When December rolls around, the art exhibition circuit changes: markets, fairs, and flash sales open up throughout the month, giving attendees ample opportunities to purchase original artworks and artisanal crafts for themselves and their loved ones. And this is fantastic. After all, we love a good artisan fair. However, with this month’s guide, we want to keep the focus on the exhibits, on art that you can’t necessarily buy or touch, but that you can see, experience, and remember.
UNCERTAIN LANDSCAPES (NOVEMBER 3RD — JANUARY 5TH)
A good place to start this month is Montreal-based artist JG’s solo exhibition at Xpace Cultural Centre. Uncertain Landscapes delves into queerness: its appearance, fluidity, and inability to conform. JG combines imagery from drag culture and science fiction into their illustrations, demonstrating how aesthetics can empower and validate those who are perceived to be outside of the social norm.
Deanna Pizzitelli’s solo exhibition at the Stephen Bulger Gallery is a series of photographs from the artist’s travels over a period of three years. The photographs are intimate, revealing, and represent a wide emotional landscape that defines the human experience: from lust, to loss, to longing. Despite the photographs being of different people in different places, they weave a narrative of loneliness and hopefulness, of our eternal searches for meaning and connection.
Usually, our focus is on smaller, more independent galleries. The ROM gets enough publicity as it is, but special circumstances rise from time to time. And Christian Dior is definitely a special circumstance. Until March next year, some of Dior’s finest creations will be on display. The exhibition mainly features fashions from the first ten years of Dior’s house, following the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the “new look.”
MATERIAL MATTERS: INVESTIGATIONS INTO PLACE AND PLACEMENT (DECEMBER 1ST — JANUARY 27TH)
Jen Aitken and Margaret Priest are different artists: in their experiences, mediums, messages and theses. But in Georgia Scherman Projects’s joint exhibition, their combined works play off of one another in an examination of place and perspective. Priest’s drawings question and critique the physicality and ideology of modern architecture, while Aitken’s sculptures are a more abstract approach to the interaction of space and design.
SMALL SCULPTURES BY GREAT ARTISTS & ANTLER, BONE, STONE (DECEMBER 2ND — JANUARY 27TH)
Feheley’s newest exhibition is proof that great things come in small sculptures. The detail, the craftsmanship, the amount of love present in every etch and divot; this is what can be found at the two exhibitions this month. As is usual for the gallery, works by Inuit artist will feature in the shows, with Antler, Bone, Stone showing works specific to Igloolik. Little information is available on the specific artists, but Feheley Fine Arts already has a reputation for putting on wonderful exhibits — this will be no different.
At the height of summer, during the longest and hottest days, we need some stimuli for the eyes and the mind — something to take you away from the melting streets and into other worlds, those of minimalism and absurdism, of different identities and migration. All of this and more can be found in our art picks for the month of August.
MINIMAL(IST) EFFORTS (JULY 15TH—AUGUST 26TH)
Minimalism is an art form that is something that is both endlessly pleasing and frustrating.
Minimalism endlessly pleases and frustrates. It’s difficult for some to see minimalism as art — to see it as a response to outlandishness and as something complex in its simplicity. There should be no question as to why this is a movement that stuck around from the 1960s. The Angell Gallery aims to put a contemporary Canadian lens on the subject — their summer show features works by Simon Belleau, Neil Harrison, Jean-Francois Lauda and Robert Taite.
TAU LEWIS & CURTIS SANTIAGO (JULY 20TH—AUGUST 26TH)
Toronto-born artists Tau Lewis and Curtis Santiago’s joint show at the Cooper Cole this month is titled Through the People We Are Looking at Ourselves. The phrase is intriguing, and the exhibition it describes is even more so. The combination of Lewis’s incredible sculptures and Santiago’s evocative paintings is staggering, and with themes of identity and diaspora woven into the exhibition, it can be nothing less than a memorable and enriching experience.
The last installation in Roadside Attractions’s front window before the shop relocates to the east coast is a piece by Dan Nuttall that responds to the controversy facing the new proposed sex education curriculum in Ontario. Nuttall’s “Stilled Live With Curriculum” is a little disturbing, a little ridiculous, and very interesting. Since the installation will be in the front window, there’s no excuse not to pop by Roadside Attractions to check out Nuttall’s piece.
