Category Archives: Canadian Art

Big in Japan, David Trautrimas

It’s hard to believe that the last time I saw David Trautrimas was nearly 6 years ago. I visited his Toronto studio last week, which is nestled in a small upstairs apartment on a tree-lined street not too far from the Wychwood Barns. At that time, I couldn’t help but notice the white splashes of hair book-ending his familiar face. Silently, I noted these superficial markers of age as confirmation of the long intermission between my visits. My perception of this interval evolved after we began our discussion of the developments within his practice and his career.

During my first visit, I characterized the artist as young, emergent and on the brink of an exciting career. He had just completed his first museum show at MOCCA, and was embarking upon a public project for Redpath Sugar. His career was budding. The protracted time between my two documentations conveniently archives Trautrimas’ transition into his mid-career phase.  It’s interesting to compare how long six years appears in terms of an artist’s collection of grey hairs, versus how abbreviated it seems in terms of the progression of an artistic career.

From "One Empire Wide," referencing the iconic "Sam the Recordman" signage.

Sam’s, from “One Empire Wide,” referencing the iconic “Sam the Recordman” signage.

Prior to his most recent images, the last body of work I remember seeing was from his One Empire Wide series. Within this first sculptural series, Trautrimas created miniature ice-fishing huts. Like the actual structures, which northern Canadians often create from reclaimed material, Trautrimas’ inventions refer to debris created by defunct articles in Canadian history. Sam the Record Man, the Avro Arrow, Northern Telecom and other  examples of archetypal expired Canadiana have become  themes recycled to comprise each maquette.

"The Bloedel," from "One Empire Wide," references a Canadian forestry company purchased by a US company.

“The Bloedel,” from “One Empire Wide,” references a Canadian forestry company purchased by a US company.

The portability of these wee architectural imitations facilitated the artist’s participation in a cross-cultural art exchange in Japan, led by Toronto artist Daisuke Tayeka. The Field-Trip Project turned 70 traditional Japanese school-children’s knapsacks, (originally collected to be used as relief supplies after the Fukushima disaster) into a mobile art exhibition which circulated the art of Japanese and Canadian artists into remote Japanese communities.

"The Dollar Bill," from "One Empire Wide," references the Canadian dollar bill, which was replaced by "the loonie" in 1987.

“The Dollar Bill,” from “One Empire Wide,” references the Canadian dollar bill, which was replaced by “the loonie” in 1987.

Life, after-lives, the perception of the passing of time, these motifs dotted our recent exchange in much the same way as they have embellished Trautrimas’ work over the past few years. Always a part of his work, a deeper focus on dissolution has emerged circumstantially and unintentionally, but not inconsequentially.  In April of 2013, a week after his return from Japan, the artist suffered a life changing bicycle accident; a hit and run which left him unable to practice his art for a full year. During that same year, he lost a close family member to their struggle with cancer. In April 2014, he decided to visit Detroit to rehabilitate his creative practice. After being accepted at an artist residency at Popp’s Packing  in the Hamtramck district of Detroit, he spent a month wandering streets which breath constant metaphors of death, reincarnation, destruction and renewal. He describes these aimless peregrinations as sojourns to “the thin place,” likening his profound sensation of time-elapse to walking within the gap between this world and the next.

Flinched and Seized

Flinched and Seized

Like so many contemporary artists, the candid entropy of the streets of Detroit has left Trautrimas smitten.  Along with the now  apocryphal (and possibly obligatory) recounting of real-estate opportunities the city has to offer, Trautrimas’ eyes seemed to gloss over with a sort of lovelorn idealism as he recounted the “ad-hoc” socialism at the backbone of the Detroit art community. Similarly, his anecdote about watching firefighters socialize as they stood idly watching an abandoned house burn illustrated the kind of legendary mythology Detroit increasingly embodies. Apparently, the grim magic of this place soothed his desperate need for a fresh creative start. Out of the studio, the wealth of subject matter he gleaned from his city walks left him with hundreds of images from which he created his most recent body of work.

