Dilettante's Diary

Toronto Art Expo 2007

Home
Who Do I Think I Am?
Index: Movies
Index: Writing
Index: Theatre
Index: Music
Index: Exhibitions
Artists' Blogs
Index: TV, Radio and Misc
Restaurants
JUNE 16, 2017
Mar 21/17
Feb 26/17
Feb 9/17
Jan 30/17
Dec 19/16
Dec 11/16
Nov 20/16
Sept 17/2016
Aug 21/16
July 17/16
June 29/16
June 2/16
Apr 23/16
Feb 28/16
Feb 1/16
Jan 27/16
Winter Reading 2016
Dec 15/15
Nov 19/15
Fall Reading 2015
Oct 29/15
Sept 16/15
Sept 4/15
July 29, 2015
July 1, 2015
June 7/15
Summer Reading 2015
May 19/15
Apr 30/15
Apr 19/15
Spring Reading 2015
March 23/15
March 11/15
Winter Reading 2015
Feb 20/15
Feb 8/15
Jan 29/15
Jan 20/15
Highs 'N Lows of 2014
Dec 19/14
Dec 2/14
Nov 10/14
Oct 29/14
Fall Reading 2014
Sept 17/14
Summer Reading 2014
Aug 22/14
Aug 8/14
July 11/14
June 16/14
May 28/14
Apr 30/14
Apr 16/14
Apr 2/14
March 21, 2014
March 13/14
Feb 11/14
Sept 23/13
Favourite Works: 2004-2013
Two Novels by BARBARA PYM
Sabbath's Theater by PHILIP ROTH
July 18/13
Summer Reading 2013
June 19/13
May 30/13
Spring Reading 2013
May 10/13
Apr 18/13
Mar 29/13
March 14, 2013
The Artist Project 2013
Feb 25/13
Winter Reading 2013
Feb 7/13
Jan 22/13
Jan 12/13
A Toast to 2012
Dec 19/12
Dec 16/12
Dec 4/12
Fall Reading 2012
Nov 17/12
Nov 6/12
Art Toronto 2012
Oct 23/12
Oct 4/12
Sept 28/12
Summer Reading 2012
Aug 26/12
Aug 8/12
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2012
July 14/12
June 28/12
MIMC
May 27/12
May 20/12
May 4/12
La Traviata: Met's Live HD Version
Apr 21/12
Apr 6/12
Mar 22/12
Mar 9/12
The Artist Project 2012
Academy Awards Show 2012
Feb 26/12
Feb 11/12
Jan 23/12
Jan 15/12
Jan 7/12
Dec 20/11
Dec 12/11
Nov 27/11
Nov 18/11
Nov 7/11
Art Toronto 2011
Oct 22/11
Oct 17/11
Sept 30, 2011
Summer Reading 2011
Aug 11/11
July 28, 2011
July 19/11
TOAE 2011
June 25/11
June 20/11
June 2/11
May 14/11
Apr 29/11
Toronto Art Expo 2011
Apr 11/11
March 24/11
The Artist Project 2011
March 11/11
Feb 23/11
Feb 7/11
Jan 21/11
HIGHS 'N LOWS OF 2010
Jan 17/11
Dec 21/10
Dec 6/10
Nov 11/10
Fall Reading 2010
Oct 22/10
Summer Reading 2010
Aug 9/10
Aug 2/10
TOAE 2010
July 16/10
The Shack
June 27/10
June 3/10
May 5/10
April 17/10
Mar 28/10
Mar 17/10
The Artist Project 2010
Toronto Art Expo 2010
Feb 22/10
Feb 3/10
Notables of '09
Jan 11/10
Dec 31/09
Dec 17/09
How Fiction Works
Nov 24/09
Sex for Saints
Nov 11/09
Housekeeping
Oct 22/09
Oct 6/09
Sept 18/09
Aug 23/09
July 31/09
July 17/09
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2009
Toronto Fringe 2009
Zen Wrapped In Karma Dipped In Chocolate
June 28/09
June 6/09
Myriad Mysteries 2009
May 10/09
CBC Radio -- "The New Two"
April 14/09
March 24/09
Toronto Art Expo '09
March 1/09
The Jesus Sayings
Feb 8/09
Jan 26/09
Jan 10/09
Stand-outs of 2008
Dec 24/08
Dec 4/08
Nov 16/08
Oct 27/08
Oct 16/08
Sept 26/08
Sept 5/08
July 21/08
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 08
July 5/08
June 23/08
June 4/08
May 18/08
May 4/08
April 16/08
March 26/08
Head to Head
Feb 26/08
Feb 13/08
Jan 30/08
Jan 17/08
Notables of 2007
Dec 30/07
Dec 8/07
Nov 22/07
Oct 25/07
Oct 4/07
Sept 18/07
Aug 29/07
Aug 8/07
Summer Mysteries '07
July 20/07
June 28/07
June 8/07
May 21/07
May 2/07
April 14/07
March 23/07
Toronto Art Expo 2007
March 8/07
Feb 16/07
Feb 2/07
Jan 24/07
Notables of 2006
Dec 27/06
December 11/06
November 28/06
Nov 8/06
October 14/06
Sept 22/06
Ring Psycho (Wagner on CBC Radio)
Sept 6/06
August 12/06
July 18/06
June 27/06
June 9/06
May 23/06
Me In Manhattan
May 2/06
April 12/06
March 17/06
March 9/06
Feb 16/06
Feb 1/06
Jan 11/06
Dec 31/05
Dec 12/05
Nov 25/05
Nov 4/05
Oct 24/05
Sept 7/05
Sept 16/05
Sept 1/05
Aug 10/05
July 21/05
Me and the Jays
July 10/05
June 15/05
May 18/05
April 27/05
April 18/05
April 8/05
March 21/05
Feb 28/05
Feb 21/05
Feb 4/05
Jan 28/05
Jan 19/05
Jan 5/05
About Me
Dec 20/04
Dec 5/04
MOVIES
BOOKS
RE-READINGS
MYSTERIES/CRIME books
VIDEOS and DVDs
PLAYS
OTHER STUFF: Art Exhibitions, Concerts, etc.

