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.

Novella’s March Art Guide

We live our lives in dichotomies. We are strong and vulnerable, hateful and kind, generous and selfish. We are always reminiscing about the past yet always looking forward to the future. We are always surrounded by strangers but sometimes we feel completely alone. These contrasting ideas are an undeniable part of the whirlwind of human experience. If we weren’t ridiculously complicated, we wouldn’t be ourselves.

Our art picks for March examine some of these conflicting ideas. Some of them link experiences of the past to our current social climate, while others look to the future. One connects feelings of familiarity to alienation and one is a harsh wake-up call to our relationship with cycles of consuming and discarding.

These are all very different exhibitions, but in their own ways they are each asking questions about our past, present, and future.


When times are as complex and difficult as ours is now, the gaze shifts to the past for context and the future for hope for change. For the Black community, part of that examination of the past is linked to Black History Month; and a glimpse to the distant future can be found in Black Future Month 3017, a group show being held at The Public through March. The Afrofuturism Art Exhibition’s purpose is to envision the world 1000 years from now through the eyes of Black artists. If you’re thinking you’ll find some sci-fi elements present, you’re not wrong, but those will be rooted in the context of our current reality and matters of identity and culture.

Find out more here.


Some of the most powerful photographs in existence are those of protest. Such raw emotion and powerful imagery can’t be found anywhere else. Think of recent photos from the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter marches. The emotions these pictures can inspire are incredibly strong. In the current exhibition at Unlovable on Dundas West, the works by the late John F. Phillips, depicting protests in Canada and the U.S. in the 60s and 70s, will be shown with works from Canadian photographer Laura Jones. While Phillips’ pictures are 40 to 50 years old, the current political and social climate makes them relevant to us today.

Find out more here.


In recent years, the term ‘fast fashion’ has gained a lot of attention through the public’s exposure to the workings of fashion companies that produce large amounts of cheap clothing through exploitative labour overseas. Susan Avishai puts her own spin on this topic in her solo show at the Cedar Ridge Creative Centre. Avishai’s fibre art works use men’s shirts taken from thrift stores to represent our troubling relationships to clothing and textile. These structures created from castoffs demonstrate just a fraction of the amount of clothing and textile we dispose of without a thought.

Find out more here.


Canadian artist Stanzie Tooth’s latest exhibition features works tied together under the themes of familiarity and alienation. These contrasting emotions and states of being are, of course, a big part of the human experience, and it’s clear to see, when looking at Tooth’s paintings, how the feeling of isolation in common spaces is evoked. The ability to convey these ideas through abstract paintings showcases Tooth’s artistic talent perfectly. This is Tooth’s third solo show at the General Hardware Contemporary and promises to be thought-provoking and intriguing.

Find out more here.


It has been said that the universal story of humanity is one of migration. But now it is an ongoing political issue that has leapt to the forefront of our social consciousness due to the refugee crisis in Syria and recent events in the United States. Because of the difficulties immigrants face today, their stories and stories of past immigrants are being heard around the world. Vessna Perunovich tells her own story of immigrating from Serbia in the 1980s through an interactive installation at Angell Gallery. Perunovich tells her interpretation of this story by connecting her personal experiences in the past to what’s happening right now.

Find out more here.

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Novella’s February Art Guide

February is a month of storms. There are certainly the literal kinds; the snow squalls and ice storms and blackouts that always seem to find Canada in the months where spring is but a touch of warmth in the back of our minds. But there are other storms we find ourselves in, both political and personal. To fight these destructive forces, there are organized protests, raised awareness, and education given wherever it can be found.

This month, we invite you to consider awareness and perspective through art. The list we’ve compiled of our choices of exhibitions this month are tied together by an idea: It’s time to hear histories that challenge the dominant canon and time to look at our culture from a different perspective.