Piles and Ether

Piles and Ether

Interestingly, despite the fact that all of his source material is shot on location, he decision to shoot only on overcast days enabled him to achieve a kind of studio-uniformity that comes with artificially diffused light.  The result is a series of seamlessly joined images forming impossibly degraded structures. This series, Eidolon Point was recently shown at Trautrimas’ second exhibition in Japan, this time a solo show at the Canadian Embassy which commenced March 18 and continued until May  5, 2015.

Me and My Head

Me and My Head

In an almost ironic departure from his Detroit inspired architectural deterioration, Trautrimas’ current project is a public work for the ICE condo development in downtown Toronto on York Street footing the Gardiner Expressway. Occupancy of these brand new buildings is expected early this summer. For his proposal, Trautrimas conceived a series of permanent benches which offer the weary pedestrian a guardrail backrest to lean on. In another design for the same set of developments, the artist has used the patterning from a tire tread as a decorative enclosure for some unsightly plumbing. The work, which pays homage to the changing demographic of the area, will be unveiled some time during the late summer or early fall.

Concept drawing for ICE condo guard-rail park-bench.

Concept drawing for ICE condo guard-rail park-bench.

Concept drawing for tire-tread inspired landscape fence at ICE condos, Toronto.

Concept drawing for tire-tread inspired landscape fence at ICE condos, Toronto.

Header image Geometry of Loss, from the Eidolon Point series.

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Love Art is Back!

Toronto’s newest alternative art fair is back for its second year. The exhibition is Canada’s incarnation of The Affordable Art Fair which started in London in 1999. The show features a variety of art from local, national and international galleries, in a wide range of prices all for sale below the maximum $10,000 price tag.

For more information on the show, and highlights from last year, check out my post from last year’s show. If you’re interested in attending this year, follow this link for your free general admission tickets. The show starts tomorrow, April 17, and runs throughout the weekend at the Direct Energy Centre.

Take a look at some works that will be featured in this year’s show.

Brandy Masch Mayberry Fine Art Seasside, 2009, Gouache on paper.

Brandy Masch Mayberry Fine Art
Seasside, 2009, Gouache on paper.

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HIDE, 2014 by Shari Weschler Rubeck Watercolour Graphite on Paper, 22×16″ Carver Hill Gallery

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La planète poussée par le temps, 2008 by Suzanne Olivier Oil on canvas, 40×50″ Beaux Arts Des Ameriques​

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2011/2, 2011 by Jean-Jacques Duval Acrylic on Canvas, 24×36″ Beaux Arts Des Ameriques

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Only Blue by MM Acrylic and Epoxy on Wood, 40×40 Arteria Gallery

Love Art Preview

My daughter really is becoming a lady-about-town. Last night I had a lovely dinner at Bent on Dundas. Upon our entrance the hostess said “Sterling! I remember your smile from your visits to Mildred’s Temple Kitchen.” Wow. I might have to begin marketing this. That was Sterling’s second evening jaunt of the week. On Wednesday, she joined myself and my husband along with the lovely abstract painter and OCAD/Waterloo instructor Linda Martinello to the evening preview of the Toronto’s inaugural edition of the Love Art Fair.

Lulupa Hutong, Huang Kai, $7869, 134x 94cm This is one of four woodcuts that fit together to create the entire street of a Beijing Hutong- the rapidly disappearing old school communist neighbourhoods.  For more on Beijing's vibrant art scene see this previous post.

Lulupa Hutong, Huang Kai, $7869, 134x 94cm. China Print Art Gallery. This is one of four woodcuts that fit together to create the entire street of a Beijing Hutong- the rapidly disappearing old school communist neighbourhoods. For more on Beijing’s vibrant art scene see this previous post.

I’ve got to say, art fairs really are the way to go with toddlers, as there is so much more art at their level. Not to mention the kid-friendly zones that sometimes happen (the Artist Project sets up a nice space for kids). The “kid zone” was mostly closed for the preview, but Sterling still tried her hand at crayon wall-art- (fun, but not a habit I wish to establish really)

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With house red in hand, I was easily able to patrol the relatively small space- a refreshing change from the visual onslaught of Art Toronto- and get a few pics of some of the offerings on display. I’ve included prices in the captions to give all of you burgeoning collectors an idea of what to expect.

