Gallery Gazing in Toronto

My review of the 14th Annual Toronto International Art Fair (Art Toronto). Far from perfect, but not a total wash.

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ABOVE: RBC Painting Competition Finalist: Sean Weisgerber, Untitled, 2013

Last weekend, galleries from far and wide came to exhibit at the 14th Annual Toronto International Art Fair (Art Toronto). As I am currently without representation, I decided to run a reconnaissance mission to gauge the talent on display.

Although the fair lacked the star power synonymous with shows south of the border, there were several brand name artists up for grabs including Andy Warhol, Jean Paul Riopelle & Damien Hirst.

While I can appreciate a Hirst print as much as the next guy, I found the more expensive art to be amongst the least interesting. As pretty as many of the pieces were, they just weren’t fresh.

That said, there was some tremendous art on display throughout the fair. Below are some of my highlights:

NEXT: By far my favorite part of the whole fair, the NEXT section showcased emerging galleries and artists from across Canada and around the world. The works on display were edgier and more experimental than those in the rest of the fair.

RBC Painting Competition Finalists: While the winners were given a wall all to their own, the finalists could be found in various booths throughout the fair. Two of my favorites were: Sean Weisgerber (Wil Aballe Art Projects) and Tristam Lansdowne (LE Gallery).

Oh Canada: While the heavy hitters of the art world chose not to come, there was plenty of home grown talent on display. Showcasing the work of Mitch Mitchell, Edmonton’s dc3 Art Projects was as good a booth as any.

Wil Aballe Art Projects, Vancouver, BC: One of the smallest booths at the fair, owner Wil Aballe brought an eclectic mix of non-traditional pieces to Art Toronto. It worked.

Stage One of My Artistic Process

I recently took my camera on a trek across Toronto and along the way, I captured almost everything that came across my path. This is how many of my projects begin.

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building 1

ABOVE: Before  

BELOW: After

building 2

I recently took my camera on a trek across Toronto and along the way, I captured almost everything that came across my path.

Good or bad, I deleted nothing and finished the day with plenty of shots to choose from.

Once home, I began pulling needles from the haystack and in so doing, selected an initial batch of ten.

I printed the chosen ten then removed various elements from them via tracing paper.

This is how many of my projects begin.

Stage two to come.

Random Art Thoughts

“Even if you dislike certain artists/movements, you need to know why they are important and how they have influenced other artists/movements.” Me.

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ABOVE: David McDonough, Jelly, digital photograph

I’ve been out of sorts this week and unable to focus on much of anything.

In lieu of a formal blog entry, I have decided to throw a few of my random art thoughts onto the screen. Hopefully, some stick:

  • Whether you are self-taught or not, you must study art history – religiously.
  • As art history is still being written, you should study the works of today as much as the works of yesteryear.
  • Even if you dislike certain artists/movements, you need to know why they are important and how they have influenced other artists/movements.
  • Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it isn’t art.
  • Just because it offends you, doesn’t mean it isn’t art.
  • You don’t have to like everything the ‘smart set’ does. Art critics aren’t always right.
  • You can have all the technical skills in the world and still be a lousy artist. Critical thinking and the ability to apply concepts are incredibly important.
  • Even though most critics don’t think so, there is still a place for skill in art and there are a lot of people who still appreciate it.
  • You WILL get rejected…A LOT! Try not to take it personally.
  • Ignore the naysayers. Avoid them if you can.
  • If money’s your thing, you’re in for a rude awakening.
  • Sales are important but they are not the be-all and end-all of being an artist.
  • You can have a day job and still be a full-fledged artist.
  • Create because you love to / Create because you have no other choice.
  • Follow trends but follow your heart first.
  • The most talented artists aren’t necessarily the most successful.
  • The most successful artists are often the gutsiest. Don’t let fear stand in the way of your success.
  • Always believe in yourself and never give up.

Wow! That was cathartic.

Nuit Blanche 2013

Here is a short review of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche 2013, an all night art extravaganza. How cool is that? Pretty cool.

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rose

ABOVE: Boris Achour, The rose is without why, 2013, sculpture

BELOW: Kelly Richardson, Mariner 9, 2012, video installation

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This past Saturday, Nuit Blanche – an all night, art festival – took over the streets of Toronto.

Under a threatening sky, I joined a throng of thousands, and began my trek through the downtown core.

My first stop was Nathan Phillips Square where Ai Weiwei’s gargantuan sculpture, Forever Bicycles stood with imposing prominence. Hundreds of people stood around it taking hundreds of pictures.

Across the way, and emblazoned in neon, the words of an obscure German poet illuminated the square. The sculpture, titled The rose is without why by French artist Boris Acour was described in the Nuit Blanche program as follows:

“Mixing assorted elements stemming from highly diverse cultural and formal fields, Achour’s work establishes an open connective system in evolution based on the affirmation of the shape and the jubilation of the creation.”

Well duh! Of course it does.

A short walk from the square, stood Simon Franks Burrman. The artist himself was covered from head to toe in burrs, and the resulting look was that of a low-budget movie monster. It was a good look.

After snapping a few pics of the Burmann – who patiently posed for everyone – I narrowly dodged a mobile rave, then travelled further into Toronto’s financial district.

Over the next few hours, I took in a number of exhibits but truthfully, I found a great deal of what I saw underwhelming.

Eventually, I stumbled upon my favorite artwork of the night, Mariner 9 by UK artist Kelly Richardson.

I had been looking forward to seeing her video installation all week, and she definitely didn’t disappoint. I even liked the project description:

“This life-size, panoramic view of a Martian landscape is set hundreds of years in the future. Despite it’s suggested state of abandonment, several spacecraft continue to partially function and do their intended jobs, seeking signs of life, transmitting the data back to no one.”

Well said, and completely accessible. In a sea of academia, and downright pretension, I found this refreshing.

Finally, after cursing out some youngsters for milling about and being a general nuisance (not to their faces of course), it was time to call it a night.

I was home and in bed before the party really started, but it was a worthwhile experience, and I am already looking forward to next year.

Great Art Reads

I love to read, and I especially love to read about art. Here are some of my favorite art related books.

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books

I love to read, and I especially love to read about art.

Here are some of my favorite art related books:

My Name is Asher Lev – Chaim Potek

The conflict between tradition and individualism is examined in this coming of age story about a maturing Jewish artist in 1950’s New York City.

The Agony and the Ecstasy – Irving Stone

An in depth, biographical novel about the life and times of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Whether it be about the creation of a masterpiece or the goings on in the world around him, just about everything in this novel is informative and engaging.

Lust for Life – Irving Stone

Another one of Stone’s biographical novels, this time about Vincent Van Gogh. A compelling portrayal of history’s most famous tortured artist.

deKooning, An American Master – Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan

A thorough biography about one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

The Painted Word – Tom Wolfe

A controversial book that had the art world up in arms when it was first published in 1975. It still provokes today.

Picasso’s War – Russell Martin

The story behind Guernica, arguably the most important political artwork of the 20th century.

The Map and the Territory – Michel Houellebecq

A novel about fictitious French artist Jed Martin and his rise to fame. Houellebecq throws himself and some murder into the mix as well.

The Artist at Work – Albert Camus ( from Exile and the Kingdom)

A short story about a long struggling artist who finally finds success only to discover, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.