This review has a page to itself. For other "New Stuff" click on the March 8/07 page.

Toronto Art Expo 2007 (Metro Toronto Convention Centre, March 15-18)

This year, the organizers of this extravaganza have dropped the claim that the show is "juried". That could be because of the complaints from this department about the inaccuracy of the term as applied to last year’s show. There’s still lots of kitsch on display but not quite as much, it seems to me, as formerly. And it’s overshadowed by the better work. In fact, near the end of my visit, I unexpectedly found some quite exciting things that made me stay longer than intended.

But first, it was good to see several fave’s from past shows: Laurie Sponagle’s very fine, contemplative charcoal works; Micheal Zarowsky’s super watercolours; Julia Gilmore’s vibrant still lives that leap off the wall; Jan Kiewiet’s strong abstracts that seem to hover on the suggestion of landscape. I noted that Tim Packer’s landscapes this year mostly feature patterns of tree branches against the sky. And David J. Aubertin is back with his irreverent scribbles of angels and saints and sheep and Jesus figures.

It must be the impish quality of those drawings that attracts me. For the most part, I'm not interested in anything that: is done in a cartoony-style; has an allegorical theme; seems to have to do with a dream; tells a story; affects a "primitive" or "faux naive" effect; looks like an illustration from a kids’ book. I especially shun paintings in which the thick layering of the paint becomes the main point of the picture. Such an cloying attempt to create an individual style repels me. And most of all, I recoil from pictures in which the paint is thrown on in riotous colour that says nothing but "Whee, see me paint! I am an artist! See how creative I am!"

Nor do I spend much time on the many competent paintings that don’t strike me as special in some way. In this show, there are tons of perfectly unobjectionable scenes of rocks and lakes and rivers and autumn woods in all their glory. I know that we good Canadians are supposed to have some of these representations of our home and native land hanging on our walls. If that’s the kind of thing you want, then buy and enjoy. Me, I’m looking for something different.

Among the landscapes, then, I was struck the blocky, angular oils of Peter Adams. His clouds have a crunchy look, which you’d think is the opposite to the way clouds should be painted but his are very attractive. I also love a dilapidated shed of his and a very strong self portrait. John Adams, on the other hand, paints very large, stark landscapes with simple compositions. Priscilla Lakatos does landscapes approaching a somewhat more realistic look, but with lots of expression and mood. Expression is the whole point of Jeanette Obbink’s free and loose encounters with nature. Peter Colbert’s landscapes approach abstraction with their strong design and lack of detail. I was intrigued by the work of Kyle Stewart. Many of his abstracts look botanical and, in some cases, the intricate inter-twining of tiny patches of colour creates an impression of a field or of light filtering through a woods.

If less is more, as they sometimes say, then you certainly couldn’t get more of less than R. Hryhorczuk’s paintings: just a few dark smudges and streaks suggesting land and water. You might think you were being conned except that they’re very evocative and serene. A visitor to his booth was going into orbit on spotting a copy of the recent edition of Canadian Home and Garden that happened to be lying around and that included a painting by Hryhorczuk in a featured decor.

I love to see how artists convey the somewhat rougher urban beauty. Some of the standouts in this show are: Gisle Boulianne’s wild, chaotic scenes with a frenzy that makes you think of the visions of William Blake; Marjolyn van der Hart’s strong, bold groupings of people on streets; Marzena Kotapska’s large, dynamic scenes of subways and crowds; and Ron Eady’s industrial-looking structures that seem to be under construction. In a very different vein, Debra Tate-Sears does realistic scenes of lanes and buildings in a traditional way except that the muted tones of her palette give her watercolours a brooding look. Brandi Deziel takes realism even further with her "photo realistic" style for cluttered street scenes, views from car windows and interiors. And I think you’d have to include as urban painting Paul Gilroy’s pictures of things like motel signs, complete with hours and rates. The note of humour is welcome.