Douglas Walker,R-281, Oil on Paper on Canvas on Panel, Framed, 30" x 110", $7500, Parts Gallery. The glossy oil paint combined with the tiled effect tricked me into thinking this whale painting was actually a tiled piece.

Douglas Walker,R-281, Oil on Paper on Canvas on Panel, Framed, 30″ x 110″, $7500, Parts Gallery. The glossy oil paint combined with the tiled effect tricked me into thinking this whale painting was actually a tiled piece.

Douglas Walker, R-282, Oil on Paper on Panel, Framed, 24" x 32", $1900

Douglas Walker, R-282, Oil on Paper on Panel, Framed, 24″ x 32″, $1900

 

If you haven’t already picked up a two-for-one card at participating galleries (I saw some piled in the window at PM Gallery) use the promo code LoveART241 to order your half price tix online. Also, with Sunday as mother’s day, mom’s get in free with a plus one, and kids under 12 are free also. Perfect place for a mother’s day gift to remember.

 

Kevin Grass, Suburbia, Acrylic on Panel, 35"x53", $9500, Evan Lurie Gallery

Kevin Grass, Suburbia, Acrylic on Panel, 35″x53″, $9500, Evan Lurie Gallery

 

Cluca, Day Life Heroes, Oil on Paper, 50"x50", 2014, $8500, Galerie Youn

Cluca, Day Life Heroes, Oil on Paper, 50″x50″, 2014, $8500, Galerie Youn

Jonathan Savoie, Aerial Tokyo #10, Chromira Print edition of 10,  24"x16.5", 2010 Galerie Youn. $1100

Jonathan Savoie, Aerial Tokyo #10, Chromira Print edition of 10, 24″x16.5″, 2010 Galerie Youn. $1100

A first peek at Contact

Sterling enjoyed her first press conference this week. Missing the remarks, I’d venture to say that her personal highlight of the Contact Media Preview was playing tag with MOCCA head of operations Brett Despotovich. She was also particularly entranced by Tundrunning, a looping video by Canadian artist Dominique Rey, which features the artist running through the snow and falling, clad in an absurd fluorescent green costume typical of those created for the series.

Dominique Rey

The figures in the works are all covered in layers of stuffed nylon stockings, sometimes hanging testicularly with filled water balloons or mounds of plush white cellulite. Similar in some ways to Cindy Sherman’s explorations of feminine persona, all of the photos document Rey in various uninhibited attempts to uncover “the other within.” In a short conversation, Rey described how analysis of her previous works unearthed a preoccupation with women on the outskirts of society. Rey has photographed the entire virgin/whore gamut- pretty literally- from documenting a disappearing order of nuns to living with exotic dancers.

Through the pieces on show this May at MOCCA, Rey embarked on the “futile” attempt to uncover the other within herself. Armed with a tickle-trunk of props, the artist travels to remote locations- mostly in her native Manitoba- and frees herself in bizarre posture play.

I was also lucky enough to have a chat with the gentle and engaging young Meryl McMaster. (You can also see some of her work on permanent display in Liberty Village in the foyer of the Mildred’s Temple Kitchen/Goodlife Fitness building) Her photos also feature herself in a variety of identities. The works were inspired by the “solo” portions of two Outward Bound trips she took in her mid-teens. During these adventures, participants are given the knowledge and tools to survive by themselves for three days in the wilderness. Half First-Nations herself, McMaster easily drew the connections between these sometimes boring, sometimes terrifying and ultimately expansive moments to the vision quests routinely embarked upon by native youth.

Wind Play, Meryl McMaster, 2012, courtesy of Katzman Contemporary

Wind Play, Meryl McMaster, 2012, courtesy of Katzman Contemporary

Each of the works in her series are inspired by a diverse interplay of a remembering of personal emotions and the attempt to delve into her cultural history. In Wind Play, McMaster conjures the excited youthful expansiveness of her Outward Bound vision quest into an enchanted personification of a playful beast that easily evokes sasquatches’ own first ecstasy trip. The artist created the costume by sewing together 5000 long balloons (the kind used for making balloon animals).

