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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s difficult to be anywhere in the country in July without echoes of Canada 150 ringing in your ears. This summer’s celebration is, after all, a big one. Instead of going against the grain of festivities for our monthly art guide, we’re working with Canada, in a way, by noting exhibitions this month that are solo exhibitions of or include work by incredible Indigenous artists.
ANISHINAABEG: ART & POWER (JUNE 17TH — NOVEMBER 19TH)
In the past, the Royal Ontario Museum would classify Indigenous art as cultural artefact, separate from what would be considered by fine or classical art. In this exhibition, which opened mid-June, that division is gone. Anishinaabeg artwork is displayed with detailed beadwork charting the artistic movements of the Anishinaabeg from 19th-cnetury friendship bags to the Woodlands School art movement. Co-curator and North Caribou Lake First Nations artist Saul Williams wrote descriptive labels for the artwork and recorded video discussing their symbolic and spiritual meanings.
UNSETTLING: BASIL AIZERI, LORI BLONDEAU, DUORAMA, TERRANCE HOULE, LISA MYERS (JUNE 22ND — JULY 22ND)
Unsettling sets out to do exactly what you would expect it do: disturb, upset, destabilize. Through the works of five different artists and artistic groups, the exhibition aims not only to unsettle its audience, but to unsettle the land it is on and the neighbourhood it is in, which would be Scarborough, at the Doris McCarthy Gallery. Within the context of Canada 150, the artists then aim to go bigger and disrupt the clean and pretty congratulatory narratives found throughout the mainstream anniversary media. The artists will do this all through painting, photography and sculpture.
Canadian jeweller and sculptor Mary Anne Barkhouse is known for her animal imagery-heavy artwork that highlights ongoing environmental and Indigenous struggles. Her current exhibition with the Koffler Gallery, titled Le Rêve aux Loups, is her first solo exhibition in Toronto. The exhibitor is comprised of sculptures and photo collages, using the realistic and the absurd to highlight themes of adaptation and persistence, regeneration and resistance.
JEFF THOMAS AND NAFISEH EMADMOSTOFI (JUNE 29TH — AUGUST 27TH)
At the Art Gallery of Mississauga this month, there are two solo exhibitions: one by Jeff Thomas, titled A Necessary Fiction: My Conversation with George Hunter and Edward S. Curtis, and the other by Nafiseh Emadmostofi, titled Burning Desire. Thomas’ exhibit is an examination of archival work by photographers who used Indigenous people in their work. Thomas deconstructs the images, changes the narrative and questions the place of such pictures in a time of self-determination and independent voices. Emadmostofi, selected from a call for graduation students from the University of Toronto, Mississauga and Sheridan College, is an award-winning Iranian artist. Her work in this exhibition is allegorical, drawing on images of the swan and burning books to touch on topical issues to spark protest but also to envision a better world.
The Art Gallery of Ontario can be, in a word, traditional. And usually, just like with the ROM, I never post their exhibitions on here because they get enough press and funding as it is. However, both of these institutions have showings this month that are worth note. The AGO’s is an exploration of what it means to be Canadian right now. Artists showing include Gu Xiong, Yu Gu, Robert Houle, Meryl McMaster, Seth, Esmaa Mohamoud, Ed Pien & Shuvinai Ashoona. The exhibition looks at where Canada is from, more than 150 years ago, where it is now and where it could go, using a multitude of artists and perspectives to attempt to answer these questions.
Multimedia artist Kelly Richardson is by now a household name in the visual art world. Her hyper-real landscapes created with digital technology have garnered international recognition. Her work has been called “otherworldly,”“absorbingly apocalyptic” and has been shown in over 90 group and solo exhibitions. Born in Burlington, Ontario, Richardson now resides in the U.K. and lectures in fine arts at Newcastle University. Richardson was also one of the notable artists who showcased their works at this year’s Power Ball XIX: Stereo Vision, a major fundraiser for public exhibitions and programs and an immersive contemporary art exhibition/party.
I had the chance to ask Richardson a few questions about selling caricatures, exploring technology, and the Apocalyptic Sublime.
Natasha Grodzinski: You are such a widely known artist and have shown works internationally. Does it feel the same to show in Canada or do you feel differently about showing your work in the country you were born in?
Kelly Richardson: I have lived in England for the past 14 years and during this time I have been fortunate enough to establish my practice internationally, which I’m incredibly grateful for. However, it has meant a great deal to me personally and professionally to maintain a presence in Canada, so it’s always a pleasure to return to exhibit my work. In fact, very shortly I will be returning permanently to teach at UVic (University of Victoria) which I am extremely excited about.