SEAN WAINSTEIM & LEJB PILANSKI (AUGUST 2ND—AUGUST 5TH)
Lejb Pilanski, a 97-year-old Jewish refugee, assembled a variety of objects he has repurposed as art pieces. Pilanski’s grandson Sean Wainsteim has curated his grandfather’s pieces to be placed alongside documents recounting Pilanski’s journey from Eastern Europe to Canada. Showing at the Red Head Gallery, ZEI GEZUNT // KEEP WELL is an exhibition filled with unique objects and artwork, but it also speaks to a greater experience of ingenuity and discovery shared by immigrants across time.
James Michael Yeboah’s When Black Boys Cry is an honest and open examination of stereotypes, toxic ideals of hyper masculinity and stoicism imposed on black men. Yeboah’s show at Magic Pony is meant “for black folx to come together and be unapolegetically vulnerable and, of course unapologetically black” in. Though the show has a focused audience in mind, the beauty and overall impact of the painting is something that can be appreciated by all.
As we move into another summer, this time a big one for Canada, we remember to think outside of the box — to delve deeper and consider perspectives outside of our own. Our picks for art exhibitions in the month of June bring you everything from Queer intersectionality to examining Canada’s honest history and considerations on what art can do for nations at war. We ask this month that you take some time from work, from planning vacations, and reading magazines to consider, to think, to engage.
SYRIAN SYMPHONY: NEW COMPOSITIONS IN SIGHT AND SOUND (May 20th — August 13th)
The newest exhibition at the Aga Khan Gallery combines music, paintings, and multimedia installations by prominent Syrian artists. Much like a symphony, the exhibition is divided into movements, each unique but linked by overarching themes on the presence and purpose of art in conflict. Together, these artists explore the difficulties in preserving their heritage and culture, and fortitude in the face of war. Artists showing include Ahmad Moualla, Malek Jandali, and Kevork Mourad.
THE BILL BURNS SHOW: PART 3 (May 27th — June 24th)
Prominent Canadian artist Bill Burns shows the third and final part in his series on truth and the art trade at MKG127 this month. In the show, Burns accompanies his watercolour paintings with goat’s milk and Gregorian Chant. Sounds intriguing, if a little confusing? Burns will also be reading from his new book on June 17th to help give insight into his career and perspective.
CONTESTED LANDS: CANADA AT 150 (May 28th — June 30th)
As we grow closer to the Canada 150 celebrations, celebratory Canadian propaganda is cropping up everywhere, boasting being a nice, multicultural, and inclusive nation. While Canada certainly has its good points, this exhibition at the MLC Gallery at Ryerson is looking at those silenced and ignored in the Canadian Confederation. The exhibition uses art and artifacts from the Ryerson Special Collection and MLC Research Archives to highlight the achievements of and horrors faced by Indigenous peoples and Canadian women.
QUEER LANDSCAPES, QUEER INTERSECTIONS (May 30th — June 23rd)
Just in time for Pride, the John B. Aird Gallery brings us an LGBTQ+ focused exhibition. Unlike many of the Pride parties, however, the real focus of this show is on intersectionality. Artists from across Ontario will show their works that engage with LGBTQ social issues and intersect with issues of race, class, religion, ability, and sexual and mental health. The purpose of the exhibition is to spark conversation and action that will build toward equality and diversity.
DIGITAL SPHERES: CLARA BACOU (June 8th — July 15th)
English artist Clara Bacou comes to the Robert Kananaj Gallery with an exploration of the boundaries between the real and virtual, the physical and digital. Bacou uses light projection to display her digital art in a 3D way, the exhibition itself representing her own questions on the way we present ourselves online versus the people we are in the real world. If you’ve ever embellished any truths about yourself to seem more desirable on a dating app, this is probably an exhibition you should see.
Next year, the world will finally have the opportunity to experience the full range of Rei Kawakubo’s astounding career as a designer under the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After years of being relatively unnoticed outside the high fashion world, this exhibit is truly the first time Kawakubo’s works beyond her commercial endeavors will be available on view for those outside the fashion world. However, some people feel that Kawakubo’s career has not produced enough influential moments to garner an event of such scale dedicated to her life’s work. This raises an important question: is there a more well known and successful designer out there who deserves a Met Gala exhibition more than Kawakubo does? The truth is that there aren’t many designers deserving of this more than she. Her career and influence — although sometimes looked over — are far more important than people realize. The time has come for her to tell her story as a designer, a woman, and an artist. Here is Novella’s list on why Rei Kawakubo is the most deserving a subject for next year’s Met Gala showcase.
