Tag Archives: art appreciation

Hello, 2011!

If you’re anything like me you were likely equally astounded and amazed by the events that defined 2010. We watched Vancouver host the Olympics, and not without some controversy; we saw Toronto host the G20 summit, and controversy? Understatement; we met the vuvuzuela with mixed results; we watched the explosion at Deepwater Horizon and the BP underwater webcam feed with disgusted rapture; natural disasters like floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions were a regular headline; we celebrated the Chilean miners who survived nearly 10 weeks underground; we mourned the passing of JD Salinger, Alexander McQueen, Gary Coleman, Dennis Hopper, and more. All told it was a year of 365 days, and a million and a half memories.

At the fair, we had a banner year! A record number of visitors came through the turnstiles at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to celebrate eleven years of the Toronto International Art Fair. We were joined by a roster of sponsors, as well as exhibiting galleries and featured artists that set the year apart as one of the Fair’s best!

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2010, we salute you!

But 2010 is last year’s news – 2011 is what’s all the rage! If you’ve been entertaining ideas about see Art Toronto up close and personal, this is the year to do it. We’re going to have more of everything you want — more programming, more artists, more galleries, more collectors!

Art Toronto is currently accepting applications — why not click here and take a read through what some of our past participants have said about the fair? Convinced? Click here to download our application package.

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Seeing the future through the past: An interview with Luke Painter

By Zoe

I once lived in a purple house in Montreal with some roommates including the Toronto artist and Professor, Luke Painter. They made sure I went to see Arcade Fire for $7, introduced me to Dim Sum and helped me to understand the beginnings of contemporary painting.

Photo: Rannie Turingan (BlogTO)

Luke has shown drawings and an installation-based works at a number of venues including Angell Gallery in Toronto, Bonneau Samames Art Contemporain in Marseille, France, the Pulse Art Fair in New York and Plus Gallery in Denver.  Luke has exhibited with Angell Gallery since 2002 and has been in Art Toonto four times. In 2008, Luke Painter was included in the Carte Blanche 2, a book of contemporary Canadian Painting.

Luke’s willingness to help everyone around him has made him a bit of a legend.  To those of us who are lucky enough to have known him over the years, we have seen great growth in his work and a variation and maturity in his art practice. He works really hard and makes things happen. 

The Harbour (Malting)

Zoe Pawlak: In recent works we see a merging of new and old, the antiquated and that which has the appearance of being futuristic. How does the convergence of past and future imagery play into your work?

Luke Painter: Over the past few years I have been working on large-scale paintings rendered with India ink and brush on paper that utilize disparate elements within figures and landscapes to create a sense of historical ambiguity. These works are intentionally mimetic of traditional printmaking techniques (woodcut, engraving) and composite methods used in digital media (Photoshop), but the end result is a singular work on paper.  I am interested in combining older forms of ornamentation and patterning with contemporary subject matter and/or modern looking individuals.

ZP: You have lived in both Montreal and Toronto. Having grown up in Toronto and now living there as an adult and an artist, what influences are you taking most from the city itself?

Carte Blanche

LP: I am deeply affected by the city I live in and I often incorporate aspects of my surroundings into my work. In one of my drawings titled, The Harbour (Malting), I have used an old grain silo as a reference for this particular work. This grain silo is located on Queens Quay near Bathurst St in Toronto and is one of two remaining silos originally built in 1928 that was used to store malt. Built from concrete, the stripped-down and unadorned functionalism of the building was a precursor to modernist trends in architecture. It has been unused since the 1980’s and there has been debate about how the site should be utilized, with talk of a museum or theme park. I grew up in this neighborhood, which has been quickly developed into a condo landscape. Canada Malting has now become an interesting anomaly in the midst of accelerated development. My own interest in the building comes from a desire to reformulate the material of the building back to wood, in which they were originally built (they were changed to concrete to avoid burning down). I decided to take the concept one step further by rendering the surrounding area in wood to amplify the once natural surroundings that populated this area around Lake Ontario. I imagine Canada Malting to be an eyesore for many of the new condo residents, but it continues to hold a personal resonance with me as I grew up nearby.

ZP: Toronto has really been gaining international attention for events like Nuit Blanche and Art Toronto.  What have these events meant to Toronto’s working artists like yourself?

LP:   Having just witnessed this years Nuit Blanche I have to say that I really like the event.  For many people I know it is art-lite or art that is for entertainment and not for contemplation.  I personally think it can be both.  Both Art Toronto and Nuit Blanche have been good for raising awareness about the Toronto scene in international circles.

