Queen St. W. a sunny autumn afternoon. This is Toronto's art scene, or at least it use to be. Though I still want my thirst for art to be slaked. After much head scratching I turned a corner on a street I knew at least had a number of bars to choose from, so if nothing else another kind of thirst could be fulfilled. Ossington Ave., another street wanting to be a destination for the art starved.Walking aimlessly I came to a curious door propped open, but not completely. My curiosity mounting I dared to stick my head in only to have my jaw drop at the sight of a few large abstract canvases leaning against the wall, and a young man who welcomed me to enter. After introductions, his name is Christian Mcleod, we started chatting about his work. large and bold almost landscapes. One really caught my eye with reminiscence of my youth. Grasses peering through the first snow, upon first glance. Further I looked and further I remembered. The white isn't snow, but in my childhood eyes it was water, and the grasses the grasses peering through in the shallows by the cattails of my fishing with my Father days. Where the big one always evaded our alluring lures. Then there were others, abstract visions of lands I know in my minds eye.
Though besides his art making something else came to my memory. At an age when I saw nothing but a future of living in my studio making art and galleries banging at my door there was no "scene" in hogtown. I remember the Issacs gallery and a few others, all with established stables. There was no Now magazine or Slate art guide. The internet? Queen St. West was populated with hookers and seedy bars. Yorkville was reeling from the exodus of the hippies and didn't quite yet know what it wanted to be. So here is this young fellow working away at wonderful work, and I am sure, not having it all that easy, but yet there he is working away, and I wish him all the best.
In the dieing days of summer I have found myself walking my old exhibiting haunts of Queen St. W. to find it's gone. What once was a thriving and fruitful scene is now all but abandoned. Even the existing galleries have nothing that is moving forward. Why? The scene is scattered. Why? Condoronto is settling in en mass. Divide and conquer. Thank you Ford bros. You got the the dough do as you will. For a culture to move forward like a military unit it requires unison. The present political cloud that hangs over us is dark and oppressive. We need cultural communities much like SOHO, DUMBO, or Chelsea in NYC. For one it offers an environment that is simply easier to navigate. Potential art buyers can easily walk from gallery to gallery and enjoy a good coffee in between. Now one has to drive from a small cluster of galleries to another. Besides Queen west there use to be Yorkville, again a corpse in the dust of Condoronto. You might argue that the distillery district has replaced the other previous communities. No!! It is a self contained community, yes but it is just one and a very high end one at that. Nothing wrong there, but other self contained communities are needed for the visual and new media arts to flourish and make us a world class city that recognizes the value that unified communities offer all of us. What to do? Good question. Rail against Condoronto? Good luck.
It falls like a storm in sheets of brown rain covering our minds with the weight of a world come undone torn at the very seems it guts spued all over the greed of capitalism gone mad with greed avarice and hubris......
I will be offering visual arts classes for adults in my west end Toronto studio. The classes will be focused on all levels of ability. Simply e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's start making art. http://www.kurtscanadianart.com
So I chanced into my second adventure with the AGO'S presentation of MOMA'S ABEX collection. For some reason my feelings have not changed. Before I rant on about the work that both moved me and made me feel completely inadequate as an Artist, after my first visit I wanted to go home and burn my brushes , I would like to discuss the two items in the exhibit that I found missing appropriate treatment.
When an opportunity comes to ones' mind and eye to present to the community a collection of Art that is as poignantly definitive of a place and time such as post war America, one must consider every detail with the eye of the Artists themselves. There is a heavy handed ego in place if this process is not given the sensitivity so deserving.
I handed over my ticket to the young lady standing guard over the gates to heaven, and found purgatory. The first room that presents the works of Arshile Gorky and Adolph Gottlieb is not a room but a corridor. The first time I visited the exhibit was on a Sunday, the galleries were packed with wanting eyes. This corridor was like negotiating an urban highway during rush hour. Lots of bumping, very little seeing. The second time I went was on a Tuesday, the population was moderate. yet still I could not give the work the view both it and I deserved.
Let's move on to the second room. If one wants to enjoy the large and exciting works of De Kooning in the comfort of their living room then this room was perfect although missing the divan and fireplace.
Those are the only censures I have of this otherwise bravado exhibit.
I could rant on and on about the work, but I'll let you make up your own mind on that account. Although I was taken rather strongly by the Franz Kline works.
The Bather, Oil On Routered Plywood, 36" x 48" 2011
So there she sits
A hummingbird hums
It doesn't know the words
The lush life grows
Coltrane blows a sad lament
The world is not as it seems
So she cleanses
And the river
And the river
And the river.....
One has few opportunities in this frenzied world to experience serenity, walking into Joy Walker's world is one of them. This kind of meditative expression comes from a being here and now experience. Images such as are displayed in Ms. Walkers "Chanced " exhibit come from an immediate reflection, reminding me of a quote from Jack Kerouac, " First thought best thought...". Chewing for too long can only result in a muddied mess of confusion. The muted colours and faintly suggested shadows take me further into the meditation of relative reality verses ultimate reality, the reality of complete clarity as opposed to the frantic jumble of thoughts that race through the mind every moment of every day. Ms. Walkers images, (all of print process), cut through with definitive certainty. Her exhibit continues at MKG Gallery at 127 Ossington Ave, email@example.com until April 16th.
The story of this exhibit is about a story, a story of collaboration between an Artist and an Author. Ms. Lee was asked to illustrate a childrens' book, to which she accepted with enthusiasm. The story is called The White Tortoise of Ch'u. I won't give away the narrative, only to say it is certainly a story I would have read to my daughter when she was a child.
I found myself making up my own story as I walked through the exhibit. JJ's adept and childlike imagery makes it very readable. The Tortoise as in any myth is presented with several obstacles of evil to overcome, and is in the end successful in doing good and is rewarded with the knowledge of it's good deed.
The technique she uses is not the slick dineyesque imagery that seems to be often utilized in a child's story. Her approach comes from the subconscious using layers of transparent paint, ink drawing and collage, which adds a depth not usually seen in a bed time story book, and maintaining a dream like quality.
There are some of the works that really stand out for me, and do work individually. I would though find it hard to steal a part of the story and leave a piece missing from the tale, which just might make for another story itself.