Anti Fashion and Avant Gardism:
Kawakubo graduated with a degree in fine arts and literature from Tokyo’s Keio Univerity and worked in the advertising department of a textile company and as a fashion stylist before becoming a designer. Most people would have never guessed that someone with a degree in fine arts and literature would ever become one of fashion world’s most beloved and forward thinking avant gardists. But that’s the beauty of Kawakubo’s story: she came from a background that requires formal training and understanding rules for success. And with that, she became a world renowned fashion icon.
Her first collection, shown in Paris in 1981, set the wheel in motion for Kawakubo and Comme Des Garçons’s rise to the avant-garde throne. Incorporating knitwear, distressed finishes, holes, tattered garments, and unconventional shapes, Kawakubo was able to contrast her collection against the glitz and excesses of the 80’s; sequins and lycra were challenged by the image of a woman in tattered clothes and unkempt hair, clad in shades of black, white, and grey. This idea of destroyed and sombre clothing went against the grain of fashion trend at the time. It pushed against the status quo of fashion and told the world that fashion didn’t necessarily have to be what the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin deemed beautiful — fashion could be raw and unorthodox and still tell a story. Kawakubo’s contribution to the avant-garde design has inspired many of today’s most important avant-gardists, such as Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela who have taken inspiration from Comme Des Garçons’s early work in the 80’s.
She’s one of the Most Successful Female Designers in the history of Fashion:
It’s safe to say that Kawakubo has built a legacy that will withstand the test of time long after she’s passed, which, in an industry that’s been largely male driven and dominated for decades, is no small feat. Very little room has ever been left for women to achieve success in the fashion industry, so seeing a woman like Kawakubo dominate the fashion industry, while simultaneously creating garments that most would never expect a woman to create, is a call for celebration in itself.
In the light of the outcome of recent presidential election in the United States that left Hillary Clinton just short of becoming the nation’s first female president, the fact that Kawakubo is a successful woman in position of power is a significant reason for her place at the Met Gala. Conversations regarding gender equality and various forces that stymie its advance are not restricted to politics but rather implicit in all industries. It is important to showcase women who have achieved global success and reached the top of their professions as a way of inspiring and motivating other young women and men to pursue their passions without fear of failure due to their gender.
Furthermore, Kawakubo’s exhibit would also showcase how a Japanese woman’s contribution to the world of fashion largedly dominated by Western and European ideals of beauty. The Met Gala has a chance to allow people to understand and appreciate beauty as seen, voiced, and interpreted by a woman of color.
Kawakubo’s place in a Met Gala exhibit should be secure by the fact that she is one of the most successful contemporary designers in the fashion industry. Though she started as a virtually unheard of designer in the Western world in the 80’s, she has been able to build a brand that now pulls in over $220 million dollars in revenue each year. This impressive number shows that Kawakubo knows exactly what her current clientele wants from the brand and what the would-be buyers are looking for from brands like Comme Des Garcons. Kawakubo raised her brand into a global empire byincorporating and reinventing her brand through a handful of brand-off labels like Comme Des Garçons Shirt, Comme Des Garçons Homme Plus, Tricot Comme Des Garçons, and Comme Des Garçons Comme Des Garçons. This ability to expand her horizons and reinvent her brand has allowed Kawakubo to reach a wider audience of tastes and incomes.
Political Statements and Social Awareness:
Like many of her modern contemporaries, Kawakubo takes a lot of her inspiration from the world around her. Major political events, social justice movements, and global changes have been ingredients in her collections. Take her spring 2015 collection, for example. After a year of civil war and bloodshed in the Middle East, Kawakubo presented a collection dripping in the deepest shades of crimson imaginable. Another example is Spring 2012, wherein Kawakubo expressed her feelings on the tragedies in Japan by creating an uplifting show in all white that felt like a visualization of rebirth or a reversion to a state of purity and hope after the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake. It’s statements like these that solidify Kawakubo’s position not only as a designer of change, but also as a designer for the people — a designer who can voice a situation and amplify it through thought provoking clothing and design.
