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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Reflecting on Masculinity and the Body: A Conversation with Jordan Browne

Jordan Browne: ‘Sweet Dreams, Francis’ (installation view), 2017 © James Morley, Ryerson Image Centre

Jordan Browne’s latest works, Sweet Dreams, Francis, was recently on view at the Ryerson Image Centre Student Gallery. His photography explores the relationships between our cultures and our bodies through the contours of the nude genre. We recently had a chance to throw a few questions at the emerging artist about his work and his latest exhibition.

Novella: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

JB: I’m a 28-year-old emerging photo based artist. I graduated from Ryerson’s Photography studies program in 2016 and also hold a BFA from York University. In addition to my interest in photography, I also have a passion for independent and foreign cinema.

N: Did you grow up in an artistic household?

JB: I wouldn’t say I grew up in an artistic household but I would say my interest in the arts came from my father who at one point pursued art in his early 20’s. He has really great technical skills, which he taught me when I was a kid. My parents have always encouraged my artistic endeavors as a child from drawing to my interest in theatre.

N: You studied both visual arts and photography. What made you decide to focus on the latter?

JB: My interest in photography solidified after taking a Black & White photography course in high school. With words of encouragement from my teachers, I started to think about pursuing it after graduating. This became even clearer to me when I started my studies at York University.

One of the requirements of the program was that we had to take courses that explored different mediums. Photography is the only medium that really resonated with me. I never felt that sort of enthusiasm with painting or drawing — nor was I very good.

Jordan Browne: ‘Sweet Dreams, Francis’ (installation view), 2017 © James Morley, Ryerson Image Centre

N: Describe your latest series, ‘Sweet Dreams, Francis’

JB: ‘Sweet Dreams, Francis’ explores themes of masculinity in relation to the body and its portrayal in the nude genre. The photographs of various gay and queer men evoke a sense of calm and quiet — a proposition that contrasts with depictions of male bodies in photography and visual media in general. Fabrics are employed throughout as a means of softening the imagery, thereby gently disrupting traditional notions of masculinity.

N:What would you say has changed in visual representation of masculinity over the decades?

JB: It’s hard to say definitively as this series is born out of my own experiences as a gay/queer individual who has felt pressures to conform to masculine ideals from a young age. I feel that there are still a lot of external messages we are getting that suggest that to be a man you have to behave a certain way. My hope is that people are becoming more accepting of those who do not conform to these ideals and that men are becoming more comfortable exhibiting a range of emotions.

N: In your description of the series, you write that it’s not explicitly a critique of depictions of male bodies. What did you mean by that?

JB: I mean to say that I am not making a direct statement criticizing notions of masculinity. I’m more interested in reflecting on these ideals and interpreting through my own experience. I’m not making a political statement that signifies change as the series is meant to be more personal than that.

N: How do you begin new works?

JB: It starts with curiosity. I then begin to do a lot of research on the subject matter I am exploring and pull various visual references, both historical and contemporary. I also do a lot of reading of both academic and non-academic texts to give more context to the project. I think it’s important to really understand the subject matter from a historical point of view and to understand how it has previously been explored.

N: How did you go about selecting the vintage photos?

JB: I have long been interested in archival/found imagery. I also like the idea of collecting. It was really as simple as browsing through these snapshots on eBay and selecting the ones that resonated with me most. Whether through body language or composition, I picked images that I felt had homoerotic undertones that could be brought forth when displayed alongside my own images. I found images where I could mimic the poses of the men in my own photographs. This aided in developing a dialogue between the two types of imagery being displayed.

N: Tell us about the actual process of photographing the series, ‘Sweet Dreams, Francis’.

JB: Before shooting my models I do test shots of the space to get a sense of the light. I pull several references in preparation for shoots so that I have an idea of what I want to achieve.

I think it’s important to have conversations with the models prior to shooting so that you’re on the same page and have a mutual understanding of what we’re trying to achieve. I also think it’s important to establish a dialogue with models as it really is a collaboration. Without them these photos would not be what they are. My direction is very laid back — I go with the flow. If I like a pose I may have a model hold position as I navigate the body within the frame of my camera.

Jordan Browne: ‘Sweet Dreams, Francis’ (installation view), 2017 © James Morley, Ryerson Image Centre

N: How did your series ‘Anonymous (2012 – 2016) come about?

