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.

BLACK ART AND LIBERATION: A PANEL DISCUSSION (FEBRUARY 16TH)

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.

MICHAEL CHAMBERS (JANURARY 25TH — MARCH 18TH)

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.

HERE WE ARE: BLACK CANADIAN CONTEMPORARY ART (JANUARY 27TH — APRIL 22ND)

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.

OF OURSELVES (FEBRUARY 1ST — FEBRUARY 24TH)

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 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.

Novella’s October Art Guide 2017

Hamilton by Cosmo Campbell. Image Source.

For the month of October, we’re all about context and interpretation. The way we see objects, the way we interact with those around us, the way we recall events and count stories — these things are particular to each person. We all operate from within our own sets of understanding, from context our brain supplies and events filtered through our consciousness. Perspective is such a funny thing. It can be so ingrained in us and yet a single idea or an image can upset it and alter our understanding. We invite you to interact with our choices of art exhibition this month to engage with a little perspective destabilization.

NORVAL MORRISSEAU & CHRISTIAN MORRISSEAU (SEPTEMBER 21ST — NOVEMBER 5TH)

Legendary Ojibwe artist Norval Morrisseau passed away in 2007, but his legacy continues on in his artwork and his children. His youngest son, Christian Morrisseau, an accomplished artist in his own right, takes the knowledge and traditions his father taught him and adds his own perspective and interpretation on them. This exhibition, featuring work from both Norval and Christian, will be displayed in three different galleries inside the Distillery District: The Stone Distillery Gallery, The Cooperage Space, and a pop-up gallery at 30 Parliament Street. So, they’re making it easy for you to take in some truly incredible art and to experience a cross-generational tradition.

Learn more information here.

AT HOME WITH MONSTERS (SEPTEMBER 30TH — JANUARY 7TH)

I’m of the opinion that Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is a master world builder, and the chance to look through his personal collections of art, artefacts, and props is not something I want to pass up. This exhibition serves as a window into del Toro’s inspiration and life, and is thematically, rather than chronologically, organized. There will be an assumedly eclectic mixture of genre and medium, all things that del Toro says have inspired him to create his impressive body of work. While the exhibition will run at the AGO until January, what better time to visit some monsters than October?

More information here.

NOCTURNAL TOURIST (OCTOBER 5TH — 19TH)

If you’ve ever felt strange inside a gas station, an empty school, an airport terminal, or a parking garage, you’ve engaged with the idea of liminal spaces — places our brains have hardwired for a certain context and when they are removed from that context, the image is destabilized. They can also be transitional places, as in somewhere you wind up in on the way to a particular destination. Liminal spaces fascinate me, and if you feel the same way, you’re going to want to see Cosmo Campbell’s photography exhibition at The Black Cat Artspace. Campbell photographed places and objects that are normally busy during the daytime at night, switching the focus from people to the object or places themselves and changing their contexts. If you have no idea what I was talking about with liminal spaces, then consider this exhibit an introduction.

More information here.

AN UNNATURAL HISTORY (OCTOBER 5TH — NOVEMBER 2ND)

This upcoming group show at the Etsy Street Team Gallery aims to bend fact and fiction and question what is natural and what is unnatural. Artists Kathryn Bell, Kristen D’Aquila, Duncan Wilder, Lavina Hanachiuc, Mar Hester, Holly McClellan, Judith Pudden, Kest Schwartzman, Rosemary Stehlik, Tosca Taran, Pati Tozer, Elaine Whittaker, Ele Willoughby, and Cynthia Winters all bring their own interpretations of ideas based in imagination but supported by fact. If you think made up stuff is strange, you have no idea how strange science and math can be. (And if you want to get extra weird, there’s a reception on Friday the 13th.)

More information here.

SPACES OF PASSAGE (OCTOBER 5TH — NOVEMBER 5TH)

Jean-Luc Lindsay’s paintings are exercises in perspective in two different ways: first is the medium itself. Lindsay’s stark realism is so skillful that, at a first glance, I did think one was a photograph. Of course, upon closer inspection, the painting technique is clear. The subject matter, however, is also worth a double take. Lindsay’s seemingly mundane subjects are revisited with artistic detail, revealing patterns and qualities we wouldn’t see in scenery we pass by everyday on the sidewalk. Something like a door propped up against a fence takes on new meaning and warrants new considerations. Lindsay’s paintings will be at Project Gallery all month long.

More information here.

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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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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