The Fashion Itself:
Now, there are many things that make Kawakubo the best choice for this year’s Met Gala, but there is still one other very important factor that sets her apart from other designers: the fashion! After three decades of being head designer at Comme Des Garçons, Kawakubo has proven herself time and time again that she is a driving force within the fashion industry. Known to never repeat herself, her evolution from monochrome black and white avant-garde to contemporary experimental fashion powerhouse is one for the history books. With countless collections being held in high regard and many of them ending on the “best of” lists around the world, Kawakubo has set the standard for what avant-garde truly is. Now this isn’t just a case of her designs being so wildly different that no one else can compete or compare. There are countless emerging avant-garde designers out there that have been inspired by her and present collections in a similar manner. This comes down to Kawakubo’s talent in interpreting and filtering the world around her to create storylines with depth. She isn’t just any old commercial designer who relies on shock value for a sale. Her clothing deeply mirrors the world it’s made in. It’s art in the purest form, a moment captured and preserved forever in every stitch and drape of fabric. Her understanding of the limits and borders that fashion has created for women and her undeniable aggression at breaking through those gender lines and restraints makes her one of the most talented and educated designers out there. It’s clear to see that fashion really isn’t an engine for profit for Kawakubo. It’s a way of using art to scream into the uncertainty of the world and make sense of it.
Art and fashion have always gone hand in hand. Through the use of colour, texture, design, and more, both art and fashion have been able to invoke feelings, memories, and emotions within the people who interact with them. It’s said that those with a true appreciation for art can experience a masterpiece on a spiritual level; the same can be said of fashion. This in turn proves that fashion and art really aren’t that different. Both aim at creating an experience that goes deeper than what’s seen on a superficial level.
This October, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Musee D’Orsay have partnered to bring Mystical Landscapes to the AGO from October 22, until January 29. The exhibition aims at connecting the spiritual world and art. Masterpieces from around the world, some of them national treasures that have never left their home countries are now being displayed for all to see and experience until January. Novella magazine was recently invited to view the Mystical Landscapes exhibit during a media preview held by the AGO, where the countless masterpieces inspired a thought: Does life really imitate art and to what extent do the two coincide with one another? Here is a look at handful of the marvelous masterpieces being shown within the AGO, and the masterpieces of design that pair beautifully with them.
Wenzel Hablik – Starry Sky x Delpozo Resort 2017
Since the birth of the human race, man has always looked to the stars as a symbol of the spiritual world. It represents something visible, yet unreachable, terrifying, yet comforting. Czech artist Wenzel Hablik understood this deeply when creating his masterpiece Starry Sky. The majesty of space can be seen in the painting with the raw creative force of space swirling around until it meets at one central point. What that point is, we’ll never know, but it’s for that same reason that this painting is held in such high regard. Part of what makes up spirituality is not knowing what really lies beyond what we can see, and this painting does just that. Josep Font interprets the night sky in a very similar fashion to Hablik. The cosmic print on some of his resort collection carry the same feeling of movement as seen in the painting. There’s a sense of something untamed with the clothing itself. The seemingly random arrangement of stars splattered all over the pieces not only mirrors the untamed nature of Hablik’s stars, but also mimics our very own night sky.,
Claude Monet – Water Lilies x Simone Rocha Spring/Summer 2017
Sometimes, all it takes is looking at a flower to experience an array of emotions. Joy, rage, sadness, serenity, and longing can all be felt depending on the flower and the memories associated with that flower. Claude Monet’s series of Water Lily paintings are another prime example of how flowers can convey emotions. The expressionist style and subject matter can instill a somber feeling, or a sense of serenity, depending on the viewer, just as flowers do in real life. Their mystery mixed with their beauty intrigue us and leave us wanting more. The same can be said for Simone Rocha’s ss17 woman. She’s mysterious, beautiful, and intimidating, just like a flower. The collection, which is rooted in all things organic, takes texture, shape, volume, and print and makes them fluid like Monet’s brush strokes. There’s a sense of expressionism within the collection. With many of the elements of the collection coming together to create a singular thought. There is one outfit in particular featured in the Mystical Landscapes exhibit that bares a striking resemblance to one of Monet’s Water Lilies. This particular sheer frock features a diaphanous silhouette, which is covered in ruffles and embroidery that closely resemble a group of water lilies drifting through a body of water. The look itself paints a serene picture, with the model looking fresh and soft, yet mysterious and reserved. It’s as though she was one of Monet’s flowers herself.