Contact officially kicks off tonight with an opening party at MOCCA. Tomorrow, join Material Self photographers Namsa Leuba, Dominique Rey and David Favrod for a talk at the gallery at 11:30am. Also, come to the gallery for a tour by curators Bonnie Rubenstein and David Liss on Wednesday, May 14 at 6pm.

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Namsa Leuba, Statuette Ndoki, Saleou Guinea, from the series Ya Kala Ben, 2011 courtesy of the artist

 

Header Image: Dominique Rey, After the Shower, 2011

Looks good on Papier

I may have been just as excited for Sterling’s first train ride as I was for my first visit to Papier 14 this weekend. We arrived late Saturday afternoon, around the same time as the rain. Our late arrival caused me to miss Bill Clarke’s talk at the fair on Friday, and Leah Sandal’s talk on Saturday, though I’ve been catching up with some of their exploits on Facebook… The show was smaller than I had initially envisioned, but I have to give credit to Montreal for it’s wonderful support of the event. The red carpet, mushy and frothing with rain invigorated soap, was well worn by the constant stream of visitors piling into the pay-what-you-can exhibition.

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Wren Noble, At the Dance I, DC3 Gallery

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Wren Noble, Pigeons 2011, DC3 at Papier 14

 

Having a toddler in tow inspired us to trade Papier’s ubiquitous glass of wine for one of the biggest and mentionably divine chocolate chip cookies from the café inside the tent. As Le Gallery’s owner and director, Wil Kucey mentioned, the show is an interesting and refreshing cross-section of Canadian art. The work is diverse, and like every fair, there is much to serve varying degrees of taste. While some galleries challenge the definition of “paper based art,” by showcasing novelties, others simply bring out their best in the offerings of drawing, printmaking and photography.

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Andre Dubois, sombre crepuscule- read my mind 2014, Galerie BAC

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Ted Barker, untitled 2009, Graphite on Paper, Galerie Laroche/Joncas

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Erika Dueck, Untitled- the ephemeral mind series 2014, Art Mur

 

Erika Dueck, Untitled- the ephemeral mind series 2014, detail, Art Mur

Erika Dueck, Untitled- the ephemeral mind series 2014, detail, Art Mur

While there were a few pieces that struck me from galleries farther afield, one of the most exciting parts of the show was previewing some of the impressive summer offerings coming to town to a few of my favourite galleries here in Toronto. At PM gallery, Amanda Clyne’s deconstructions (Excavating Artiface, on now) was hung beside Wil Murray’s series of renovated photographs. Using photographs taken from a book of early travel photos he purchased while living in Berlin (Die Welt in Farben), Murray uses various techniques (collage, painting) to manipulate the photographs and then creates a negative so that he can reprint the photos. They are then hand-coloured and remounted onto their original pages from the book. Powell MacDougall, owner of the gallery, was excited about the recent purchase of three of these unique works into the RBC collection.

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Wil Murray’s work at PM Gallery, Papier 14

At Le Gallery, a massive example of one of Tristram Lansdowne’s surreal landscapes was unmissable. Two smaller works by the young artist, who was recently accepted to do his Master’s program at RISD, show eager experimentation into less narrative work. (Unfortunately I doubt his path will cross with his talented friend and Le colleague, Amanda Nedham who will likely be finished her current studies at the institution). Also of note were the grotesque Asian scroll works by artist Howie Tsui.

Finally, Balint Zsako’s mix and match drawings, displayed on a thin shelf running across the centre of Mulherin’s booth, created a minimalist space that drew instant attention in its contrast with the other galleries at the show. Each of the small framed watercolours, which are sold exclusively in pairs or larger denominations, is created to fit together seamlessly with any of the other works from the series. Apparently, the artist came to Katherine Mulherin with the concept days after the gallerist was approached about coming to the fair for her first time. Zsako, who was in attendance at the fair, will return home to complete the series which will exhibit all summer.

