Novella’s Art Guide February 2018

Untitled by Yannick Anton. Showing at “Of Ourselves” this month.

Our art guide rarely has a unifying theme. Normally, we trowel through the galleries in town to find what looks the most promising and relay it here, but for February, for Black History Month, we have compiled a list of solo and group art exhibitions and festivals solely featuring Black artists. We invite you to take note of these events, as a member of the Black Community an ally, to further your understanding and education on their perspectives.


Our first pick is not a show but a panel, taking place on the 16th of February. While we’re always about appreciating art through individual viewing, we also need to showcase an event such as this, where art, identity and inclusion intersect beautifully. The panel features four Black artists: Dainty Smith, Ekow Nimako, Samson Brown and Rania El Mugammar. Each artist will discuss how they build inclusion and liberate themselves within their respective mediums.

Find more information here.


At BAND, their aim is to present works by Black artists, both in Canada and from around the world and connect them to a large audience. This month, their gallery will host a retrospective this month for acclaimed photographer Michael Chambers. Curated by Pamela Edmonds, the show will feature Chamber’s stunning photographs of nude bodies, which touch on themes of sexuality, desire, diaspora and belonging.

Find more information here.


Beginning in January, the Royal Ontario Museum has put on a new show featuring the works of nine contemporary Canadian Black artist. Artists featured in the exhibition include Sandra Brewster, Michèle Pearson Clarke, Chantal Gibson, Sylvia D. Hamilton, Bushra Junaid, Charmaine Lurch, Esmaa Mohamoud, Dawit L. Petros and Gordon Sadrach. Each artists works in multi media, so the installations will vary from sculpture to painting to film, but each will evoke powerful images of the presence and history of Black people in Canada.

Find more information here.


The Gladstone Hotel’s February exhibition features works by Toronto-based photographers Yannick Anton, Curtiss Randolph, Nathalia Allen and Neva Wireko. The over-arching theme of the show is Black identity as it was described by writer W.E.B. DuBois, describing the Black person as having two selves: their true self and the one forced on them by the outside world. The artists engage with this concept in their own ways, creating portrayals of Black identity from the perspective of the portrayed.

Find more information here.

TORONTO BLACK FILM FESTIVAL (February 14th — 19th)

Film, in and of itself, is a  visual art form. Though it is far more commercialized than other media and collaborative by nature, it is visual storytelling with the ability to initiate debate and evoke emotion. While we don’t normally put film festivals in our guides, this month we’re making an exception for a festival that needs to be written about. Now in its fifth year, the Toronto Black Film Festival (or TBFF) aims to showcase some of the best Black films from around the world and act as a platform for independent Black filmmakers. The festival has everything from full-length documentaries and narratives, to shorts, to animated films, so there will be something of interest to even the most dubious of viewers.

Find more information here.

February Must Do List

February is the shortest month so you have very little time to waste trying to figure out what to do with yourself. Not only have I figured it out two days in advance, the list is so good as to last you the whole month and keep you thinking and savoring for even longer. Who else is thinking of your February leisure game like I am? Nobody. Now, pay attention and take notes:

John at The Company Theatre

Hilton Als described John by Annie Baker (The Flick) as “so good on so many levels that it casts a unique and brilliant light.” The play centers on an old innkeeper and a young couple with a chorus of inanimate objects. Indeed Baker’s genius is capturing all the minute, interesting, and increasingly more meaningful details of human interaction is undisputed. So much so that just reading her plays is a pleasure all on its own to equal many a theater experience. But luckily for Toronto, John, directed by Jonathan Goad (Reign, Dorsal, Troubled Waters), is running at The Company Theatre through February 29th.

The Paris Review Free Trial


The Paris Review is, in the small and eclectic world of literary magazines, a bonafide giant. With its over six-decades’ history and back issues, it is possibly the closest thing to a literary cornucopia. To which you can now have online access for free for ten days. Fiction and poetry by legends and those unduly forgotten, interviews with the likes of Ralph Ellison, Henry Green, Elena Ferrante, and Ann Beattie, and strange and wonderful portfolios of art works on your table to be gobbled up voraciously. It’s also a way to vet a meaningful gift idea for your significant other before Valentine’s Day.