Eugene Jansson – Riddarfjarden x Carolina Herrera Spring/Summer 2017
One major highlight of the Mystical Landscapes exhibit is Eugene Jansson’s painting Riddarfjraden, which is regarded as a national treasure in its native homeland of Sweden. Now, some people would argue that making a painting a national treasure is silly, since it really has no monetary value other than the one that was made up for it. But rather, it’s not the cost of the artwork that makes it a treasure. It’s the moment in history that the painting captures which makes it a treasure. It’s the dark inky blue Swedish night lit up by streetlights and a rising or setting sun in the horizon that makes this a treasure. It’s the painter’s ability to capture a moment of sheer serenity that makes this more than a monetary treasure, it’s a treasure for the soul. Now treasures can be found in the world of fine art all the time, but in the fashion world, only the most distinct and emotion provoking outfits can be deemed as treasures. During Carolina Herrara’s ss17 collection, there occurred a few moments when fashion found it’s own treasures. Among the dozens of beautifully designed pieces, a handful of gowns stole the show. One such outfit was a denim blue dress that resembled Jansson‘s beautiful painting. The skirt, which is the real show stopper, takes on the life of Jansson’s brush strokes. The glossy fabric shines with a print that resembles water rippling and reflecting the light cast above it. It’s cold like the Jansson’s Swedish night, yet warm like the sun at its horizon. It instills a sense of magic, just like the Swedish master did in his painting.
Georgia O’Keefe – Red Hills x Aganovich Spring/Summer 2017
Colour has always been a vital ingredient in creating both beautiful art and fashion. In Georgia O’Keefe’s world, colour is one of the single most important factors in creating a masterpiece. For her painting Red Hills, O’Keefe used bright and bold flashes of white, black, and red. The painting resembles an explosion, with all three colours working with one another to convey the artist’s internal emotion. The painting, which showcases a dark and brooding atmosphere, is offset by the brilliant white sun at its center. Although vastly different, this duality actually blends together perfectly allowing the contrasting colours to compliment one another rather than clash. For Aganovich’s ss17 show, bright contrasts in colour were a very important aspect of the collection. The bright ruby red of the outfit against the models stark porcelain skin mirrors the contrasts in colour created by Georgia O’Keefe in her painting. Like O’Keefe, the contrasts creates a dark atmosphere around the model, drawing you in for a closer look. Creating a sense of brooding darkness with the deep red of that gown that’s immediately offset by the model’s pristine completion. The entire look fights with itself as it conveys what it really is; is it dark and gothic, or is it angelic and pristine? But it’s in this exact duality that the look comes alive. It isn’t one or the other, it’s a perfect balance of the two.
Emily Carr – Sky x Aalto Spring/Summer 2017
Another aspect that art uses is uniformity. In Emily Carr’s Sky, Carr uses different shades of blue and beige to create a monochrome uniformity within the painting. The painting depicts a celestial occurrence, wherein the clouds swirl around one another, as if being mixed by an unseen heavenly force. The different shades of blue, ranging from the softest powder blue, to a deep navy, all work with one another to create different levels of depth and movement. This sense of depth, paired alongside the wisps of white seen among the different blues, create the illusion that the painting is singing a glorious yen to the sky, and whatever might be just beyond our range of human understanding. At Aalto, designer Tuomas Merikoski presented a collection heavily based in monochrome colour combinations. Light wash denim was paired with smart powder blue suiting and delicate navy lace to create levels of depth within the outfit, just as Carr did in Sky. Now sometimes dressing in one singular colour can confuse the eye, since it’s hard to tell when one piece ends and another begins. While at other times, monochrome outfits may come off as uninspired and boring. However, Aalto’s use of varying blues creates a sense of movement, separation, and surprise within the outfit. Allowing the eye to follow a path that starts with the denim jacket and ends in the center with the navy blouse in the same way Carr uses her blues to help guide the eye to the central location of her painting.