Saturday, December 12, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Lennox Contemporary Gallery
I've considered the show's title "INVALIDS " suggesting something broken, somehow dysfunctional, and yes Tom has presented us with images of post modernist machinations that have no obvious function, and as machines or structures couldn't possibly work. Tom also suggests that his vision is somehow rooted in absurdity and humour. I can see how he has had a good chuckle either with or at the Bauhaus. Yet all this said I would say that these are rather serious almost cynical images that portray post modernism as it actually is. Tom has reassured me that all things architectural are doomed to suffer their own trade of vision for lust. As absurd and unworkable as these images seem to be I see them wherever urban society thrusts itself forward into a world of mine is bigger and better than yours. An urban world where the banality of mushrooming condos glorify the vision of architectural absurdity. They don't F%#@**ng work.
Trained as an Architect Mr. Ngo has slyly used gypsum board, drywall to the rest of us, and old faded drafting paper as his backdrop. This pleases me to no end. Being a painter and lifelong construction worker I love to see common construction materials used to defy the insistence of the academic world of art making to be relegated to the same old same old. His obvious skill as a draftsman shows through with his confident line and bold geometry. These drawings resonate with an exacting mathematical relationship with we mere mortals that live and work within. His colours are on the soft side but never invisible. Balance after all is the rigueur.
Tom Ngo's vision of our invalid world is on the walls of the Lennox Contemporary Gallery, 12 Ossington Ave. Toronto, 416-924-7964 from Sept. 3rd - 20th.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Michael Willems, Art Photographer, and Photo-Journalist spent one year documenting the lives of Kim and Robert. To look at this couple, at first glance, they seem to be a perfectly normal couple, albeit with significant age difference, he being several years older than her. Other than that nothing seems amiss, until you walk through one year of their lives as documented in this exhibit. You see they are both recovering junkies.
The most difficult part I have found about writing this article is to do so without going into the pathology of the subject matter. This after all is an Art exhibit, and I chose to view it as such. What Michael has done is created several images that when linked serve as a slow motion documentary. However each piece also stands alone. There are some of the images that if viewed without the overall context escapes the context, and are actually beautiful portraits of two beautiful people. As a matter of fact the one thing that initially disturbed me was that when I viewed each piece separately, I was not disturbed. Michael and I discussed this, and his take is that the exhibit shows that, even as junkies they are still complex humans, not just the emaciated lost in the world heaps of human excrement that we as a collective consciousness think of the addicted amongst us. Indeed there are moments of playfulness and child like abandonment portrayed in the individuals that they are. There is an image of Kim praying and I asked Michael with every bit of cynicism I could muster. "Is she really praying or is she posed?" To which he retorted that nothing was ever posed and he always had his camera at the ready. Are the images toyed with on a computer, again, no. Yet I still have to get through the beauty of these images. As a painter I saw many of them as Dutch masters, with soft endearing light. Never does Michael want you to fear his subjects, but to compassionately draw you into their world. One element I think would have added another dimension to the show would have been a spontaneous sound track, and not the 60's drug laments from the Artists' I-Pod. A little bit of their world recorded as they naturally dialogued day to day. All in all, an effective exhibit if you are not fooled by the beauty of it all.
906 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M6J 1G6
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Rob Croxford - 129 Ossington
Rob Croxfords' painted vignettes have 2 distinct facets to them the first being an overt call to nostalgia.
They hearken back to a simpler time of hand painted magazine ads, with images of model airplanes, zeppelins, and flying saucers, toys that a boy of post war America would lie awake at night dreaming of finding under the Christmas tree.
Other images are somewhat more sinister if you prescribe to being religously- politically correct. Images of women hanging the clothes out to dry while gossiping with Marge next door, or bent over the long gone ironing board putting a perfect crease on hubbies clothes.
Not enough though that Mr. Croxford has given us these ponderous images he has chosen to supply us with a written script to his musings on things of yore. Each image has a Title emblazoned as part of the painting, each starting with one of the A-Z of the alphabet, and at the bottom a single line of wisdom.
Each of these small paintings on canvas is skillfully depicted with scrapes and over washes giving them a patina of age. However as much as I don't mind work being exhibited unframed these paintings are sadly lacking that finished touch as the folded corners and edges of the canvas stretching leave a little something to be desired. All in all an exhibit that gives one cause to ponder.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Sogna Di Genova - Propeller Centre
Well again painting is saved. I always marvel at the resurrections of my beloved art form. It has been said by many on many an occasion that the form is in its' coffin, we only need to drive the last nail to end its' reign. This resurrection takes place in the form of a multi-media approach to the painted surface. Sogna deftly applies fabric to the surface in a way reminiscent of the collage of the early cubists, with pre-cut shapes applied to almost define form, but still let our eyes do the thinking.
This series of multimedia paintings utilizes the figurative form, yet what I really see is not much of a departure, actually a lineage from Ms. Di Genovas' previous painted abstracts. I actually have one, purchased a few years ago at Gallery 1313. It is pure abstraction but reminds me of aerial photography, as does the elements of paint and fabric collage she applies to this collection of figures.
Subjectively they appear as dream woven figures, slightly disembodied, with curious objects around them, light bulbs, feathers and others, and I wonder about their necessity to the composition. They seem at times to cause me to wonder more about the dream and less about the pure and simple beauty of the figures.
Her skill as a painter I believe has certainly matured with this series. In discussion with one of the friends of the gallery, we determined that like any genre of art it is crucial that a lineage is followed almost genetically, and it appears as though Sogna has achieved this with elements of last century's modernists. So bravo Sogna on moving the form forward with a subtle look back.
Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts tel:416.504.7142 www.propellerctr.com GALLERY HOURS: Wednesday - Saturday 12-6 pm Sunday 12-5 pm email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Betty Guggenheim - An Homage
Well it is finally complete, a one year effort of producing one painting every day in homage to the prolific art purchasing and collecting of Betty Guggenheim. Toronto Artist and gallery owner Ranko Pavic, took on this project and with persistent determination completed it, and has been exhibiting it in his St. Clair Ave. gallery in monthly instalments. The final installation , like all the others , does not disappoint.
Living in the neighbourhood of the gallery I tend to drop in with varying degrees of frequency to see the progress of Ranko's project, and with each viewing I find myself drawn to his sense of avant garde . First there is the paper on which he has chosen as his backdrop . The first time I saw it I was quite taken that he has seen a usefulness in this paper that would otherwise never have dawned on me. I have been using it for years in my construction day gig to cover and protect finished floor surfaces. So Ranko doesn't go to a hipper than thou art material outlet, but rather Home Depot for his paper which is available in 100' x 3' rolls for slightly more than $20. A true recession statement if I have ever seen one. It offers the Artist both a fragile and course surface to work on. I also have ventured into its' use.
Now the work itself. Cut into perfect squares Ranko sets up a series of repetitive form, then again applies a repetition of recognizable banner type forms . Almost flag or emblematic in their appearance each stand out as individual statements, but more importantly is the collective imagery that reflects a social democracy in the work. This series of 365 works is indeed a reflection of our own desire to exist as individuals within a society with a singular purpose. There is that constant struggle between the "I" and the "Us", that tries often in vain, but with increments of success at a mutual reconciliation.
Whenever I enter the gallery to view the latest instalment of the Homage, I find myself at peaceful odds with my own individual existence within the collective that exists mere feet from Ranko and I out on the bustling sidewalk as our fellow humans rush about expressing their own desire to survive on their own terms.
The final instalment will be on view until the first week of March when new projects by other Artists will come marching into the gallery Out/Aut. For those of you craving a taste of what I think is the only true avant garde space in this city, I would strongly advise a visit.
1346/c St. Clair Ave.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Nancy Oakes - Walking
For those of you unfamiliar with the cell gallery, it is actually a small room that is within Gallery 1313, and unlike it's cavernous big brother it allows the artist and the viewer a special intimacy with the work. Nancy Oakes has certainly put the space to good use.
Walking is a multi media exhibit that uses sound, drawing and written word as a palette. Even though three different experiences are available I never felt crowded or overwhelmed by it all. The subtle on the slushy street walking sounds, writings on the wall and small drawings, taken from a note pad, all play on each others' sparse intent.
First the sound, as it was what started the walking experience and no matter what else I was experiencing in the exhibit it was always there. Nancy had gone out on the urban winter street walking in the sloshing of slush carrying her trusty little digital recording device with her, picking up all the walking sounds of urbanites going about their daily lives, and even picking up snippets of conversations. She had cleverly mounted her device and a couple of small speakers on a shelf over the doorway , so, as you enter the room you don't see the source, it just becomes the narrator to walking.
Another clever tool Nancy uses is written word. She had invite people to write about their experiences with walking. She even got a response from a person who is wheelchair bound. She pinned all of these responses onto a wall all on their own. This really punctuated for me the 3 tiered procession of the exhibit .
The third tier of course being the visual. Before I discuss the actual pieces I would like to comment on how they were hung. It was indeed a pleasure to see someone take the time and effort to hang these pieces in a way that lead me to believe there really was no other way to hang the show. Each piece carefully placed with even spacing, level, and without the visual trickery of hanging them in some cryptic shape.
Each of these loose, gestural drawings of people walking contained an element of immediacy, as though a snapshot taken with stop time precision. Further to their immediate nature is the fact they were each done on small notepad paper that the artist could easily fit into a pocket. Taken out only at the right moment to capture the walk as it is that very second. Nancy also had over washed each drawing with tea to give them a sepia mist, and then froze them in time with wax.
Although I have separated each element of this exhibit for the purpose of this article, it really must be understood that each element of the walk are indeed like ingredients in a good soup and make a pleasing melange.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Sung Ja Kim - Wilderness
This exquisite show of painted constructions was on exhibit at the Loop Gallery from January 10th until February 1st. I have had the opportunity to see an exhibit by Sung once before at The Loop gallery and I was as taken with that body of work as I am with this one.
Her use of natural and recycled materials evoke an almost meditative experience in viewing them. More often than not I find the danger of stepping out of the use of traditional materials is that the composition becomes "about" the material, and the viewer loses touch with the objective. Not so here, the finely tuned concert of raw materials mounted on or behind canvas compliment the overriding theme of spiritual growth through self exploration. Each piece in the show seems an open, almost surgical examination of the spiritual self(lessness) in the human psyche. One piece in particular stands out as exemplary to the rest of the exhibit. Alienation & Redemption is a large scale piece constructed of raw plywood as if torn from the junk of a construction site mounted behind again a very course canvas. Are we not all constructed in this rough form? It is through life's hills and valleys that we can get down to the work of alienating ourselves from that which truly obstructs our path to redemption. Ms. Kim gets to this message by opening herself up for us all to see.
The entire palette of this material is muted grey, white and earthen tones that keep the viewer grounded so as not to wander from the sudden, (satori), reality of our own redemption. It is hard to avoid that subtle sense of loss in this body of work. Whether it be through fading memory or that gut wrenching loss of our own selves in the mess of life she bares it all.
It is late January and winter is in the depths of its hold on us thus causing many of us to seek warmth and a shelter from it. I only hope that doesn't mean that too few came out to witness this exhibit and come to terms with their own redemption. This is indeed a show that merits maximum visibility. Kudos to Ms. Kim and Loop for offering us the chance to get out in the cold and bare witness to certainly what I think is going to be an exhibit to set the example for the year of the bull.