JB: This series is really a precursor to my main body of work. It is on going and also functions as an extension to ‘Sweet Dreams, Francis’ in the aesthetic qualities I am exploring. I started out photographing predominantly women as I’ve always felt much more comfortable with them. As time went on, I really became interested in creating a body of work that related to my own identity, which led to photographing more men. This ultimately progressed to ‘Sweet Dreams, Francis’.

N: Are there other ideas or themes you’d like to explore in the future?

JB: I’d like to give voice to being both queer and a person of colour. I think I could speak to the ways in which those identities intersect and how they have shaped my experiences in my formative years. While sexuality is a major theme explored in my current body of work, I think it would be interesting to add another layer to that as an individual who is also of mixed race.

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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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Top 10 Urban Photography/Architecture Instagram Moments in 2017

I scoured the internet to find the ten best urban photography/architecture Instagram moments of this year so far. Here are the results:











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Catchin a cold at Toronto new surf shop

Aliya N Barnes in front of Elie Landesberg’s photo.
Photos by Sveta Soloveva 

Try on a juicy rash guard, flip through a surf magazine, grab a board of your dream and … go surfing!

Are the Great Lakes too cold for you? Don’t worry, Surf the Greats company got you covered. Their new surf shop and café at 276 Carlaw Avenue offers thick cold water wetsuits, surf booties, and mittens from Rip Curl. While the warmest gear keeps your body comfortable, the beach-inspired events and parties will take care of your mood. For example, until July 29th, Catchin A Cold photo exhibit showcases works from 16 artists who represent all five of the Great Lakes.

Hidden in the labyrinth of the building, the shop became one of many surfers’ favourite spots in Toronto even before it opened. Even while under construction, it hosted Toronto’s premiere of environmental movie Island Earth and welcomed adventure photographer Chris Burkard who was in to Toronto to present his surf documentary Under An Arctic Sky.

Now the shop is officially open and it offers everything surfers need for their soul and body, from surfboards, apparel, sun care, and printed matters to surf and yoga lessons, energizing drinks, and many exciting events like film screenings and live music concerts!

“The atmosphere is totally amazing,” said 20-year-old Aliya N. Barnes, who attended the grand opening party on June 29th. “It’s colourful and bright, but it still has a nice surf chill feeling. I feel like I wanna live here.”

Surf the Greats’ owner Antonio Lennert said that the physical shop is an extension of their online platform that brought many surf enthusiasts together through organizing beach cleanups and free yoga classes and offering surf equipment and lessons for the last three years.

“We started online as a media outlet to connect all different communities of surfers over the Great Lakes using hashtag ‘surf the greats’,” he said. “I feel like we’ve earned the community’s trust by giving, and now the community is giving back to us. That’s why now we have a home, and there’s so many people here and so much positivity. It just feels very special.”

Surf the Greats’ sign over the bar table is shimmers in its juicy colours, shifts from pink to blue and from blue to green. Dj Great Lake Shark (Ellie Landesberg) creates a tropical vibe with folktronica tracks until the band Gold Complex takes over with their live acoustic.

Gold Complex performs at the surf shop on June 29

Guests sample RISE Kombucha, order beer from Sweetgrass Brewing Co., and explore newly arrived surfboards and apparel. There are a couple of major brands like Vans Canada and Rip Curl, but Surf the Greats tries to stay local as much as possible and carries products from Montreal, Tofino, BC, and Toronto, along with their own brand.

Walking through the rows of beach bags and rash guards, the visitors occasionally stop and stare at the photos of Catchin A Cold exhibit. The sixteen photographs vary from black and white to colourful, and show surfers riding or waiting for waves, walking to and staring at the water. “What you see on the walls is a mix of professional photographers and people who go to beach with their phones,” said Lennert. “We tried to make sure that we represented all the Great Lakes, amateur and professional photographers, male and female photographers.” Surf the Greats announced the photo competition in the winter and, working with Vans Canada, selected the winning works out of 700 submissions.

Dj Great Lake Shark (Elie Landesberg) creates a tropical vibe at Surf the Greats’ grand opening party
“I took this photo in Scarborough, Ontario, in a very-very stormy day, and there was one surfer out in very turbulent water,” Elie Landesberg told Novella about his black and white photo. “Because the sky was so grey and the birds were blowing around the sky, I thought it was a metaphor for my life and for surfing to see somebody sitting insulated, so calm among so much turbulence and chaos.”
Lennert said Surf the Greats will host a new event every week. Many of them are free or by donation. Check out a screening of a the surf movie GIVEN on July 20, a wave forecasting workshop on July 29th, and beach yoga every Sunday morning.
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