Toronto area.

And now, a little bit about Art with Heart:

Casey House’s signature fundraising event, Art with Heart is an annual contemporary art auction and reception. Now in its 22nd year, the event features some of Canada’s most celebrated artists along with some top-notch emerging talent.

In preparing this post, I was given the opportunity to speak with one of my favorite artists, Kim Dorland. I’ve written about him in the past, so I was super excited to talk to him about Art with Heart, Casey House, and the piece he has graciously donated. Below, is a brief Q&A I had with him last night:

This is the 7th time you’ve donated to Art with Heart. How did you come to be involved with them and Casey House?

One of the first paintings I ever showed was with Art with Heart, back in, gosh, that would have been back in 2004. I think the painting was listed for $500 and if I remember correctly, it failed to sell. They approached me or my gallery, and you know, I’ve always felt very comfortable donating a painting to them.

Charity is obviously important to you. Has your involvement with organizations such as Art with Heart shaped your artistic practice, or any of the relationships you have within the arts community?

Well, I get hit up for charitable stuff all the time and I actually try to donate to as many people as I can because it’s a nice way to give back. But with Art with Heart, it’s first up.They always get a yes from me (I’ve had to turn down a few this year just because I’m so busy with shows and stuff). Obviously it’s a great cause, but also, they are such a pleasure to deal with. So it’s kind of an easy yes.

Why did you decide to donate the piece FUKD to this years auction?

Ha, ha, yeah, well, I always try to give a larger piece. The nice thing with a painting like FUKD is that it’s a work on paper so I think the price is a little more available for people. Therefore, I feel like Casey House is going to get a better result with it. And also, I was really happy with the piece. I did a number of works on paper this year and I felt like it was probably the strongest one.

FUKD contains trees that appear to have been vandalized (or graffitied). Is the scene you’ve painted metaphorical, or have you come across this type of destruction in your travels?

Ha, ha, sorry, the reason I titled it that, and I don’t know if this matters, but, it’s a double-edged title because it’s FUKD f,u,k,d but it’s also Fuck You Kim Dorland which I think is funny. It’s a little bit funny to me. I have seen that kind of destruction in my travels, but the other side of that is that’s a fairly prevalent scene throughout my body of work, that defacing of nature. So, I think people who know my practice and know my body of work are going to recognize that scene pretty well.

You mention in your statement (on the Art with Heart website) that nature plays a defining role in our identity, and that you are fascinated by the way our presence is eroding something that was once pristine. Are there places you’ve visited through the years where you’ve witnessed destruction occurring over time?

Well, there is a place called Waskesiu Lake in northern Saskatchewan, and certainly what used to be a pretty pristine landscape has changed completely. The water level is way higher now, it’s buggy, and it’s cool all summer. So, it’s kind of turned from a place that we used to adore going to, to a place that’s not as pristine as it once was.

Would you say that paintings like this are a ‘call to action’ for your viewers? What would you like them to take away from the viewing experience?

Well, first and foremost, I’m a painter and my my job is painting, so I want them to enjoy it on an aesthetic level. Somebody asked me once if my works are political, and the political is there, but I try not to make it the first component of the work because then something else happens with it. So I don’t know that it’s a ‘call to action’. The sentiment is there, but it’s not the first thing that I think the viewer is going to see with the work.

So what’s next? Solos? Group Shows?

I have a solo show here in Vancouver at Equinox Gallery in the Spring. I’m slated for a solo show in Toronto next fall, and I’m in a group show in Los Angeles this spring too.

Art with Heart takes place October 6, 2015 at the Carlu (reception 5:30pm / live auction 7pm). You can purchase tickets to the event here.

The Beauty of Montreal

I love Montreal. Over the years, I’ve visited many times, and last week, I visited again. There’s no shortage of things to do or see. It is truly one of Canada’s greatest cities.


ABOVE: The sanctuary of the Notre-Dame Basilica.

BELOW: The Montreal skyline as seen from Mont Royal.

From the Museum of Fine Arts, to the Biodome and the Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal has a ton to offer. Over the course of three days last week, I attempted to see as much as possible. To my credit, I saw a lot.

My first stop was the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. While the temporary Rodin exhibition was quite good, the most impressive part of the gallery was its contemporary holdings. It’s worth visiting for that alone, but when you throw in the work of Québécois artists such as Marc-Aurèle Fortin, it’s a must see.

That same day, I climbed Mont Royal. It’s a total bitch to do – and people in far better shape than me were struggling – but when you reach the top, the panoramic views of the city are impressive. If you can swing it, do it. If you can’t, take a cab. Either way, it’s worth checking out.

On my second day, I took the Metro (old and loud, but still more efficient than the Toronto Transit Commission) to see the Biodome, Olympic Stadium and Planetarium. The Biodome was cool (at times literally), and its penguins stole the show – so cute. The stadium looked cool (even though IT’s old and inefficient), and the planetarium was a special treat – as the one in Toronto shut down in 1995.

On my third and final day, I visited the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, took a cruise along the St Lawrence River, and hung out in Old Montreal. The art museum was really good, but the contemporary collection at the Museum of Fine Arts was better. The cruise was a great way to spend an hour (I love being out on the water), and Old Montreal was beautiful – few cities in Canada have as much history.

The highlight of the trip: The Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montreal. While the building’s exterior is nothing special, its sanctuary is spectacular. So much has been thrown into its design – and everything is incredibly intricate – yet it’s not at all gaudy. I haven’t visited many churches, but I just can’t imagine one more stunning.

A few observations:

Montreal is arguably Canada’s most bilingual city. Just about everyone in the downtown core speaks English fluently. The rest of Canada could do better.

Montrealers are warm and welcoming. Most Canadians are though – even in Toronto.

