Novella’s December Art Guide 2017

From Deanna Pizzitelli’s Koža. Image Source.

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.

Find more information here.

KOŽA (NOVEMBER 25TH — JANUARY 13TH)

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.

Find more information here.

CHRISTIAN DIOR (NOVEMBER 25TH — MARCH 18TH)

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.”

Find more information here.

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.

Find more information here.

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.

Find more information here.

Painting the Screen: A Review of Loving Vincent

Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s Loving Vincent is the world’s first oil painted film. Over one hundred artists contributed to its animation, creating a series of 65,000 oil-painted frames in Van Gogh’s neo-impressionist style. Well worth the effort. The result is both striking and bizarre. We enter the world as Van Gogh saw it, crooked, swirling, and filled with feeling.

Loving Vincent is not so much a biopic as a murder mystery. The majority of the plot is set after Van Gogh’s death. Postmaster Roulin (Chris O’ Dowd) sends his son Armand (Douglas Booth) to deliver a letter to Van Gogh’s brother Theo. Though Armand fails to find Theo, he becomes obsessed by the ambiguities surrounding Van Gogh’s death. Armand questions Dr. Gachet, Adeline Ravoux, and Dr. Mazery in search of answers, and these familiar faces from Van Gogh’s portraits come to life. Ultimately we are given the impression that Van Gogh might well have been shot. “Blame no one,” says Vincent on his deathbed.

Whenever an artist/filmmaker makes a bold decision with method or technique, we are left to wonder whether it was a brilliant innovation or if we had been duped, lured in by the weird and wonderful at the expense of meaningful content.

Is this film a gimmick or a masterpiece? The storyline, which offers little character development, seems like an excuse for an ambitious artistic experiment. We never get inside Van Gogh’s head, but we see the world through his eyes.

Still, there is something refreshing in using Van Gogh’s vision to create distance from his inner life. Van Gogh has been pegged as the quintessential tortured artist; we have turned him into an archetype, a cultural meme. For the most part, we are content with this two-dimensional rendering, as it is romantic, and familiar, and it allows us to identify our own darkness with possible brilliance. But Kobiela and Welchman resist.

In an online review of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ MoMa writes: “To know van Gogh is to get past the caricature of the tortured, misunderstood artist and to become acquainted instead with the hardworking, deeply religious, and difficult man.”

This, Loving Vincent achieves. We are spared the director’s rendering of Van Gogh’s inner life, which no one but Van Gogh himself could ever hope to express. Instead, the camera turns outward. He is brought to life through the eyes of other characters; Van Gogh assumes a social identity and we see in him what other’s see; he paints in the rain, he’s shy around women. By allowing others to imagine Van Gogh through his own aesthetic, Kobiela and Welchman seem to suggest that all individual perceptions are as slanted and emotionally charged as Van Gogh’s. In fact, this is what makes the mystery of his death so difficult to solve. Everyone has their own story.

But perhaps Loving Vincent’s greatest achievement is that it provides its audience with an entirely new experience of familiar images. We move through Van Gogh’s artworks. There are moments on screen that approximate specific paintings, I can recall an almost replica of Van Gogh’s ‘Marguerite Gachet at the Piano’. But then we are given more. We are given a perspective of Marguerite as Van Gogh approaches her window, we watch as she moves towards it, and we stand by her side as she smokes a cigarette. We occupy new spaces in the rooms Van Gogh had previously painted and we discover his subjects in different contexts.

As I thought about the effect of Van Gogh’s work on screen, I recalled Walter Benjamin’s essay, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. In it Benjamin looks at film’s potential to radically change our relationship to all arts. We stand alone as individuals before a painting. But we view films in a theater, surrounded by others. Nobody walks out of a film and feels unqualified to judge what they have seen. Film, as a medium, invites us to form collective conceptions, to feel collectively.

A collective viewing of Van Gogh’s work (or its likenesses) feels particularly meaningful in 2017. Van Gogh is now a canonical artist. Seeing a work by Van Gogh is not simply about enjoying a painting, but about taking part in a larger movement, participating in cultural memory and conversation. Surrounded by others in the theatre we can feel ourselves doing just that, on more than one level.

While we have grown to appreciate impressionist painters as masters of fine art, we do not often look to animators with the same kind admiration. The crew of artists involved in this film approximate Van Gogh’s style, sometimes very closely, but their work remains unique, a variation on a theme. In the end Loving Vincent is not only a nod to the work of Van Gogh, but a loving ode to the art of animation; animation as masterpiece.

