Tag Archives: Toronto Art

“50 Artworks. 50 Tickets. 1 Night”

After years of frugal contemplation, I finally decided to splurge for the $375 ticket to Open Studio’s annual fundraising event, “Editions.”  The concept behind this 30 year tradition is simple and exciting- your admission not only entitles you to free wine and delicious munchies, but it also guarantees that you will leave the party with an original piece of printed art. After about an hour of mingling, perusing the art, and composing their recommended “top ten list,” each couple with an art draw ticket (one ticket admits two to the event) is summoned to participate in the hour long draw.

lorna livey

The mechanization of the art draw mirrors the astute organization required for many printing processes. After a participant’s number is drawn, they are corralled into a small queue in which to wait. When it’s time, the partners have precisely one minute to choose an artwork. The couple is followed by an Open Studio volunteer, white gloved and ready to remove the print of their choice from the wall. Whatever remains of the exhibition at that time is up for grabs.


Last night, the gallery was charged with anticipation and a mild swelter. My own number was called about three quarters of the way through the draw. The disappointment in seeing my top choices peeled off the wall was mitigated not only by the free wine but also the camaraderie formed with those around me who emitted pained sighs at the same time as my own.

This year was the first year for the event to be held at Open Studio, which allowed visitors to wander amidst the presses and even witness a traditional lithography demonstration. Additional prints by members and non-members were for sale, and a raffle for various prizes took place at the end of the night.

The artworks are donated from a wide selection of artists both emergent and well-established. Here is a selection of a few more of the works which were available last night.



I ended up taking home this beautiful work by Loree Ovens. I look forward to her upcoming show in the fall at David Kaye Gallery.

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.


Wren Noble, At the Dance I, DC3 Gallery


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.


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


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


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.


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

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

Matt Bahen

I’m embarrassed to admit how long it’s been since I’ve been planning to post an article about Matt Bahen. I first became interested in him after last year’s “After Wolves” solo show at Le Gallery. The massive, heavily impasto pieces appealed to my strong love of dystopic fiction, as the scenes alternated between barren Canadian landscapes and demolished interiors- often with dogs standing or fighting within them. Similar motifs dominated the work in his show at the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie this summer. In the show you may have unfortunately just missed “Striking fire out of Rock,” at Le Gallery, Bahen has expanded his thematic repetoire to include empty ships and ubiquitous fleets of starlings. Apparently, according to gallery director Wil Kucey, the dog paintings were so popular that Bahen was at risk of becoming seen more of a crafter of candid canines than the serious conceptualist that I know him to be.



My second admission is that I’m writing this as my nearly two-year-old daughter is curled up in her stroller- which is parked in the living room- slumbering amidst dry coughing fits that haven’t quite woken her yet. She tends to want me to lay with her while we nap, though sometimes she falls asleep in her stroller, especially if I prime her with some of the froth from my latte, that said, my time is always limited. (the people at Crafted must think I’m nuts to be feeding a toddler coffee!)  So, with my apologies, most of the following article is taken from the visit I paid to Bahen’s Toronto studio last winter to see him in action, with photos from his shows at Le Gallery and the Maclaren Art Centre.


Striking Fire out of Rock 

Matt Bahen’s instructions on how to get to his studio swam through my mind as I struggled to maintain my balance while walking down an icy downtown Toronto alleyway. “There’s no number and no street name, but it’s not hard to find.” I was beginning to doubt this advice until I heard opera music blaring from behind a slightly open doorway.  “It’s Rossini, the Arias”, Bahen explains to me. “My buddy Steve left it here, I’m gonna get myself sophisticated,” he scoffs wryly, taking an urgent final drag of his cigarette.

Bahen appears much more humble than sophisticated. Dressed in plain black jeans, brown leather shoes and a functionally warm fleece sweater this artist’s common appearance belies the contemplative depths yet to be revealed later in our conversation. His studio is also unassuming.  His massive oil paintings are stacked against the walls in various states of completion and the floor is littered with containers of unknown article.  Basketball-sized mounds of excess paint are piled on a board in the centre of the space and in one corner there is a pile of hundreds of empty tubes of oil paint. The overwhelming smell of oil is the only thing warm about the studio.