With major events unfolding in the United States, this exhibition at the Daniel Faria Gallery is more relevant than ever. This all-female exhibition takes that now infamous phrase “nasty woman” (of course referring to Hillary Clinton, the woman who wanted to run a country) and expands upon it until the sheer ridiculousness of the phrase cannot be ignored.

This is a time when “nasty women” are everywhere: threatening to men in positions of power, unapologetic in their outrage, and unafraid to be depicted as ugly. Nadia Belerique, Valerie Blass, Shannon Bool, Aleesa Cohene, Kara Hamilton, Kristine Moran, Jennifer Murphy and Elizabeth Zvonar use their respective disciplines to play with images of women and gender at a time when every new step forward for gender equality is met with belittling rebuttals.

Learn more here.


Gallery 555’s current exhibition is another show with female creators with works tied by one of the art’s most prevalent themes: transformation and new beginnings. With an all-star lineup featuring award-winning artists Amy Bowles, Rebecca Chaperon, Anna Pantcheva, Kate Puxley, and Stacey Sproule, this show promises a visual feast of gorgeous contemporary art, but it will also ask questions and make the viewer consider their own transformative experiences as well as the possibility of new, untouched spaces within the mind.

Highly recommended to anyone feeling a little existential lately.

Learn more here. 


When we consider jobs, we consider the uniform. Every position has one, whether we are conscious of it or not. Some jobs have an easily recognizable uniform that is in and of itself an icon — consider firefighters, doctors, and garbage collectors. Some have more conceptual uniforms, but when you put a group of people with that job in a room, the patterns become clear — consider teachers, government workers, and fashion retailers who reflect the brand aesthetic.)

As part of their winter exhibitions, the Harbourfront Centre has gathered the work of 39 designers to present workwear in our modern world. They explore uniforms’ inherent ties to power and position by creating uniforms for invented, hypothetical jobs for a new, hypothetical society.

(If you’re like me and have a habit of examining the wardrobe choices in Black Mirror a little too closely, I have a feeling this will be the show for you.)

Learn more here.


For a long time, Canada has worn the “nice guy” label with such national pride. We put ourselves above the United States and Europe with our supposed peaceful history. Really, our history is just as wrought with people and government continually doing wrong towards Indigenous peoples as any other country. This is not a new concept, but it is still not being acknowledged enough.

Kent Monkman’s show at the University of Toronto Art Museum is a bold acknowledgment of the elephant in every room, the airing out of Canada’s dirty secrets. Monkman’s incredible solo project uses paintings, sculptures, and historical artifacts to tell the story of Canada’s history from pre-confederation to the present, all through the eyes of the Indigenous people.

Learn more here.


A Space Gallery’s multidisciplinary exhibition has Canadian artists telling stories of the violence and control of imperialist forces in colonial states. The exhibition includes works by Kahdija Baker, Livia Daza-Paris, Michael Greyeyes, John Halaka, Siamak Haseli, and Gita Hashemi. The works span across media and continents but are all representations of the experiences of the colonized. The works are meant to be representations of “revolutionary grieving,” according to the exhibition’s webpage. Based on that description alone, I imagine this will be an exhibition that will not only be emotionally harrowing but an education for every person who attends.

Learn more here. 

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Artsy Gifts Under $100

Photo: Sveta Soloveva

A new exhibition at Northern Contemporary Gallery features hundreds of art pieces under $100!

Photo: Sveta Soloveva

Looking for an inspirational gift for your artistic friend? Acrylic Sugar Skull, Coffin Jewelry Boxes, Drake-inspired painting, and many other interesting and affordable pieces are waiting for you at the art-show, Under 100.

Photo: Sveta Soloveva

The exhibition introduces you to talented North American artists and makes your holiday shopping entertaining in itself.

“You can get something that is really unique,” said Emily May Rose who runs the gallery. “Every kind of theme is covered because we did no theme for the show.”

Photo: Sveta Soloveva

Rose said they wanted to make it affordable for people to buy gifts for their friends and family. The artists could submit a work of any theme and medium, but it had to be priced $100 or under.