Victorian Bust

ZP: In 2008, you received a Canadian Council Artist Grant. What did you make with this grant and what does it mean to be supported in this way?

LP:   In 2008 I received a Canada Council Artist Grant for a work titled From Victorian to Modernism to What?  This installation shown in May 2010 at 47 Space in Toronto reflected on the compulsion to personally connect with (and often transform) the architecture of our surroundings. Over the past couple of years I worked with my father to build a scale model of a specific Victorian house from a neighbourhood where we both used to live. 
Approximately 8’ tall and heavily ornamented, the structure is too small
to be a real house and too large to be a dollhouse.  On the rear wall
of the building, two eyes made from stained glass project animations
depicting architectural sites specific to Toronto that have personal
resonance with me and that nod to the transitioning nature of
neighbourhoods in the city. It was an important project for me. I started to think about larger works with bigger budgets and I am now starting to apply for some more ambitious projects. 

Woodlot Mansion

LP: I am deeply affected by the city I live in and I often incorporate aspects of my surroundings into my work. In one of my drawings titled, The Harbour (Malting), I have used an old grain silo as a reference for this particular work. This grain silo is located on Queens Quay near Bathurst St in Toronto and is one of two remaining silos originally built in 1928 that was used to store malt. Built from concrete, the stripped-down and unadorned functionalism of the building was a precursor to modernist trends in architecture. It has been unused since the 1980’s and there has been debate about how the site should be utilized, with talk of a museum or theme park. I grew up in this neighborhood, which has been quickly developed into a condo landscape. Canada Malting has now become an interesting anomaly in the midst of accelerated development. My own interest in the building comes from a desire to reformulate the material of the building back to wood, in which they were originally built (they were changed to concrete to avoid burning down). I decided to take the concept one step further by rendering the surrounding area in wood to amplify the once natural surroundings that populated this area around Lake Ontario. I imagine Canada Malting to be an eyesore for many of the new condo residents, but it continues to hold a personal resonance with me as I grew up nearby.

ZP: Toronto has really been gaining international attention for events like Nuit Blanche and Art Toronto.  What have these events meant to Toronto’s working artists like yourself?

LP:   Having just witnessed this years Nuit Blanche I have to say that I really like the event.  For many people I know it is art-lite or art that is for entertainment and not for contemplation.  I personally think it can be both.  Both Art Toronto and Nuit Blanche have been good for raising awareness about the Toronto scene in international circles.

Plume

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Arty pylons

Recent traffic around art blogs has been a real barrel of laughs – get it? Joseph Carnevale’s recent ‘barrel monster’ statue — a short-lived work of three construction traffic barrels, some screws and paint — has attracted a lot of attention, and given positive spin to guerrilla art.

If you did a quick Google search for guerrilla art, you’d likely also come up with references to ‘vandalism’, ‘destruction of property’, and graffitti. In this case however, the victim of his vandalous act wants the art installation restored, or at least a new one constructed for display at it’s head office.

I like it. It’s a great way to embrace the light-heartedness of this kind of work. It’s only one example out of a million disparate others, but Carnevale’s stunt is a great illustration of why art isn’t and should never be considered a crime. While this student is facing a court date in July, countless others have been charged over the years for practicing their art in public. It’s a real shame that artists are lumped into the same category as vandals, but according to Carnevale, the charges have been great publicity for his art. Irony abounds.

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‘Mediocrity’ ain’t forever

A recent American survey showed serious gaps concerning the arts education of elementary-level students.  Most students were unable to identify a half note, a Renaissance painting, and more, and only 16% of those surveyed reported being taken to an art gallery, museum or exhibition.

It seems that there is an relentless battle about what should be taught of the many subjects which can be taught. As a person who several years ago worked at a not-for-profit literary event, aimed primarily at younger families, I am reliving the anguish. The public education system is waging war on basic skills — basic reading, basic math — and letting all creativity and diversity fritter away under the guise of bringing students to the same level. I suddenly feel like the film Idiocracy was not so much a satire as a dire prediction.

Blame the teachers, right? Wrong. Teachers have to commute their lessons to basic skills because students aren’t being given these at home.

In my childhood home the shelves were filled with books and the walls adorned with art (though much of it was inherited). On my tenth birthday Mom took me to the ballet. On my 14th birthday it was the Art Gallery of Ontario. And every Christmas the family would go see a Mirvish production. My sister and I were given music and dance lessons, encouraged to read and write constantly, exposed to a myriad genres of music. My parents were not, by any means, terribly affluent though there is no doubt in my mind that my sister and I were abundantly priveleged.