As it the Noise were Thunder

Bahen pulls up a fold out chair for me and places it beside a tiny propane heater on the floor. In front of me is a nearly finished painting of one of his interiors. The scene portrays a once brilliant cathedral, now derelict.  Three stray dogs wander amidst the rubble on the floor of the church. The dystopic implication of these dogs was what initially drew me to Bahen’s work.  Never overt characters in the pieces, their presence within the broken interiors is immediately suggestive of a society no longer in control. Bahen points out that his interiors are full of light and life, and notes that the dogs represent a Virgil type character- to be trusted and feared simultaneously.

His unpopulated landscape works are somehow even less hopeful.  Painted in the same masterfully controlled yet excessively impasto style, in them we are thrust into grey, skyless mid-season desolation. Unlike the Group of Seven’s conceptualization of the untamed Canadian landscape, blooming with full colour palettes, these works are unconcerned with the viewer’s appreciation of actual wilderness that is often portrayed. Rather, Bahen is using his tormented muse to inspire works which provoke feelings of discomfort in the viewer. Bahen mentions a recent trip up to Orillia, “It all looks crummy up there. It is BLEAK. It takes grit to live here.”

photo (2)


And this man is no stranger to bleak. Having worked as an outreach street worker in downtown Toronto for the last nine years it’s easy to imagine why Bahen needs to have a beer in hand while creating what essentially seem to be visceral studies in suffering. He explains that his initial subjects for painting were war based- jets, snipers, armies, but after working so closely with Toronto’s least privileged, he eventually withdrew from the obvious subject matter of war in favour of more abstract emotional renditions.


When the Stars threw down their Spears

Currently, Matt Bahen is preparing for his second solo exhibition at Munch Gallery in New York at the end of April.

the weight of light

The Weight of Light

There are a bunch of fantastic exhibitions happening in Toronto at present. Stay tuned for another nap-time review prior to the new year.

Linda Martinello

It’s been a proud month in the galleries on Queen West for my alma mater, with two graduates from theSheridanCollege/UniversityofToronto Artand Art History program showing within steps of each other. Clint Roenisch was packed last Friday with onlookers cooing over Dorian FitzGerald’s glossy images of luxury.  A general giddiness surrounded those lucky enough to get a look through FitzGerald’s imported stereoscopic spectacles to view two smaller identical paintings at the back of the show pop into 3D.

Across the courtyard, the walls of Edward Day Gallery are filled with the work of young artist Linda Martinello, a current master’s student at University of Waterloo. We met over coffee to discuss travel, the exploration of self, the sublime, and of course, art. Probed by her mentor, Denise Thomasos, to fully explore the timeline of her artistic inspirations and resulting practice, Martinello was well prepped to reveal to me the biographical and esoteric roots of her work.

Simplistically, her work is an effort to recapture the sublime sensibility and temporary ability to discard one’s sense of self that can be experienced during travel. This kind of rhetoric comes after years of the artist questioning the validity of landscape art as contemporary practice. The doubts are unsurprising given the highly conceptual framework of her art education, but unfortunate considering how landscapes were the animus for Martinello’s choice to attend art school in the first place.

Sipping on her black coffee and becoming increasingly more inspirited, Martinello took me back to her first trip abroad to a small village inItalyfor her grandmother’s funeral. The surreal experiences of meeting family with whom she could hardly communicate, visiting a foreign cemetery filled with ancestors’ graves, and seeing her lifetime in framed photos in an unknown grandmother’s home introduced the artist to the addictive experience of exploring one’s identity while immersed in the unfamiliar.

Though this excursion fueled the artwork of her OAC year of high-school, leading to a scholarship in visual art, Martinello virtually abandoned the panorama as her muse until her next trip toItaly3 years later. A trip to her mother’s homeland,Mexico, the following year, and an entire year spent inItalythe subsequent year led Martinello back to landscape exploration. It wasn’t until her brother graduated from architecture school however, that the artist happened upon her current method of working.

Inheriting from him a large roll of mylar, Martinello was finally able to produce work with the same abandon that she was feeling during her journeys abroad. Let go from the all-to-common fear of destroying the perfection of a primed canvas, she began to experiment on seemingly disposable reams of the acquired roll. Large scale mylar works remain as Martinello’s signature style. After laying down a quick ground with oil paint using colours noted in extensive non-visual reference made during travel- mostly words jotted within streams of consciousness- Martinello retells her feelings of that place, and within that moment in time, using graphite on the wet paint.