The idea worked out perfect. The gallery was full with customers on Dec. 8, the first day of the exhibition. They were scanning the walls with juicy paintings, breathtaking photos of Toronto, and funny digital illustrations.

Photo: Jordan Prentice

“People mostly chose to do reproductions of their work like prints because you can set the price a little bit lower for those,” Rose said. “You can’t really do a big painting and sell it for under a hundred dollars.”

Some of the artists decided to use shampoo jars and broken pieces of cups in their mixed-media-works.

Photo: Sveta Soloveva

An OCAD University student Kevin Pham submitted two digital illustrations and one watercolour painting that he did for school. He said the exhibition is a good opportunity for him to show some of his work and get gallery experience.

“This one is about my grandmother,” Pham pointed at his watercolour painting. “She passed away. So this is her caring for thirteen kids.”

Photo: Sveta Soloveva

Rose said her favourite artist in this show is Ann Somers who submitted six pieces.

“She has a very painterly but still graphic style,” Rose said. “She did a lot of pop-culture references like Kim Kardashian or Stranger Things TV show and little Drake pieces. Those were very cute.”

From left to right: Kevin Pham and Chantal Hassard. Photo: Jordan Prentice

The exhibition runs until Dec. 22, at the Northern Contemporary Gallery, 1266 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

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Does It Hurt? – Tattoo Art Show

Interviewing Emily May Rose. Photo: Jordan Prentice
Interviewing Emily May Rose. Photo: Jordan Prentice

Tattoo artists usually have many paintings in their portfolio. But who sees them except for those checking their Instagram accounts?

Toronto-based illustrator Emily May Rose decided to display the paintings of her favourite tattoo artists on the walls of her gallery.

“I just want to showcase the variety of different styles that we have in the city in terms of tattooing,” she said. “The artists in the show are insanely talented and not the type of artists that you’d find on gallery walls.”

 The exhibition playfully asks the question: Does It Hurt?
Photo: Jordan Prentice
Tattoo and graffiti artists, illustrators, hip hop musicians, barbers, and their clients gathered at Northern Contemporary Gallery last Friday evening. Beer, donuts, and hip hop quickly turned the exhibition’s opening into a party. The wind kept the door open, and the warm weather brought in groups of people from outside. Some were talking about their art and drinking. Some turned on the music on a speaker and started rapping. The others started dancing.
Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Photo: Sveta Soloveva
A man, who happened to be the tallest in the room, in a grey tuque, stood in a circle of people discussing tattoos. “I love it. I’m obsessed,” he said. “I go to sleep and wake up thinking about tattooing. I dream about tattoo.”
The twenty-eight-year-old calls himself ‘a baby in the tattoo world’. That man, the curator of the event and a tattoo artist, was Jonny Cakes.
Cakes came to Toronto from Switzerland in 2000 with a background in graffiti and started tattooing just three years ago. The new passion emerged after his three-year trip to Spain. His roommate in Barcelona wanted to get a tattoo, so she and Cakes would always look at different pictures of tattoos to choose from.
Paintings by Jonny Cakes. Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Paintings by Jonny Cakes. Photo: Sveta Soloveva

“When I look at Instagram photos, I don’t only look at them, but I scan them. It helps me to pick up the tricks from different artists, but it also tells me what not to do, how to be different,” he said. “It’s nice when you can get a bunch of different people, different shops and styles in one room and kind of realize that we are all doing the same shit.”