Toronto Exhibitions to Check Out

As an individual who is avidly pursuing the most recent exhibitions Toronto has to offer, I rarely fall short of galleries to check out. Toronto’s art scene is bustling and vibrant with vivid histories and biographies for audiences to discover. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend that’s a little different than heading to your local watering hole, take a peek around the city and you’d be surprised at what you can find.

We put together a little list to get you on the right track. Scroll down to see what’s going on in your city.

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters 

On now – January 7, 2018 — Who wouldn’t want to get into the mind of Guillermo del Toro and peer into his “cabinet of curiosities?” On now at the AGO, At Home gives the viewer an insight to the creative process behind his most menacing characters. The exhibit is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Minneapolis Institute of Art.

“To find beauty in the profane. To elevate the banal. To be moved by genre. These things are vital for my storytelling,” says Guillermo del Toro. “This exhibition presents a small fraction of the things that have moved me, inspired me, and consoled me as I transit through life.”

Cindy Crawford by Marco Glaviano

On now – November 2, 2017 — Located in the heart of Toronto’s trendy Yorkville district, Izzy Gallery is once again ready to impress with their current exhibit. The beautiful Cindy Crawford appears almost life-like through Marco Glaviano’s extraordinary shots. In the 1980’s, Glaviano played a role in developing and supporting the supermodel phenomenon, photographing many swimsuit calendars of these famous ladies.

The Faraway Nearby: Photographs of Canada from The New York Times Photo Archive

Ryerson Image Centre/ ryersonimagecentre.ca

On now – December 10, 2017 — On now in the Main Gallery at the Ryerson Image Centre, The Faraway Nearby features photographs of Canadian subject matter from the New York Times Photo Archive.  This exhibition features the diverse landscapes across Canada with a spotlight on sports heroes, important Canadian figures, while providing an overview of our national experience. The exhibit was made by Chris Bratty in celebration of Canada’s 150.

Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels

Bata Shoe Museum/ thebatashoemuseum.ca

On now – November 21, 2017 — The Bata Shoe Museum brings forward an interesting history that challenges our preconceived notions of who wears high heels. From the 1600’s, until today, Standing Tall brings forward an interesting timeline of men’s heeled footwear.

Amalia Pica: Ears to Speak Of   

The Power Plant/ thepowerplant.org

On now – December 31, 2017 — Located at Toronto’s Harbourfront, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery features a Amalia Pica’s Ears to Speak Of, a new installation that “continues her engagement with the failures and impossibilities of communication and obsolete technologies.” The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication, co-produced by The Power Plant and the IMA Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, where Amalia Pica will present a solo exhibition from 18 November 2017—10 March 2018.

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Novella’s September Art Guide

Fault Line by Phil Irish. Image source.

In times of crisis, art becomes more necessary than ever. It can be a direct response, a backlash, a coping mechanism, or an escape. In a time when it seems as though most news is bad news, we invite you to engage in some of the finest art exhibitions the city has to offer this month. Here, you will find works that will make you laugh, make you think, or take you somewhere else. Consider this not a break from the world’s problems, but a reminder of other things that come with being human.

hahahahuh (AUGUST 31ST — SEPTEMBER 23RD)

Tessar Lo’s artwork fits perfectly into the current cultural brain: a little strange, a little funny, and with a lot hidden underneath the surface. Lo employs images of mundane objects — a toy, a piece of fruit, etc. — and renders them with potential to become metaphoric symbols of life in the modern age. The Indonesian-born artist’s paintings exist in the space between humorous and mysterious, between utter bewilderment and the urge to make a joke. This is the same dichotomy that exists on our own mediums for expression, most clearly demonstrated on Twitter, where the first reactions to bad news or shocking events are shock, rage, and dark humour. Look to Project Gallery to see Lo’s work for yourself this month.

Learn more here.

ANNIE POOTOOGOOK (SEPTEMBER 2ND — FEBRUARY 11TH)

The newest exhibition at the McMichael Canadian art Collection is a feature on the work of award-winning Inuk artist Annie Pootookgook and her influence on her peers. The exhibition will feature a number of Pootoogook’s drawings as well as works by Shuvinai Ashoona, Jutai Toonoo, Ohotaq Mikkigak, Siassie Kenneally, and Itee Pootoogook. This examination of contemporary Inuk art recognizes Annie Pootoogook as the catalyst in opening up new conversations for Inuk artists and new streams of expression. While the McMichael Collection is all the way up in Kleinburg, the drive is worth it to see Pootoogook’s wistful and wonderful works, and an in-depth look into contemporary Inuk artists.

Learn more here.