Her increasingly abstract sketches cause one to imagine the graphite twirling through her fingers as she draws. The surface of the paint is scratched away to varying thicknesses by lines alternately undulating and slicing through her almost random colour palette. Though she approaches the initial space with a vision of the geographic surroundings within her imagination, she makes no attempt to match the black graphite lines with the accompanying background. The artist encourages the viewer’s mind to wander along with her own, as her lines stray onto the uncharted blank spaces of the page.

Increasingly, her motivations; inspirations and research are embedded in musings on perception and consciousness. Her process continues to spiral further into a sort of meditative automaticity and absorption into memory. It’s debatable whether these works can even be called landscapes in the traditional sense, when so much of their creation relies on the artist’s visceral experiences. Ironic really.

Linda Martinello’s paintings are on exhibition at Edward Day Gallery until Saturday, November 26, 2011.

With just five weeks until motherhood, and the wintery silence of the art world nearing, I am expecting this to be my last post of the year. Thanks so much to everyone for reading and I look forward to sharing my conversations again in the spring.

Feel free to become a follower to avoid the anxiety of having to check in anticipating my next  post…;) And most of all, happy holidays!

Dorian FitzGerald at Clint Roenisch

Dorian FitzGerald will be hosting his second solo show, Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense, at Toronto’s Clint Roenisch Gallery tonight, Friday November 18, 2011.  Continuing with his familiar theme of excess, the monumental high-gloss acrylic paintings featured in the exhibition are completed in FitzGerald’s trademark technique using clear caulking to separate sections of colour within the piece. While in the past the artist has explored relics of  lost empires and collapsed pop-icons, this show will focus on the horded hauteur within the world’s more royally endowed lineages.

The artist will be in attendance for the opening tonight at Clint Roenisch Gallery, 944 Queen Street West.

Winnie Truong, The Fringes

The last year and a half since she graduated from OCAD have been a whirlwind of activity for young Toronto artist Winnie Truong. The winner of the BMO 1st! artist prize for Ontario in 2010, and the recipient of the 401 Richmond Career Launcher Award has kept the artist well acquainted to attention even at this early stage in her career.

I caught up with Truong at El Almacon, steps away from her current solo show, The Fringes, at Erin Stump Projects (ESP) last week to discuss her art. I arrived slightly early to wolf down an empanada so as not to be disturbed mid- interview by the little body-snatcher I’m currently hosting.

Unlike her work, there is something refreshingly understated about this artist. Despite wearing nearly all black, her face has the fresh scrubbed cleanliness that comes with a full night’s sleep and the years spent under 25. The interview may have been shortest I have ever done with an artist, in many ways Truong lets her art speak for itself. That said there was nothing terse about her answers. She presents herself as open, amicable and gracious.

Her artistic direction came near the end of her Fine Arts degree at OCAD. Before pursuing the drawn image, Truong was focusing on perfecting a rigorous classical painting repertoire, fueled by academic art historical research and her explorations into cultural identity. Attempting to work within the unspoken hierarchy of artistic media, Truong made the necessary switch from acrylics to oils during her fourth year. Unsurprisingly after this transition, the change in technique left her feeling restricted.

Things changed after a drawing class with artist and OCAD instructor, Luke Painter. Painter inspired Truong to “free up” her artistic style. Abandoning the artistic hierarchy altogether, Truong began focusing on drawing.

This medium transition allowed her to shift her conceptual focus as well. Newly inspired by science fiction oddities  rather than the examination of her own culture, she started to explore the idea of the mutant or the outsider. In the earlier work on her website, the mutations within her figures include not just her “trademark” errant hairgrowth, but also shiney revolting red boils and misplaced teeth.

The “visceral discomfort” caused by her images is her primary conceptual motivation. Upon seeing her work, I easily jumped to the conclusion that the hair spoke of unrealistic expectations of female beauty. While she is definitely exploring our reactions and concepts of beauty, Truong’s primary reason for focusing on hair it seems, is simply the beauty with which it fits her medium.  She is quite adamant about wanting her work to remain completely apolitical, and have its worth reside in the emotional disquiet of the viewer- hence only one bearded lady present in her entire body of work.