Balint Zsako's work on display at Katherine Mulherin, Papier 14

Balint Zsako’s work on display at Katherine Mulherin, Papier 14

Don’t be Afraid to Ask

I joined Nicole Milkovich of the Love Art Fair, Alison Milne, and Anthea Baxter, director of Alison Milne Gallery at the Spoke Club this week for an informal presentation on starting an art collection. The overarching message of the talk was to get over any fears you might have of the “art world” and trust your own instincts about judging the merit of art. The trio related a series of common sense strategies on the topic of starting an art collection. As they stressed the fact that commercial galleries are retail spaces, their tips came down to sensible shopping advice. Here are a few:

  • Shop around- go to many galleries, art shows and fairs, openings, read magazines and blogs, get on gallery mailing lists- with the purpose of defining your personal taste in art.
  • Educate yourself- ask gallerists for price lists, read about different mediums so that you understand what your are buying.
  • Trust yourself- don’t be afraid to look stupid, acknowledge that different people have different tastes in art and that your preference is valid.
Aqueous-ii, Crystal Wagner, 2013, PM Gallery, $2100. This paper relief sculpture (framed in a shadow box) was featured during the talk as an example of work that may be found at the fair.

Aqueous-ii, Crystal Wagner, 2013, PM Gallery, $2100. This paper relief sculpture (framed in a shadow box) was featured during the talk as an example of work that may be found at the fair.

Milne relayed her own story of entering the art world.  Working as an interior designer, she decided she needed art on the walls of her showroom. She decided to ask an artist friend, Harvey Valentine, if she use his art. At the end of a relaxed evening and $24,000 later, Valentine had sold his entire show and Milne had decided on a new career venture.

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During the closing question and answer period the topic of art as an investment was broached. After comparisons to the stock market and playing your numbers were mentioned, Milkovich related an anecdote about a person who began collecting by buying a piece of work from an artist friend who needed money. The anecdotal starving-artist was Mark Rothko, which led to Milkovich’s advice “buy for love and if it’s a good investment you can be smug about your purchase later.”

Tonya Corkey, drier lint pulled through canvas,  2013, Alison Milne Gallery. The work was featured as an example of what to expect at Love Art Fair.

Tonya Corkey, drier lint pulled through canvas, 2013, Alison Milne Gallery. The work was featured as an example of what to expect at Love Art Fair.

The Love Art Fair runs May 8-11, 2014. For more about the show read my earlier post.

Header image: Ric Santon, a history over large and small accidents, 2007
acrylic on wood, 60″ X 54″, Parts Gallery. Santon’s work was showcased during the talk as an example of art that may be found at Love Art Fair.

Contact is coming!

The website for the ScotiaBank Contact Photography Festival is up and running, so check it out if you haven’t already picked up one of the glossy manuals that are circulate the city at this time of year. The festival, which is the largest of it’s kind in the world, turns Toronto into a hub of the photographed image bringing the works of world-class photographers to the galleries and streets of our evermore cosmopolitan city.

I’m looking forward to hopefully chatting with Canada’s preeminent photographer Stan Douglas (fingers crossed) as well as emerging artist and new mother Elaine Chan-Dow.

Stan Douglas, MacLeod

Stan Douglas at Ryerson Image Centre

The festival kicks off on May 2, 2014 at MOCCA. Take a look at the website for full details of artist talks and exhibition details and peruse some of the photos below for some exhibitions that are not to be missed. Also keep your eyes peeled for billboards along Dundas Street West, Spadina and Front street NE corner, Queens Park Subway Station, Metro Hall, and Pearson Intl. Airport, among other public locations.

Michael Awad, The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, 2014

Michael Awad, The Entire City Project, ROM

Rob Hornstra, Mikhail Karabelnikov, Sochi, Russia, 2009

Rob Hornstra at Contact Gallery

Fausta Facciponte, The Opening, 2013

Fausta Facciponte at The Art Gallery of Mississauga

 

Varial Cédric Houin, Marbet, 2011

Varial Cedric Houin at Arsenal Toronto

Gordon Parks, Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956

Gordon Parks at Nicholas Metivier Gallery

Header Image: Max Dean at Harbourfront Centre