SKATE GIRLS OF KABUL (SEPTEMBER 5TH — OCTOBER 8TH)

For the first time in North America, photographs will be shown from Jessica Fulford-Dobson’s time spent with the young participants of Sakeistan, an NGO founded in 2009 to provide kids with a safe place to skateboard and access to education in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa. The result is a series of photographs showing girls skateboarding that is simple in construction, but is also entirely moving, uplifting, and empowering. It’s a celebration of girls not only being able to undermine gender stereotypes, but also enjoy being children. The photographs will be up in a free exhibition at Aga Kahn Park for the month, and in a time when chaos is the norm, I highly recommend taking in something like this that is just inherently positive.

Learn more here.

PEAK VELOCITY (SEPTEMBER 6TH — OCTOBER 6TH)

Phil Irish’s upcoming exhibition at the Lonsdale Gallery will feature dynamic paintings of mountain peaks and breaking sunlight over aluminum structures built by the artist. The clear conflict between natural wonder and industrial development exemplifies Irish’s time spent in Western Canada, trying to reconcile the overwhelming presence of the Rocky Mountains with the existence of the Athabasca Oil Sands. In the place where the natural and unnatural meet, Irish created these beautiful and unusual works as a way for viewers to examine how we have caused these two very different forces to coexist in our world.

Learn more here.

THE LAST DAYS OF VACATION (SEPTEMBER 7TH — 30TH)

Renowned Italian photographer and artist Paolo Ventura will have his first solo Canadian exhibition at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery this month. Ventura’s gorgeous photographers are a fascinating mix between the real and the surreal, hiring actors to fill his shots and hand-painting the photographs to either add to the sets or superimpose onto the human figures. Ventura employs elements from both Italian surrealism and 20th-Century Neorealism. The effect is otherworldly and transportive. An hour spent with Ventura’s photographs is an hour spent in a different universe.

Learn more here.

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5 Queer Artists Working Now

If art is meant to push boundaries, then some of those should be the boundaries of imposing straightness and cis-ness, right? In other words, the art world ought to be a more open and inclusive place for queer people. And while most of us can think of older queer artists from the past (Andy Warhol probably comes to mind), there are lots of wonderful and talented queer artists working now. Here are five:

Kent Monkman, The Daddies

1. Kent Monkman: Monkman’s work is brilliant and brutal, examining modern Indigenous life and recasting colonial history, sometimes with his alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. Monkman is known for using classic colonial images and inserting Indigenous people or characters to recast the narrative. He is also known for his stunning installations and large paintings documenting everyday life for Indigenous folks, the beautiful and the heartbreaking. Blending gender, sexuality, and race together in brilliant ways, Monkman is definitely one of the best queer artists out there. He is currently touring the exhibition “Shame & Prejudice: A Story of Resilience” His work can be found on his website here.

Eiki Mori, Intimacy (No. 1)

2. Eiki Mori: This Japanese artist is best known for his beautiful photography that explores male sexuality in the most intimate settings. Born in Kanazawa, Japan, in 1976, Mori has been active for almost 20 years in the art and photography world and has produced several photography shows and three books, including, most recently, Intimacy, which was published in 2013. Mori is never flashy and doesn’t demand your attention, instead he invites you to the quiet, more gentle moments. Some of his work can be seen on his website or his Instagram account.

Joe Average, Floral Fatigue

3. Joe Average: After being diagnosed with HIV at the age of 27, Joe Average chose to commit the rest of his life to his art. While his work may seem a bit simplistic, it is undeniably beautiful, colorful, and bright. You can even see his work on banners around the gay village of Vancouver. He is also a prolific photographer, with bright images of flowers, drag queens, birds, and other daily images of life. You can see all of his work here.

Image from Wet Moon by Sophie Campbell

4. Sophie Campbell: Campbell is mostly known for comic art work like her graphic novel Wet Moon and her webcomic Shadoweyes. What is most admirable about Campbell’s work is her inclusion of a diverse array of characters of different races, genders, sexualities, and body types, a diversity rarely seen in most comics. She has also drawn for the Jem and the Holograms graphic novel series. You can see all of her work on her art Tumblr.

Image from “Sissy” series by Elisha Lim

5. Elisha Lim: Lim first came to prominence for their portrait series “100 Butches”, an ambitious project meant to document many butches Lim came across. They have since worked on numerous different projects, many about documenting other queer, trans, and non-binary people. These include series of portraits about “Sissies“, or works documenting their own life history from Canada and Singapore. Lim’s work can be found in their graphic novels 100 Butches and 100 Crushes.

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