Working strand by strand, Truong imagines herself a wire artist sculpting abundant locks on her figures and twisting threads of colour across their bodies to create impeccable contours to describe the skin and features of the subjects.  Denying extensive study of colour theory during her research as a painter, she insists that her conglomerate use of colour is instinctive and developed through the natural trial and error of dedicated artistic practice.

Apparently, Truong has been accused of using her friends as subjects, as the figures all evoke such strong personalities through their abnormal extensions.   Instead, the artist’s muse was once the models in fashion and hair magazines, though now her repertoire of facial features allows her to draw more from her imagination than from source material.

Winnie Truong’s exhibition, the Fringes,  is on until October 2 at ESP,1086 1/2 Queen Street West. Watch for her work in Lot42 of this year’s Casey House Art With Heart Auction, as well as Youthline’s Line Art 2010 Auction. Truong is represented by Erin Stump Projects inToronto, and Katherine Mulharin, New York.

Bogdan Luca at Le Gallery

I visited Bogdan Luca last week at his studio on Ossington above Awol Gallery. He was busily preparing for his solo show The Roving Iconist, which opened Friday night at Le Gallery. Dressed in paint splattered blue mechanic coveralls, Luca led me through the work in his tiny white box-studio. With paintings stapled to the cracking walls sometimes three canvasses deep, the air was thick with the smell of oil and solvents. It wasn’t until my own comforted feeling of nostalgia wore off that I noticed how dizzy I was.

Having started off dedicated to painting purely figural studies, Luca’s work is now focused not only on playing with the relationship between figure and ground, but also and even more importantly, in resolving the viewer’s  relationships to images within our heavily image saturated world.  Like many artists  Luca is chronically archiving multi-sourced visual footage to use as the fragments which will inevitably compose any given final work.

Starting with the background as the conceptual framework for this present body of work, Luca looks at the connective structures within the physical network of the previous revolution. Tunnels, bridges and ramps become easy metaphors to examine our own contemporary concepts of progress and movement in a digital world. The juxtapositions of unrelated imagery atop of these connection metaphors parallel the travel of information and commerce within the ether of cyberspace.

It’s unapparent in many cases as to where the imagery originally hails from though individual light sources on the various figures give clues as to their independence. Unified by a dark candy coloured palette of blue, cherry, violet and apple-green, the images are unapologetically stitched together, sometimes amid purposely left white expanses to create disquieting visual-non-sequiturs.  Though each is heavily weighted in symbolism, the artist welcomes viewer interpretation of his unique scenarios. The unlikely pairings of the various unexplained figures seem to be Luca’s attempt to make narrative sense of the mass of disparate yet poignant imagery within his archives. By compiling these images into an expressive body with the potential to instigate emotions in others, Luca challenges the passivity of the image and creates the argument of image as experience.

In our media saturated world, it’s unsurprising that a visual artist would seek to validate the value of their experience of the seen world- real or virtual. I’ve heard similar conceptual arguments before-Toronto artist Brendan Flanagan comes to mind. In a world where information is the greatest commodity, how could we argue that one couldn’t gain meaningful experience virtually? Can it be argued then, that an artist who is painting entirely from images culled from outside sources is indeed still painting from their own experience?

As I listened to Luca explain his conceptual musings, I couldn’t help but begin to focus on his thick European accent. Having arrived from Romania with his family over 17 years ago, it’s unfair to call this young artist anything but Canadian. When he begins to talk about his various representations of iconoclasm however, I can’t help but think about the importance of the human experiential lens through which we translate our visual experiences.

In one of his works an iconoclast sprays a white background amidst his  surroundings. In another, a pair of them erect a blank wall to block the gallery of image history that lay behind. As the artist recalls regimes of the past trying to wipe out the history of various peoples through the destruction of images, I feel that Luca’s own cultural heritage is an undeniable, if subconscious, influence on his work. With that, I wonder if the concept of image as experience even warrants dispute. As Luca struggles to narrate his experiences of these emotionally jarring images through a possibly subconscious unpacking of his own early history, I wonder how it could ever be possible to separate the experience of an image from the gallery of human experience.

Bogdan Luca’s, The Roving Iconist is showing at Le Gallery until July 17, 2011.