Cakes was one of the 12 artists in the exhibition. His tattoos are all black and grey, but as a graffiti artist, he has some colourful works in his portfolio. His painting of a purple rose was one of the featured exhibits.
Interviewing Alanna Mule (right). Photo: Jordan Prenice
Interviewing Alanna Mule (right). Photo: Jordan Prenice
Alanna Mule, who owns Bellwoods Tattoo studio on Ossington Avenue, displayed the three paintings of mandalas on wood panels. The complex abstract designs go in perfect circles and repeat each other.
Mule’s tattoos flip-flop between black and grey illustrative and black and grey realism. Some of them look like soft ash and others have many sharp lines and details.
“It comes from art books and other artists’ styles around the world until you make your own,” she said.
After a quick look at the featured pictures, the tattooed guests became exhibits themselves. That was a great chance to listen to super funny and meaningful stories behind people’s tattoos.
“I got it matching with three of my friends,” Rose showed a tattoo of a bird on her arm done by Spencer Harrington. “A woodpecker flew and died in front of us. We took a picture of the bird and showed it to Spencer.”
Photo: Jordan Prentice
Photo: Jordan Prentice

Rose also has tattoos by Mule, including a portrait on her thigh and a lion’s head on the back of her calf.

Martin Ferreira, a barber from Scarborough, got a 24-carat gold bar on his stomach.
“It’s like your soul,” he said. “If you know what you have, don’t let anybody tell you that it is different.”
Cakes said he tattoos his body himself. It helps the artist to figure out how deep he is going and if he needs to slow the machine down when he works with his clients. Having his sleeves, chest and legs tattooed, he is still complaining that they’re “not enough for a tattoo artist”.
“I have a little bit of colour on my leg. Everything else is black and grey. One leg is dedicated to skulls. The other leg is all girls,” Cakes gave a tour of his tattooed body. The lines printed on his business cards match the lines tattooed on his fingers.
Mule said she is creating an art gallery on her body by collecting tattoo pieces.
“I travel around the world a lot to get a tattoo,” she said. “I try not to do anything that I design, so it’s like getting a piece from another artist. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m getting. I just sit there and then I get what they wanna do.”
Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Cakes said that he is astonished by the level of trust in those who come to the artists and give them the privilege to mark their bodies for life. That adds to the pressure in the job, especially in the beginning.
“Everything you do has to be good. You can’t have a bad day because it’s [a tattoo] on someone forever. So that’s stressful at first. But then you get used to it and it’s like second nature,” said Cakes.
“Sometimes people want different designs which are not your style, but you have to do it because you are trying to build the portfolio.”
Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Photo: Sveta Soloveva
However, nothing could compare with the joy that comes from interacting with people. Cakes’ clients vary from sixteen-year-olds who come with their parents to eighty-five-year-olds. He tattoos friends, drug dealers, and police officers.
“I used to be crazy with cops just because I have a graffiti background. So I used to avoid getting caught,” he said. “But when you tattoo them and hear different sides of things, then you realize they are just people. They have their job and acknowledge certain things. It just gives you a different perspective.”
Tattoo artists mediate people’s public and personal lives by listening to their life stories and those behind their tattoos. “It’s almost like being a therapist. People tell you a story that nobody should know. And then they leave with a cool piece and their eyes are all lit up, and they are all happy… But you don’t tell anyone because that’s your own personal story with that person.”
From left to roght: Jams Blackmore and Russell Pulkys. Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Jams Blackmore and Russell Pulkys, the owners of Waves Apparel shop at 7 Labbat Avenue showed their T-shirts, hats, and postcards. The high-quality items contain printed images by Toronto graffiti artists and homeless youth whose creative skills Waves Apparel encourages to develop. “We aim to give artists the medium to spread their art and design,” said Blackmore. “The artists in Toronto are incredible. We are planning to focus on one artist in one month in the future.”
Cakes said he likes to see more and more street culture elements get recognition in the city. Tattooing has even more power than graffiti: “You mark something and you leave a legacy. Like you can be gone and it’s still there. Painting can get cleaned the next day, but tattooing… You tattoo people and you can be dead tomorrow, but you live on for as long as the last person you tattooed. It’s like a life contract. It’s cool. I like it.”
Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Photo: Sveta Soloveva
The exhibition is on view until December 6, at the Northern Contemporary Gallery, 1266 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario.