Dilettante's Diary

March 17/06

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Favourite Works: 2004-2013
Two Novels by BARBARA PYM
Sabbath's Theater by PHILIP ROTH
July 18/13
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A Toast to 2012
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La Traviata: Met's Live HD Version
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Academy Awards Show 2012
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How Fiction Works
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Sex for Saints
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Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2009
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Zen Wrapped In Karma Dipped In Chocolate
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CBC Radio -- "The New Two"
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Toronto Art Expo '09
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The Jesus Sayings
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Stand-outs of 2008
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Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 08
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Head to Head
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Notables of 2007
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Summer Mysteries '07
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Toronto Art Expo 2007
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Notables of 2006
Dec 27/06
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Ring Psycho (Wagner on CBC Radio)
Sept 6/06
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Me In Manhattan
May 2/06
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Me and the Jays
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About Me
Dec 20/04
Dec 5/04
OTHER STUFF: Art Exhibitions, Concerts, etc.

Reviewed Here: Micheal Zarowsky (Paintings); The Black Veil (Memoir/Biography); Thank You For Smoking (Movie); She's The Man (Movie); New Voices (Ryerson Theatre School); Beowulf and Grendel (Movie); Saturday (Novel); Toronto Art Expo (Art Exhibition)

Micheal Zarowsky (Paintings) Niagara Gallery, 254 Niagara St., Toronto

A sampling of Micheal Zarowky’s watercolours wow’d me at the recent Toronto Art Expo (see review  below ), so I jumped at the chance to see a solo show of his recent paintings. Here’s work that shows you what’s happening in the forefront of the watercolour movement.

Most of the works are done in something like a pointillist style – tiny patches of colour working together to build a picture. The medium, for the most part, isn’t used in a very transparent way; it almost approaches gouache in its effect. Up close, it can be hard to make sense of the busy interaction of dots on the canvas but you stand back and you see, for instance, an ornate Paris apartment building emerging above a wrought iron gate. The building is not by any means rendered with photographic realism; it’s more of a suggestion of the building. The main point of the picture is the dazzle of light, which creates the effect of life pulsing in the scene. Apart from the many Paris pictures (views from a balcony, a hidden garden, etc.), there are several magnificent pictures of snow-laden woods and Georgian Bay scenes. The colours in most of these pictures are rather cool but one of the warmer ones shows a stream near Byng Inlet dancing in the light of the setting sun.

The show includes some works in a somewhat more traditional style: broad swatches of colour, more free-flowing, less painstaking. A few stokes render a sunlit couch against a window. Another picture captures an interior against a moonlit sky. My favourite is a very simple picture of two yellow chairs and a table on a patio where the play of light and shadow takes your breath away. It’s one of the smaller pictures. Just the right size for me to steal.


The Black Veil (Biography/Memoir) by Rick Moody, 2002

In a recent interview on Eleanor Wachtel’s "Writers & Company" on CBC Radio, Rick Moody sounded like a pretty interesting guy, especially as author of this book. In it, he tells about his attempts to trace a familial connection to "Handkerchief Moody", a 19th century New England minister who was famous for wearing a black veil over his face for most of his adult life. Presumably, this was the result of unresolved guilt about having accidentally shot and killed a friend when they were kids. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a short story based on the character of the man. On the trail of this putative relative, Rick Moody muses about many things, but mostly the break-up of his own parents’ marriage, his prickly relationship with his father, and his own time as a patient on the psychiatric ward of a hospital.

This is not one of those celebrity memoirs along the lines of "I-was-so-bad-but-look-how-good-I-am-now." From the way Mr. Moody writes about himself, you’d never know that he was touted by The New Yorker a few years ago as one of the most important young writers in America, a writer in fact who has had one of his novels (The Ice Storm) made into a major motion picture. He sounds here like an ornery, maladjusted American male. When he leaves the psychiatric ward where he spent a month, his fellow patients give him farewell cards. From their messages, as quoted in this book, you get the impression that other people see the author as a much nicer person than he sees himself. In this book he makes no attempt to charm you or to make you like him. That is the best thing about the book.

However, the writing is not particularly accessible or easy to follow. Mr. Moody allows himself to ramble at length. Frequently, I found myself wondering: what is he talking about here and how does this have any connection to the main theme? A long riff on all the different connotations of the word "black" (with the famous veil as the jumping off point) strikes me as more creative writing than useful information. Near the end of the book, he offers a list of all the things he has left out and he ponders whether he has lived up to his promise to be candid. Sorry to say it, but this soul-searching began to seem as affected as an autobiography that shouts the author’s virtues in a smoothly polished, formulaic way. My quibbles about style and tone aside, to get full value from this book, you’d have to be a lot more interested than I am in American literature of the 19th century, New England folk lore and the intricacies of Mr. Moody’s genealogy.


Thank You For Smoking (Movie) directed and adapted for the screen by Jason Reitman

The theme of this movie (as gleaned from previews and mentions in the press) didn’t exactly thrill me: a satire on political correctness as seen from the point of view of a lobbyist for the tobacco industry. But it sounded like the movie might be clever, funny, "in-your-face", hip and cool. Besides, it might do me good to have my accepted notions shaken up a bit. Setting moral qualms set aside, I might enjoy a really good satire that bubbled along and kept me laughing and questioning at the same time.

Aaron Eckhart does a great job as the flashy, incorrigible rogue with, as he describes them, "flexible morals". But the movie undercuts his valiant efforts. It has no discernible pace, just a series of incidents trying to score assorted points. And the script seems confused about what those points are supposed to be. For instance, our lobbyist destroys the opposition in a tv talk show. Afterwards, the senator heading up the anti-tobacco forces says the problem was that the cancer patient on the talk show wasn't sick enough. Huh? The problem was that Aaron Eckhart was good looking and brilliant. The main thrust of the plot is that it’s all leading up to a momentous US senate hearing about a proposal to put a skull and cross bones on tobacco packages. But we keep frogetting that because there’s no momentum bulding to it. Through rather elaborate plot contrivances, the lobbyist’s young son accompanies him on his travels. Presumably we’re meant to see that the lobbyist is a responsible, enlightened dad in the way he’s teaching his son to think for himself and keep an open mind. But the son is one of the most unappealing kids to hit the screen in a long while: prissy and solemn, about 11 years-old, going on 39. It’s impossible to feel any connection between him and the dad.

As for humour, there are some good lines. The son, while writing a school essay, asks the dad what makes America the greatest nation on earth and the dad shoots back, "The endless appeal system." But a lot of the supposed comedy falls flat. At one point, the lobbyist is comparing notes with colleagues working for the gun and the alcohol industries. They’re vying with each other to see whose industry kills the most people. It should be outrageously, blackly funny, right? I’ve heard dead baby jokes that work much better.

Inevitably, you have to discuss this movie in terms of the issues, whether you want to or not. I would be happy to say the movie forced me to see another side to the argument, but it didn't. The intellectual acumen on display is juvenile. By way of a justification for the lobbyist, we get the tiresome alllusion to a lawyer defending a guilty person. If you’re going to make a comparison in those terms, you’d have to cite a lawyer who is arguing for a murderer’s right to keep on killing more and more people. And yes, as the movie points out, cheddar cheese is dangerous because it clogs people’s veins with cholesterol, eventually causing some deaths. But cheese has nothing like the lethally addictive properties of tobacco. And that issue of addiction is the one issue – and I’d say a crucial one – that the movie never mentions. So all the talk about fairness, openness and thinking for yourself is undercut by the movie’s own duplicity.

Rating: E (as in "Eh?" i.e. "iffy")


She’s The Man (Movie) directed by Andy Fickman

In this adaptation of Twelfth Night, a teenage girl (Viola) impersonates her brother (Sebastian) so that she can play on the men’s soccer team at his new school. What makes the ruse possible is his escaping for an illicit trip to Europe instead of reporting to the school where nobody knows him yet. From the previews and the ads, it looked like this might be just another shlocky teen comedy. On the other hand, maybe the movie would retain some of the fun of the Shakespearean original? I love those situations where A is falling in love with B without realizing it, A is thinking that B is of the wrong gender or sexual orientation to be a love object for A, but B actually is the right gender/orientation for A, and B, as it happens, is  falling in love with A – you know the kind of thing, it happens all the time. Shakespeare In Love did it very well. And the largely overlooked but very funny Happy, Texas included a great example.

The movie has some really neat bits. Like Viola’s gay hairdresser coaching her on the ways to appear masculine. Amanda Byrnes (Viola/Sebastian) and Channing Tatum (Duke, his/her roomate) both do very well. Duke just happens to be a very hunky jock, but he’s extremely awkward with the opposite sex. "Sebastian" is coaching Duke on how to score with chicks but suddenly but Duke's finding the pep talk too crude, too physical. Guess what? Duke cares more about a finding a girl he can really talk to than one he can screw! Corny, but it works like a charm. Then there are some interesting complications with Olivia (Laura Ramsey). She has the hots for "Sebastian" who's ignoring her,  so she tries to make him jealous by pretending to go for Duke, who has been mutely pining for her. In the only direct quote from Shakespeare, Duke gets to say the "Some have greatness thrust upon them" speech at the climax of a soccer game. Doesn’t make any sense at all in the context but it’s fun to hear this jock intoning it deadpan.

Apart from those three characters, though, nearly everybody else in the movie is presented in such broad, gross caricature that you lose any of the sense of the truth about human interaction that you get in Shakespeare’s version. There’s a lot of awful business about creepy society ladies and a debutantes’ ball. A country club washroom where girls in high heels kick and scream and flail at each other. I was particularly put off by a scene where the dweebish "Sebastian" wins the respect of the dudes who have been shunning him by showing how contemptuous he can be towards girls. I was afraid this might be the picture of teen society that the movie makers wanted teen viewers to identify with. In which case, I guess we can take some consolation from the fact that the movie apparently isn’t doing very well at the box office.

Rating: D (i.e. "Divided" – some good, some bad)


New Voices (Dance and Drama) Ryerson Theatre School, Tuesday, March 28/06

As a result of my review of Ryerson Theatre School’s production of Enemies, I was invited to attend an evening in the New Voices series that presents "works in progress" written by the school’s graduating students. One of the pieces on offer was written by Laura Burns whose performance I liked so much in Enemies. Her play Honk, If You Can Hear Me! (great title) features four people talking on their cell phones while caught in a traffic jam on the 401 Highway. Sometimes their phone conversations are with another member of the foursome caught in traffic, sometimes with someone elsewhere, such as a kid, a psychiatrist, or a mother. A fifth cast member, watching from a sort of control booth above the drivers, mans a bank of phones and plays the other characters. There’s some very clever writing here. As the people’s stories evolve through their phone chatter, intricate inter-connections emerge. Sometimes two or more characters’ voices coincide in phrases like "No shit" or "I’m not coming to work today" (not exact quotes). And I caught some suggestion that the guy in the booth represented some god-like character who might – or might not – have some sort of control over the lives of the others; not sure if I was on the right track there but the possibility struck me as intriguing.

All the actors did very good work in this piece. It’s very difficult, however, to make this sort of thing work on stage. It’s asking a lot of us audience members to have four actors sitting in chairs talking at us for nearly an hour. The miming of driving a car isn’t very interesting, especially when the actors have to use one hand to hold a phone most of the time. You used to see skits like this in revues like Spring Thaw – actors sitting facing the audience and spinning out some comedy – but never for more than ten minutes. It would have helped here if the actors could have picked up their cues much faster but, obviously, that wasn’t possible. (We were told that these works were put together in the students’ "free time".) I kept thinking this script might work very well on film, with a split-screen technique, where rapid cutting would keep the pace up. It may be the fault of this tired old brain rather than the performances or the writing, but it took me a long time to clue in to the various stories and when I did, I found the piece quite touching, but by then it was almost over.

The other theatre piece on the program was In Store Focus written by and starring Ingrid Haas. The story of an aspiring actress whose job is displaying products in stores, it’s essentially a vehicle for the formidable comic talents of Ms Haas. A lot of witty lines about the contemporary scene fly around as her character copes with the tedium of her job and the visits of her interfering Jewish mother, ably played by Lauren Ferraro. (An unintentional burp produced some excellent ad-libbing from the two women.) The only relationship in the young woman’s life that seems to have any potential is with the guy from Rogers who keeps phoning her about her unpaid bill (played with understated charm by David Kerr).

Fun as it was, the piece tended to gyrate wildly in style and tone. A certain amount of hamming gave it the feel of an extended skit. But then there were elaborate production numbers. And yet it offered some genuinely transcendant moments – most notably when, in the midst of an audition, the young woman hears a re-play of her long lost dad’s birthday message to his 13-year-old "jelly bean". Should the one-hour piece be extended into a full-length play or trimmed back in order to pack more punch? I’d favour the latter approach because, in its current version, the play offers the same message over and over again: life’s tough for a lonely, would-be actress in the big city.

As self-appointed critics here at Dilettante’s Diary, we’ve never yet presumed to comment on dance but the two dance pieces on this program so impressed me that I can’t not mention them. In Running From Nothing , choreographed by Natasha Phanor, nine women leap around with great athleticism and precision. Lots of grand jets (I think that’s what they’re called). The woman are all dressed the same – black with a gold sash – and they look identical: dark hair pulled back in a bun. Then in comes a woman dressed slightly differently. They dance around her and she dances through them. I got totally caught up in the metaphorical possibilities: was she wishing she could be one of them or were they wishing they could be a non-conformist like her?

Binary, the other dance piece, shows less of the classical influence; the movements are more angular, more choppy. It opens with two young women in black (Erin McCurdy and Kate Cunningham) standing side by side with their backs to us. The light picks up their bare arms reaching around each others’ shoulders, then gradually entwining in various fascinating combinations. They pull apart, then one seems to be dragging the other around. What ensues might be called stylized wrestling. They dance separately; then they are back together, arms around each others’ shoulders, but more agitated than at the opening. I wasn’t convinced that every move worked perfectly but the piece as a whole thrilled me.

Two Ryerson grads (Hayley Gratto and Chelsea P. Manders) who call their duo "Black Roses" provided musical interludes between the main acts. What a strange shtick these two young women have. Their satirical targets include such subjects as Michael Jackson’s alleged of abusing young boys and their vocabulary tends towards sexual explicitness of the Dr. Sue Johansen variety. I presume there is something very droll, ironic and po-mo about it all. The younger members of the audience loved it. The moms and dads sat mostly in stunned silence. I was enchanted with the young women’s singing: such beautiful voices, such lovely harmonies – for such objectionable words!


Beowulf and Grendel (Movie), starring Gerard Butler

Given that it was about time for me a movie and that this was the only remotely possible one on offer at our local cinema, I came up with several arguments in favour of it. First, I was away the day they did Beowulf in school and this has made me feel like an ignoramus whenever the subject comes up around the water cooler. So this looked like a chance to get up to speed without slogging through 3,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry the way everybody else seems to have done. Also, I really loved Gerard Butler in the delightful little movie Dear Frankie. The fact that much of this one was filmed in Iceland was another draw. I’ve only been in Iceland once, during a pit stop on a flight home from a student trip to Europe on a rattle trap of a propellor plane. The toilets on the plane were plugged and overflowing, so I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Iceland – at least for the airport men’s room. And then, this movie promised to tell a bit about olden times. My inner Viking loves to fantasize about toughing it out on the tundra in the days when Irish Spring never came near a guy’s skin.

First surprise. Grendel is not the pretty girl. He (played by Ingvar E. Sigurdsson) is the monster, identified here as a troll, whom Beowulf sets out to kill. So we’re dealing with make-believe. Once I realized that this wasn’t going to be a kitchen-sink drama, I tried to enter into the fairy tale spirit of the thing. Ok, so Grendel is sort of the original King Kong and he probably represents something deep in my psyche. Don’t know what, but I’m sure Carl Jung could tell me, if only I had his phone number. And I tried hard to accept the convention of these epics in which characters break off their phony-sounding archaic diction to mutter things like "he doesn’t give a shit" or "he’s a tough prick."

It was interesting to learn that Denmark in the 5th century consisted of about a hundred disheveled individuals gathered on a bleak seacoast with nary a sarcastic cartoonist in sight. Still, I wasn’t learning much about life in those times apart from the fact that they drank a lot of beer and they burned their dead on pyres. Where did they go to the bathroom? Where did they find wood for building in that desolate landscape? Where did the women get the beautifully patterned scarves? Where was the drug store that supplied the cosmetics that kept the gals looking so gorgeous? How and where did they make love? Nobody seemed to be into sex except for one prostitute but surely all those kids running around couldn’t have been hers?

It’s hard to say much about Gerard Butler’s acting since he was posed most of the time with hand on sword and tangled hair blowing in the wind. His broad chest and shoulders certainly braved the elements in a manly way. Stellen Skarsgard’s Danish king was fascinating: a befuddled, kindly guy who was doing his best to keep abreast of the changing times, trying to make sure he placed his bet on the right god, even sneaking in a Christian baptism in case that kooky belief system turned out to win the day. Another memorable shtick was Eddie Marson as a repulsively grubby Irish priest hanging out on the fringes of the community – who turns out to be none other than St. Brendan.

You can at least say that the men brawled and strutted in a way that might have been something like the way guys behaved in those days. But any impression of plausibility collapsed utterly in the presence of Sarah Polley as the witch/whore/soothsayer. I’ve seen Ms. Polley do excellent work as a disaffected young person in contemporary mode but it was really too much to come around a corner of the fiord and bump into this chick from Don Mills.

You have to wonder what was the point of making this movie, especially when the water cooler crowd tell me that much of it – the Sarah Polley business for instance – was invention grafted onto the Beowulf story. I suppose it could be looked on charitably as a make-work project for lots of actors whose names end with collisions of consonants like s and j and n, and who won’t otherwise have much to do if Ingmar Berman ever stops making movies as he keeps threatening to do.

Rating: E (as in "Eh?", i.e. iffy)


Saturday (Novel) by Ian McEwan, 2005

This novel has been at the top of my must-read list since The New Yorker published a brilliant and unforgettable excerpt about a year ago. But the book isn’t quite what I was expecting. Whereas, the incident excerpted in The New Yorker had been packed with dynamite, it didn’t seem to be leading to any explosion within the context of the book. Is Mr. McEwan toying with us? Is he just setting us up for the kill?

Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon is wandering through his Saturday of leisure. Mr. McEwan gives us virtually every waking moment of his protagonist’s day in minute detail, to the point of explaining his preferred position for urinating. I was going to say that this obsessive focus on the minutiae of a character’s life seems more typical of a woman’s writing, say Anita Brookner's, but then the thought came to mind of a certain male novelist’s re-creation of a day in the life of one Leopold Bloom. One thing that helps to keep Saturday humming along is the fact that it’s set on the day in February of 2003 when world-wide protests are taking place against the impending invasion of Iraq by the US. That gives our hero some pretty big issues to mull over as he putters around.

As the day doddles along, certain limitations of the writing come to light. Apparently, Mr. McEwan isn’t very good at dialogue. That could be why he keeps it to a minimum. A father-daughter argument about the Iraq situation sounds stilted, particularly on the part of the daughter. Or could it be that Mr. McEwan doesn’t do female characters very well? The most interesting woman in the book is the protagonist’s elderly mother who is suffering from Alzheimers and whose inane prattle has a charm all its own.

And I don’t think a writer should attempt to convey things that don’t work very well in writing. For instance, a detailed analysis of a blues performance by the protagonist’s son. I’d say the readers are very few who would be enlightened or entertained by knowing how many chords are used and how the musician progresses from one to another. Same for many pages devoted to a squash game. Skip the play-by-play. We just want the general idea and the outcome. A description of the process of cooking a dinner works a little better because the cuisine is mixed up with snippets of a tv newscast.

No question, though, that Mr. McEwan does a terrific job conveying the many facets of his complex hero. We come to feel that we know Henry Perowne about as well as you can know anybody. But I couldn’t help being conscious of how much mileage Mr. McEwan was getting out of the hero’s status as a neurosurgeon. Basically the same old ploy as in umpteen soap operas and tv series: we’re dazzled this person who possesses arcane knowledge and who can work miracles on damaged bodies. The medical lore is flung around with great abandon and it works its usual compelling magic, even though much of it is impenetrable. (It doesn’t help that British terms further confuse the issue. There must have been twenty references to the "registrar" as a member of the surgical team but I never did figure out that person’s role.) Would we be as enthralled if our hero had been an architect or a lawyer? Hardly. But that’s not to deny Mr. McEwan’s right to an old trick which he uses very well.

In any case, the protagonist’s medical standing is essential to the story. Eventually, the much-delayed climax delivers a huge pay-off for the groundwork laid earlier. In terms of plot, I wasn’t entirely convinced that the turning point – the recitation of a famous poem – worked all that well but who cares? By putting his hero in a somewhat contrived situation, Mr. McEwan raises some very big questions about the meaning of life and our responsibilities to each other. I had the feeling that, in making me think about what was happening, he was taking me to places in my mind where I’d never been before. That’s about the greatest compliment you can pay a writer.


Toronto Art Expo (Art Sale, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, March 16-19)

The overall standard of art in this show is not high. Most of the work at the outdoor show at city hall every summer is much better. (There's no affiliation between the two shows.) Not that there isn't some good work in this show at the Convention Centre but I felt embarrassed for the real artists who were hoping to hawk their wares among so many losers. On the other hand, if you’re looking for huge paintings with lots of embedded mirrors and glass, sprinkled with glitter, layered with pots of paints in luridly vibrant colours that shriek "I-am-an-artist-and-am-I-ever-expressive!" then you stand a good chance of finding a painting you like at this show. Or perhaps you would prefer blue-tinted nudes peering at you through the palm fronds of the jungle.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with people setting themselves up as artists and gathering their admiring family members around  them in this public way. My only problem is with the claim that the show is juried. It seems impossible to me that any professional artists could have juried this show with any operative criterion other than the applicants' ability to cough up the fees ranging from $1,475 to $2,458, depending on the size of the booth requested. Clearly, the major art happening here is of the rip-off variety on the part of the organizers. Skip all the advertising bunff about "top contemporary artists",  the "discerning collector" and  the "discriminating purchaser" and tell it like it is for most exhibitors: a vanity fair. And where would you get off charging $10 admission for such a show? Mind you, the organizers have cleverly lined up charitable connections to give the event the look of worthy purpose but that doesn't disguise the paucity of the artistic content.

My quick perusal of the roughly 250 artists showed that about 20 percent of the work was interesting. (I’m not including sculptors here, not because I have anything against them, but because painting is a priority with me and there isn’t time to look at everything.) Among the watercolourists (my favourite genre), the prize for the best work, in my view, would go to Micheal Zarowsky for his dazzling series of interiors from Paris: chairs and tables in brilliant colours, dappled with sunlight in the perfect expression of sketchy watercolour technique, somewhat in the style of John Singer Sargent. While I was walking down another aisle, my eye was caught by a beautifully observed watercolour featuring the shadow of a bicycle on a brick ground (you get just a glimpse of the bicycle at the top of the picture.) The painting turned out to be by Alejandro Rabazo, a friend from the Toronto Watercolour Society. Alejandro’s picture of sailboats in winter storage, the gold-medal-winner from the TWS spring show last year, is also on display. With justified pride, Alejandro showed me a photo of his watercolour of a foggy cityscape that has been awarded first prize in the Willowdale Artists’ spring show.

In other media, Jan Kiewiet is showing some of the few well-composed and effective abstracts in the show. Kim Atlin’s paintings of tree branches and leaves didn’t make nearly as strong an impression on me as her very striking semi-abstract picture which could be a cityscape at night: a black background with blotches of bright light and suggestions of colour and shape. Jeanette Obbink offers some of the more successful of the impressionistic landscapes – very bold and expressive. Speaking of bold, Julia Gilmore’s large, humorous still lives of fruit, flowers and less conventional subjects like parking meters make a strong impression. Shinya Kumazawa does landscapes and cityscapes in blurry but very evocative style. I also liked Gisel Bouliane’s busy, somewhat cartoony cityscapes.

It was good to see that John Ovcacik’s pictures of houses were getting lots of attention; they’re rather Christopher-Pratt-ish in their architectural rigidity but with dramatic, spooky lighting. Joanne Mitchell’s very simple but beautifully composed pictures in strong primary colours are very well done. I loved the ploughed fields done by the artist who identifies herself simply as Inez: just series of mesmerizing lines. When it comes to the off-the-wall, in-your-face zany stuff that so many participants are striving for, Ihor Torodruk (self-described "bad-assed iconoclast") shows how a real pro does it in his paintings with rock and roll and film as themes. Laurie Sponagle’s charcoal drawings are breath-taking in their soft, photographic realism. Her nudes are exquisite but the picture that really casts a spell on me is a simple composition of light coming through a window onto the floor of a rather formal room; the picture is intriguingly entitled "Conversations with Time (After the Ball)".

And then there are the artists whose work offers some special interest because their subject matter breaks from the tried-and-true path. Lorne Winters’ paintings of rolls of hay in fields – mostly grey, with light dustings of white snow – have a quiet, contemplative appeal. And I couldn’t help cheering for David Aubertin whose goofy drawings of popes and bible scenes will probably get him in trouble. He told me that he was trying to introduce a note of humour into areas where it’s not usually found.

It has come to my attention that certain artists, who will go nameless here, and who formerly did exquisite watercolours, have turned to oils and acrylics, some of them decidedly kitschy in tone, on the assumption that they’ll sell better. This brings to mind a scheme that I'm working on. In future, it should be possible for the public to buy art only through licensed art buyers. There’s really nothing radical about this proposal. After all, we don’t allow unlicensed doctors, lawyers, dentists or teachers to foist their spurious efforts on people, thereby causing them irreparable harm. Selling art through licensed dealers will mean that people’s homes will be decorated with art which cannot but have an improving effect on them. Would-be artists will be forced to find some other way of making a useful contribution to civilization. Most importantly, gifted artists will be able to stop turning out junk in order to stave off starvation.

The plan’s all set to go into effect as soon as I am elected king of the world. Let me know if you want to lend a hand with my election campaign.

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com