Category Archives: Canadian Art

Save the date: Love Art

I had the chance to preview some offerings from the Love Art Contemporary Art Fair this week at the trendy social club, Soho House (if the lemon scones are an accurate sample of the fare I can see why people pay the membership fee).  Brought to us by the creators of the 15 year old international “Affordable Art Fair,” the fair targets first time art buyers without compromising quality.  The show will feature the work of both emerging and established artists from all fine art disciplines in a relatively intimate setting of around 50 galleries from Canada and abroad.

Even though it is a collection of galleries, the similarities between this show and say, Art Toronto, stop there. Remember, this organization wants anyone to be able to “love art” regardless of their cultural knowledge or financial demographic, so they have established a framework of rules upon which the fair operates.

  • All work is between $100 and $10,000 with over half the work priced under $5,000.
  • Fair guide and website will have a section to feature work under $1,500 and visitors can look for pink stickers on gallery walls highlighting work under $1,000.
  • Each gallery is required to feature the work of at least three artists.
  • Galleries are encouraged to educate consumers about payment plans and other methods of acquiring pieces.
  • The fair offers educational talks, workshops and activities for kids

The fair itself was started in London by Will Ramsay in 1999 after the success of “Will’s Art Warehouse” a shop with the intention of increasing interest in the contemporary art scene by offering pieces by relatively unknown artists at low prices.  Toronto is now one of 15 countries participating in the fair, with this event scheduled to be the 99th show in the series.

Here’s a sneak peak of some work and galleries you will find at the show.

Ilyna Martinez, Untitled 1226, Spence Gallery, $600

Ilyna Martinez, Untitled 1226, Spence Gallery, $600

Ivan Markovic,"The Ruffian," Galerie D'Este, $6,000

Ivan Markovic,”The Ruffian,” Galerie D’Este, $6,000

Ivan Prusac, "White Horse," #Hashtag Gallery, $4,000

Ivan Prusac, “White Horse,” #Hashtag Gallery, $4,000

Yury Darashkevich, "Towards the Light," Abbozzo Gallery, $6,200

Yury Darashkevich, “Towards the Light,” Abbozzo Gallery, $6,200

Amanda Clyne, "Winterhalter (Olga), Erased, P/M Gallery, $1800Amanda Clyne, “Winterhalter (Olga), Erased, P/M Gallery, $1800

Alison Milne Gallery_Rafa Macarron_Noche de Estrellas_Mixed Media on canvas_57x44x2_6800

Rafa Macarron, “Noche de Estrellas,” Alison Milne Gallery, $6,800

The Love Art Contemporary Art Fair will take place at Heritage Court, Direct Energy Centre, from May 7-May 11, 2014. Regular admission is $12. If you miss it, stay tuned for the full review!

Header Image: Meghan Hildebrand, “Cumberbund Longline Sunset Turncoat,” Mayberry Fine Art, $3,300

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Ian Willms: The Path of Least Resistance

I caught up with Ian Willms at his current show, The Road to Nowhere, at Toronto’s Contact Gallery. The gallery is among one of our city’s growing number of permanent festival spin-off spaces (think Tiff Bell light-box or the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema), with an aim to showcase excellence in photography throughout the year.  It’s unsurprising that Willm’s work would end up there, as he was the recipient of the Contact’s 2013 portfolio award, among numerous other distinctions.

Mennonite girls in their home in the Mennonite village of Kichkass.

The Road to Nowhere features a series of 25 black and white photos documenting the artist’s pilgrimage to Europe to follow in the painful footsteps of his Mennonite ancestors pushed into Siberia from the Netherlands several centuries ago.  The project officially began on Willm’s first relatively short-lived trip to Amsterdam in March 2012. Unwilling to go into detail, the ruminative young photographer mentioned that this leg of the project culminated in a week of solitary tea-drinking at a friend’s apartment in Vancouver.

Novosibirsk region, Russia: The overgrown cementary of the Siberian village of Neudachino, which translates from Russian into "no luck."

Novosibirsk region, Russia: The overgrown cementary of the Siberian village of Neudachino, which translates from Russian into “no luck.”