Anna Magnani at TIFF

Though Volcano: Anna Magnani runs through March 11th at TIFF Bell Lightbox, some films are only playing once. Don’t panic! You just have to think ahead, is all. Pick one or two — I recommend the Rose Tattoo (Feb. 9th) and the Golden Coach (Feb. 25th) — ahead of time and look to it like a lighthouse on dreary early February days.

Dumbfoundead We might Die Tour

Dumbfoundead of K-Town, Los Angeles dropped his latest album We Might Die late last year, and, as soon as his tour dates were announced, it’s been a sold out show one after the other. In fact, the Toronto venue had to be moved from the Drake Hotel to the Mod Club due to large demand. Honestly, I don’t even know how to talk about this show in a coherent and reasonable manner. It’s all screams and awkward, passionate dance moves to express my enthusiasm. So, here, just listen to this for now and proceed to Ticketmaster.

Horace and Pete

If you like Louie or Baskets, you might not really like Horace and Pete. And if you are like me and a sucker for anything to do with Louis C.K. and, on the off chance that he drops in in your neighborhood, signed up for his hilarious and kind newsletters, you probably bought Horace and Pete last year. Though I’ve pushed the show to my friends like my nonna at the dinner table — Got all ten episodes packed and ready in a USB for your viewing pleasure, I said — I only got halfhearted, “Hmm interesting” responses. Must have been because they were at good places in their lives not ready for the captivating darkness that is Horace and Pete. But with Inauguration Day behind us, some have come back to thank me. So, here I stand offering this show, once again. It won’t do any good to your sense of morale but it will certainly entertain and force feed food for thought. Quit Neflix for a month. Instead, Horace and Pete and cry.

Trey Ellis, Platitudes 

By all accounts, an accurate and detailed history is something that should be taught year-round for years, but for now we have Black History Month. Cynicism aside, it is just another reason on top of a long list of reasons to learn. You could, of course, read Zadie Smith or Ta-Nehisi Coates and get a top-notch education. But why not challenge yourself and read something that’s been unduly neglected by the publishing industry? Trey Ellis’s Platitude is only hilarious, smart, and highly entertaining, but, more importantly, it is an exploration of black identity, community, and the complex issues innate to being multiracial and multicultural in America. If you’re smart, you’d get yourself a Northeastern University Press copy that includes Ellis’s seminal essay, “The New Black Aesthetic”. Readings like these have always been pertinent to our culture but in times like these, they are imperative.

VIKTOR KOLÁŘ — Canada, 1968-1973

Vancouver, 1969 © Viktor Kolář

Czech photographer, Viktor Kolář, came to Vancouver in the late 60’s and, along with a six-month English course, began photographing his new home with a Leica. Perhaps that’s why his photographs have the power of making the familiar seem strange or pointing out the strangeness within the ordinary — they’re less cityscapes and more of mediations on new surroundings. You can see Kolář’s early works at Stephen Bulger Gallery until February 18th. You can also visit the gallery for free screenings of films picked by the artist on Saturdays until the 18th. Screenings include: Funny Games by Michael Haneke, Prisoners by Denis Villeneuve, and Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai by Jim Jarmusch. 

Toronto’s Inaugural Light Fest

Photo @ Arjun Yadav

Toronto Light Festival, the city’s first-ever light art festival, runs through March 12th in the historic Distillery District. The admission is free and it’s right by Mill Street brew pub, crucial for post-art beer and chat. The twenty-one art installations are not only beautiful in the picturesque streets of the Distillery, but they also raise funds for charity for The Yonge Street Mission — through a GoFundMe page — and Daily Bread Food Bank — for every photo with #MillStLights, Mill Street Brewery will donate $1!

If you can’t make a day(s) of these things

Well, I understand. You’re busy and with Valentine’s Day ahead, your finances need maneuvering and you’ve learned to slouch and call it hygge — I have a personal dislike toward this ‘concept’ — and whatnot. But you still want things to do while you’re indoors, relaxing. Do so with Charles Bradley — though I have to interject and ask, What were doing not listening to Charles Bradley? Follow Astro Poets @poetastrologers on Twitter for your daily horoscope, comedy, and anxiety. Eat sourdough from Blackbird Baking Co. and cook Gabrielle Hamilton’s stewed chicken and rice. Drink Sourdais Chinon 2014 (16.95$) and Anselmi San Vicenzo 2015 (16.95$). And otherwise do things ever more astounding and wonderful.

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