When it comes to flower painting, Danielle O’Connor Akiyama crowds about as much essence of flower onto a painting as possible. You get an abundance of colour, shape and even, you might imagine, perfume. One would almost say she goes too far in these extravaganzas, but she just manages to hold each one together on the canvas. Florin Brojba peers into the insides of flowers and drowns in their beauty, without making them garish in the process the way some people do. Another artist who does similar, meticulous work on flowers is Bert Liverance. Ian McAndrew explained to me that he uses a watercolour technique on his oil paintings of flowers: he tilts the canvas at a 60 degree angle and uses very thin paint, letting it drip down the canvas. I particularly liked the effect this produced for a bunch of peonies. (He knows what he’s talking about when it comes to watercolours because he has several very competent small ones for sale.)

There weren’t a lot of still lives that caught my eye but I did like March Gregoroff’s pictures of fruit against very drippy backgrounds. In my favourites of her works, the fruit itself seemed about to melt off the canvas. I don’t know whether Erika Bmpfer Deery’s work should be classified as still life but, for me, it has much that effect – and very strikingly. Each picture suggests something like single a piece of fruit against a white background merely by means of blobs of gouache and acrylic, sometimes just black and sometimes with an overlay of bright colour.

When it comes to realism in still life, the prize would have to go to Alex Xinjian Du for "Memory": a larger-than-life picture of a battered brown satchel leaning against a wall. The realism was such that I kept wondering why somebody had stuck a tattered newspaper photo to the top of the canvas. Fortunately, before I could reach out to remove the offending scrap, I realized it was part of the painted composition: a clipping tacked into the wall against which the satchel was leaning.

Lots of abstracts pleased me, among them the splashy, exciting works of Kisook Maria Kim and of Dan Mackie. In a more controlled, geometric mode, David Brown’s smeary compositions in black, white and red evoke both landscapes and cityscapes. Also in a somewhat rectangular way, Anne Barkley’s abstracts can suggest either an airy architectural motif or a tighter interior. One that fascinated me seemed to be based on a kitchen. You could almost make out a counter, a microwave, a fridge in the background and so on. But Ms. Barkley seemed to think I was going too far when I thought I identified a coffee pot in the foreground. Then there are Andrea Maguire’s indistinct but fascinating shapes, some of them seeming to suggest human forms, others towering cliffs. Sabine Liva Berzina’s abstracts, with an emphasis on cool, silvery light, seem to suggest wintry scenes. In this case, the artist’s promotional material happens, in my opinion, to have hit on just the right word to describe the works: "laconic".

Just as my tour of the booths was winding up, three artists in particular made a very strong impression on me.

A young man named Stewart Jones has produced perhaps the most exciting cityscapes that I’ve seen in a long time. In his oils, he captures the vibrancy, the colour, the teeming life of the city without losing architectural integrity or accuracy of detail. His paintings feature looming brick walls, long alleys, dangling fire escapes, stop lights – the whole jumble of the world we see every day but the beauty of which usually escapes our notice. One particularly striking painting, perhaps a view from an alley, shows the backs of houses above the roofs of lower buildings. A white frame wall of one of the houses stands out with a rare magnificence. This is Mr. Jones’ first appearance at this show and he told me he found it great fun to be among a crowd of people who were "buying art" instead of on Queen Street West – where I guess you mostly run into other artists.

At first, the work of Peter Fowler didn’t impress me – sketchy portraits of women, the canvas swimming with tons of gaudy pinks and yellows. But then I noticed some landscapes in a similarly uninhibited style but with more realistic colours. You might take them for a child’s messing around, except that under the mess you can discern an understanding of drawing, composition and perspective. After we chatted for a bit, Mr. Fowler showed me an oil sketch of some figures in a room, possibly an artist’s studio. Again, it was all very scruffy but you clearly had the sense of the perspective of the room, the light from the window and the figures looming in the foreground. One of his largest paintings could almost have been a parody of one of those classical paintings of a court scene crowded with people in powdered wigs, dwarves in the foreground, that sort of thing. This painting was bursting off the canvas with people and colour, everything looking cock-eyed and skewed. I never did get far enough back from the painting to give it a good long look and to decide whether or not I liked it. But I certainly did admire the guts of an artist who could show such impulsive work with so little regard for whether or not the public thought he was "accomplished".

I had to congratulate Kelly Grace, not just because her acrylics are very well done, but for the singular distinction of having the one painting in the show that was on a unique theme. "This is the only picture that I haven’t seen a hundred times already," I told her. The picture in question showed people dancing at a wedding. The tables were pushed back, the surroundings weren’t particularly glamorous. Without too much attention to detail, you got the sense of some white dresses and dark suits. The lighting was too harsh, everybody was tired, it was clearly "that time of the night". We’ve all been there but who would ever have thought that such a moment could make a good painting? Another marvellous painting by Ms. Grace shows skaters at a city rink. Mostly you get an impression of a jumble of legs and arms in motion. Ms. Grace tells me that she creates the blurry effects in her paintings, based on photographs, by over-washes of water. I had the impression that Ms. Grace was slightly non-plussed by my enthusiasm. A very young woman, she seemed a bit shy and self-effacing. But she is one formidable artist.

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com