NG: Have you always been an artistic person? Or is there an “Aha” moment where you realized this was a way to express your passion and ideas?
KR: I have been a maker for as long as I can remember. Instead of setting up a lemonade stand as a kid, I set up a curb-side caricature stand. Portraits were 25 cents each. A bargain, even if they were awful!
NG: You’re described as an artist working in digital technologies. You work with film, but can you go deeper into what kind of digital technologies you’re engaging with?
KR: The kinds of technologies used is very much determined by what is needed to produce each work. I always start with an idea from which lengthy research and development is undertaken to produce it.
In terms of production, this usually means involving various specialist software packages typically used in the film and gaming industries. I’ve also employed sophisticated digital installation methods to challenge established moving image formats to produce seamless panoramic vistas three times the width of high definition and more recently, a 10-screen synced 4k installation.
Currently I am researching how I might employ real-time video for one particular work and for another, I’m simply trying to force available software to make a series of works possible. The technical challenges are always significant, but I need to stress that they are always used as a means to an end. The work is first and foremost about the ideas.
NG: The landscapes you create are a mix of the natural and unnatural, the organic and technologic. What made you want to explore these contradictions?
KR: That’s a difficult question to answer really, as I think my initial interest in those contradictions came by way of numerous angles in my thinking. Much of this work came out of an interest in the Apocalyptic Sublime, a sub-genre of Romanticism where artists, poets and writers shared a preoccupation with notions of the apocalypse in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is a great deal of speculation as to what the influences of the genre were exactly but one significant one was the birth of the Industrial Revolution which played heavily on the minds of creative practitioners at the time. Roughly 200 years on, the natural world (ourselves included of course) is now facing severe consequences from relentless industrialization. In short, I’m interested in that relationship, which is evident in many ways in the work.
NG: For example, you digitally created a hypothetical landscape in Mariner 9, but then show footage of a very real one in Leviathan. What is it that draws you to these landscapes?
KR: The landscapes chosen for each work, whether digitally created or filmed and then manipulated, are quite specific. Mariner 9 presents Mars as littered with the rusting remains from various missions to the planet. Despite its suggested abandoned state, several of the spacecraft continue to partially function, looking for signs of life and possibly transmitting the data back to no one. That search for life—to know that we’re not alone in the universe—is fascinating on many levels, but it’s also a beautiful, endearing endeavour, particularly for us as a species. We are destroying much of life as we know it, literally consuming our planet at a truly alarming rate. I’m interested in that contradiction at this critical time in history when current predictions for our future are not just unsettling, but terrifying.
I produced Leviathan during a residency at Artpace in San Antonio. Prior to arriving the BP oil spill (Deepwater Horizon) had just occurred in the Gulf. Taking that environmental disaster as a starting point of interest/concern, through research I discovered Caddo Lake on the east side of Texas on the Louisiana border, which has the dubious claim of being the first site for underwater oil extraction in human history. The location, therefore, could not have been more suitable from which to make work that is concerned with the repercussions of large-scale, unchecked industry. Caddo Lake is a significant landscape from which the modern world was forged.
NG: Would Mariner 9 be considered a cautionary tale?
KR: It depends on the viewer’s interpretation. On the one hand, yes, absolutely. I am deeply concerned about where we are heading as a species. But I’m also hopeful. In Mariner 9, whatever interest we had in the planet has long ceased, but it’s not clear why. We might be witnessing machines attempting in their own futile, semi-functioning way to communicate with a planet where no one is left to receive the data. Or perhaps our focus has shifted elsewhere.
Over the last few years, I’ve been increasingly interested in the way science fiction allows us to experience what life might be like in the coming century. Scientists and futurologists can speculate on what the future might look like, but artists are capable of visualising those futures, making them tangible. If hindsight is always 20/20, experiencing these potential futures offers us a window through which we can view our present time and the direction we are headed in with some measure of clarity.
NG: Now that you’re lecturing at Newcastle University, has your experience as a teacher changed your perspective on visual art?
KR: I wouldn’t say that it has changed my perspective on visual art, but I do find that it’s an enriching experience to teach. Arguably (and this sounds like a cliché) I get as much from it as the students do.
NG: If you had to describe your work to someone who knew absolutely nothing about art and had no interest in it, how would you do it?
KR: Most people have an interest in TV and film, so when faced with someone who isn’t interested in art I tend to talk about it in relation to that. The works act as immersive “set extensions” (to borrow a term from film) into another time and place within which the viewer becomes the main character. However, we frame it, it is that experience and what happens internally within the viewer which is important.
You can find out more about Kelly Richardson’s work here. And continue following our arts & culture coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.