There are no recycling bins on the city’s streets. Really Montreal? That’s just plain weird.

The city is known for its smoked meat. Make sure you try some. It’s delicious.

Autumn at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Attention all art lovers: there are currently two stellar exhibitions showing at the AGO. If you act now, you can see them both before the Turner show takes over in November.


ABOVE: Georgia O’Keefe, Black Messa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Maries II, 1930, oil on canvas mounted on board, 24.25 x 36.25 inches, Georgia O’Keefe Museum, Santa Fe (Picturing the Americas)

BELOW: David McMillan, View of Forest from Dental Hospital, Pripyat, October 2012, inkjet print, 21.6 x 27.5 inches, © David McMillan (Camera Atomica)

Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from the Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic

Containing 118 paintings, prints and drawings from 11 countries, and encompassing multiple themes, Picturing the Americas is ambitious to say the least.

While this ambition has resulted in mixed reviews from critics, I think the average museumgoer will really enjoy this show. Almost every piece is beautiful, and for that reason alone, it’s worth checking out.

Although it opened on June 20th, I was only recently able to check it out. If you’re a procrastinator like me, you’ve got 10 more days (2 weekends) to see it.

Camera Atomica

Another ambitious exhibition, Camera Atomica encompasses the postwar period between the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the triple meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Addressing weapons proliferation, waste disposal, and climate change, this show is about as heavy as you can get, and not surprisingly, the photos within it are often bleak and depressing. That is the point though, and that is why you should see it.

Unlike the show above, this one’s on until November 20th. It’s also free with admission.

Art vs. Gentrification

Toronto is in the midst of a condo boom and as a result, some of its top galleries are being forced to relocate. Hopefully, they will continue to thrive in their new digs.


Two weeks ago, I attended the final exhibition of the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (MOCCA) in a building set to be torn down, and replaced with a condo. While MOCCA will live on in another location, the area it left behind will never be the same. To make matters worse, the Clint Roenisch and Edward Day Galleries have been displaced as well.

While the building itself is nothing special, it did serve as an anchor for contemporary art in Toronto, and the shows that took place behind its walls were often special. The same cannot be said for the condo set to take over. It will contribute nothing to the arts community.

As it is in many cities, gentrification is leading to a mass exodus from neighborhoods previously friendly to artists/galleries, and as a result, the arts scene in Toronto is becoming increasingly fragmented. If it keeps up, you will no longer be able to go for a walk and see a lot of art. Instead, you’ll have to cross the city, bouncing from one solitary space to another. This is not good.

To the residents of the soon to be built condo: Buy. Local. Art.

August: American Artist Appreciation Month

Seems there’s an “appreciation/awareness” month for everyone/thing. For American artists, there’s August. For Canadian artists, there’s nothing. Sorry Canada.


ABOVE: Stephen Andrews, Auditorium, 2009-2015, oil on canvas, 72 x 95.75 inches, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Sandwiched between National Ice Cream Month (yummy) and Orthostatic Tremor Awareness Month (oh my) sits American Artist Appreciation Month. As a Canadian, I’ve decided to co-opt this, and write about fellow Canuck, Stephen Andrews.

Writing a blog post every week is sometimes a challenge, so this past weekend, I went in search of shows to write about. My first stop was the Art Gallery of Ontario. I’d originally planned on reviewing “Picturing the Americas” or “Camera Atomica,” but waiting on a friend, I wandered deeper into the museum, and discovered the work of Stephen Andrews. Although Toronto based, I’d never heard of him before.

As an artist, I love ambiguity, and there is often a huge difference between the aesthetics of my work, and their intended meaning. The same can be said for Stephen Andrews – where it not for the descriptions beside each piece, one would have no idea what they represent. While many of them reference major events, a few deal with personal loss. Having addressed the same theme in works past, I can relate.

A lot of Andrews art is quite beautiful; almost all of it is very dark. I’m not sure I’d want to hang out with him (too much of a downer), but I will definitely follow from afar. It’s amazing what you can discover when killing time.

Happy American Artist Appreciation Month everyone.

Social Networks Reviewed

As every artists should, I promote myself and my blog via social networks. While I’ve yet to try them all (or even utilize them properly), here are some that I have used.


Behance: Resource for artists to display their work and network for creative jobs

Less customizable than it used to be, but still offers more control over images than anyone else. Catering exclusively to creatives, it lacks the reach of mainstream sites.

Facebook: World’s largest social networking site

Its fan/business pages aren’t really set up for artists (not enough control over image order/organization), but most of the art worlds heavy hitters are here – along with everyone else.

Flickr: Image and video hosting

If image quality is your thing, then this site is for you. Not much of a social network, but a great place to store your photos.

Google+: Interest-based social media

Short on serious arts journalism and heavy on bad art, this is one of the least intuitive networks around – try posting to your business page while away from your desktop to see what I mean. Slick interface though.

Instagram: Mobile photo/video sharing

The perfect complement to an artist’s website, and one of the most important mobile apps around. Use it to show off your creative side.

LinkedIN: Business-orientated social networking

More art professors and professionals than anywhere else, the group discussions on this site are often quite good – especially when it comes to art marketing.

Pinterest: Photo sharing

Not just for your art, this site is a great way to show your other interests. Unleash your inner curator.

Reddit: An entertainment, social networking, and news website

Despite its reputation, there are a lot of intelligent discussions about art taking place here. It blocks you from posting comments /links way too much. Way. Too. Much.

Stumbleupon: A web search engine that finds content based on user preferences

One of the biggest time sucks around, this site is a must for all bloggers.

Twitter: Microblogging service

An excellent source of information for any one of your interests, and another must for all bloggers. Some people ‘tweet’ far too often. Unfollow them.