When did ‘teaching’ at home become unnecessary? When did a solid liberal arts education become the public school board’s responsibility?

I’m not looking to lay blame at home any more than I want to lay it on schools, but I think that the arts are something that families should share. There are so many museums and galleries that are free or have discounted rates for students or families. Free music is everywhere. Libraries are full of books on art and music. It’s not a question of who can afford to appreciate art, but who can afford to not appreciate it.

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
– Pablo Picasso

Having watched, and rewatched and circulated MoMA’s I See video to as many people as I can, the meaning of it and the power behind it has walloped me. It’s a great vid in and of itself, high production value, strong writing, all of that. The thing that appeals to me the most is that it’s not advertising MoMA, or any particular exhibit. What it’s promoting is art appreciation. It’s overarching message is that an ordinary person can appreciate art — perhaps not for the same things appreciated by art students, critics, dealers, artists and other card-carrying citizens of the art world — using your senses and your daily experiences as a baseline and a point of reference. It’s a beautiful concept, and I hope one that sends people to museums and galleries unafraid of being the obvious neophyte.

Every child’s strength is different; many children excel despite a lack of attention, so this survey doesn’t convince me that the next generation are doomed. But it never hurts for parents to take the initiative themselves — forget a night on the couch, take your kids to the ARTS.

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Thanks Madonna, less is in fact more

A few weeks ago I wrote that, in light of the economic turmoil that has defined the last year, things at Art Toronto were better than ever. To reiterate, it’s because at a time like this it’s easy for an event like Art Toronto to try new things and go in new directions (as long as those directions fall along the cheap-and-cheerful path) which means that future iterations of the fair in economies of lesser strife, we’ll have new and unusual things that already have the kinks worked out.

It seems that I’m not the only one who believe this. In a recent New York Times Special Report on The Arts, Alice Pfeiffer wrote that “recession has jarred the world of contemporary art as much as any part of the economy, but for art, the shake-up may turn out to be inspirational.”

Many of those at the centre of this shift are claiming that the biggest move is away from production-line art to more scaled down, though no less ground-breaking, works. Think of it as blockbuster movies going by the wayside to be replaced by indie films and flicks made in basements and garages.

In many senses, it’s about economies of scale — can an impoverished town support a big-box store? Or would several smaller ma-and-pop type shops work better? Not only does it lessen or completely bridge the gap between hard-hit art collectors and harder-hit artists, it keeps the flow not just moving but fresh.

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Sheepishly returning, with a shout-out

Ok, it’s been weeks. I am a bad blogger. Bad, bad blogger. But today I stumbled upon a re-tweet of a retweet of a tweet from MoMA, and broke my own heart. It’s a digital short they released recently, called I See. For others like me who are soft on the idea of art, but short on any real insight into art, this video will help you appreciate how to appreciate art.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–uc17DqHcI

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The future of art history

More people than ever are buying contemporary art, and chances are that most of it is historically insignificant. It may be personally meaningful, intelligent, even edifying, but in the long term many of these collections will end up looking like the tattered silks of an age gone by or the archaeological remains of an ancient garbage heap. They won’t be definitive or influential. They will not have changed the way we look at art.  (from Seven Days in the Art World, p. 99)

This is one of the most provocative passages that I came across while reading Thornton’s Seven Days in the Art World. I find it explodes with unsubstatiated claims about the past, present and future of art. Thornton twists around varying justifications for art collection from a simple compulsion (shopaholic, what?) to portfolio diversification. And I wonder why.

Really. Why? What does it matter why people collect?

The last line — Thornton’s assertion that these works “won’t be definitive or influential…will not have changed the way we look at art” — immediately looks ahead to the art history of the future. It is as if to suggest that in an art history class in the year 2109 will suggest that in the first few decades of the millenium there was no art made worth mentioning. I find that to be a ridculous assumption, as I am sure the future descendents of current collectors would agree.

It is the same as suggesting that the ancient paintings found on cavern walls are merely childish, thoughtless scrawlings instead of the basis of language and art as we now know it. I doubt the creators of the cave paintings, artists in their time, looked at their works and thought them worthless crap that would never be mentioned again. Granted, the names, dates, and times of that generation are lost — but the work lives on.

Thornton’s suggestion that contemporary art can only have value now if has value later is preposterous. What this passage does is place a valuation on art based on its collectability. Now, maybe to some that’s a totally reasonable thing to do. Novice though I may be, I think that the ‘value’ of art inherently transcends its market price, its collectibility, its saleability.

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