Talking to Willms is an educative encounter. One gets the feeling that if he had not pursued photography he might be “happily” dedicating his life to the plight of some uber-humanitarian NGO. While he mentions that it is serendipity that brought him to photography in the first place (he won his first camera in a photography contest using a disposable camera) and serendipity that allows the medium to function, it is the emotional background of his subject matter that draws his photos to the depths more profound than chance.

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Willms explained to me in enough detail the history of the Anabaptists- the spiritual group that eventually became the Mennonites. Formed in the Netherlands in the 1500s their key beliefs included a strong dedication to the separation between church and state combined with a fierce adherence to pacifism.  Riding the rails on the Trans-Siberian Railway and using some uplifting text courtesy of Ayn Rand as fuel for his meditations on persecution, Willms used his Leica M (chosen in part due to the thematic connection of the Leica Freedom Train) to document haltingly bleak landscapes where mostly only the memory of persecution still exists. It’s notable that the presence of the figure, especially the face, in these works is rare. In retracing the steps of this journey to a new home, the hopeful part of Willms dispiriting reverie was to find an intact Mennonite village at the end of the line. It’s nonexistence, due to mostly to cultural assimilation inflicted by the Soviets, underlines his motif of cultural extinction.  With the people largely erased from the images, it is often the captions provided in the gallery booklet which mark the images with the crucial dose of human misery. Aware of the potent connection between the text and imagery in this series, Willms plans to continue the project by returning to Amsterdam in the winter to take more photos until he has enough to warrant turning the project into a book.

Bashkir region, Russia: Regina a distant relative of Ian's plays in the countryside near the village of Davlekavnovo.

Bashkir region, Russia: Regina a distant relative of Ian’s plays in the countryside near the village of Davlekavnovo.

For Willms, this project signifies a life-long desire to connect to his roots. Finding his grand-father’s house and subsequently discovering long-lost relatives is the kind of personification that likely keeps a project like this from disintegrating into the abstract.  In his other current series, As long as the Sun Shines, which seeks to draw the connection between Canada’s current mining of the Alberta Oil Sands and the colonial abuses suffered by our Indigenous peoples, the lack of personal history is likely offset by the perpetual misery of our First Nations Peoples.

Future plans include a South American motorcycle tour with his father and an editorial trip to Haiti the day after our gallery meeting. Both will likely focus on his talent of highlighting the melancholic beauty of human suffering. The Road to Nowhere is at Contact Gallery until March 7. Ian Willms will be at the gallery on February 15 to discuss the work.

Aside

The first time I met Bogdan Luca was at an opening at Neubacher Shor Contemporary. It may well have been the opening of Neubacher Shor, but I can’t say I remember. I do remember that it was one of those rare nights … Continue reading

60 Painters

If you haven’t made your way to the 60 Painters exhibition at the Humber Arts and Media Studios, you should take the time to make the trek. The exhibition aims to show a comprehensive overview of contemporary Canadian painting by both emerging and established artists. At times the definition of “painting” seems a bit loose with the presence of mixed media and sculpture works, but it definitely succeeds in presenting a broad range of current Canadian talent.

Toronto painting is well represented, with some fantastic pieces by artists I have written about in the past including Tristram Lansdowne, Dorian FitzGerald and Bogdan Luca. The show offers a convenient opportunity to see work from elsewhere in Canada also.  Below are some highlights.

From Douglas Udell Gallery in Edmonton and Vancouver comes Natalka Husar’s eerie portrait The background that follows you. It’s painted on vintage Soviet lenticular (that kind of picture covered in a ridged plastic that moves when you shift your viewpoint). The sharp realism of the figure against a comparatively stark natural background prevents the image from reaching novelty proportion.

Melanie Authier

In Melanie Authier’s large acrylic work, Scavenger, the viewer’s perspective is prompted to constantly shift to make sense of the intense movement and abstract materialism of the piece.

Martin Golland’s oil painting, Perch, offers the viewer a similar kind of surreal abstract material frenzy.

Natalka Husar

For some reason, Nicole Vogelzang’s delightfully realistic Sloth hangs from a cluster of ghostly crystals.

60 Painters runs until June 19, 2012 at the Humber Arts and Media Centre in Etobicoke.

Header image from Bogdan Luca‘s painting The Crossing.