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Canadian Graffiti

Posted by art On October - 5 - 2010

Continuing in the fine tradition of years past, the MONDOarts department dispatched three writers to cover this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche and their escapades during said event. Enjoy!

By Jen Handley

“Is it just me or has Nuit Blanche gotten to be more work over the years?” asked my friend Sophia as we huddled for warmth in one of the zillions of eagerly-formed lines that sprung up around the city last Saturday night. She was completely right: seeing as how the last five years have seen the festival turn into all but a public holiday, and as we wanted to check out some of the higher-profile events this year, we spent a lot of the evening standing in line. But that part actually wasn’t dreary — standing around, barging into conversations with tipsy strangers end exchanging stories as we waited for exhibits wasn’t too different from the experience of standing outside on New Year’s Eve waiting for midnight. For all the flack art projects get for being elitist, I had the feeling of being part of a mob that night, and that was what made it exhilarating. And coincidence or not, most of the projects we saw required us to engage with strangers. Read the rest of this entry »

Parkdale Takes the Nuit

Posted by art On October - 5 - 2010

Continuing in the fine tradition of years past, the MONDOarts department dispatched three writers to cover this year’s Nuit Blanche and their escapades during said event. Enjoy!

By Andy O’Shea

This year’s Nuit Blanche marked the first time that I didn’t start right downtown. Moving from the outside in made all the difference — Parkdale really had interactive and unusual experiences all the way through, and it seemed to be an organized community effort. Our first stop was near Queen and Roncesvalles, The Nightwatch: Shadow Play by Ed Pein, a giant tent with people and objects inside displaying different scenarios. A good start.

At Speed Art Criticism by the Toronto Alliance of Art Critics, local art experts Dan Adler and David Balzer waited inside a guitar store to critique artwork by passersby. We debated whether to go inside; we didn’t have any of our art with us. When we did go inside, Adler and Balzer graciously looked at a work of mine online and we had a nice ten minute discussion about art. They were quite receptive, and it was a very relaxed talk. Balzer was right on the money suggesting I look for Jim Flora’s work. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: ‘Art’

Posted by art On March - 19 - 2010

Peter Donaldson as Marc, Evan Buliung as Yvan and Colin Mochrie as Serge. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

‘Art’
Written by Yasmina Reza
Directed by Morris Panych
Featuring Colin Mochrie, Peter Donaldson, Evan Buliung
Runs until April 10 @ Bluma Appel Theatre

By Daina Valiulis

Yasmina Reza’s ‘Art’ explores the essence of character and friendship over a heated debate about a piece of modern art. Serge (Mochrie) buys a white painting for 200,000 francs – an “Andrios” – pridefully showing it off to his good friend of fifteen years, Marc (Donaldson), a committed classicist who is appalled by this “piece of shit” and Yvan (Buliung), who has no real opinion at all. A heated debate on these different perceptions and definitions of art ensues, and ultimately reflects each man’s character, growing more personal and uglier as the play progresses, calling into question their very friendships. Read the rest of this entry »

Nuit Blanche: Terribly Beautiful, or Just Plain Terrible?

Posted by art On October - 8 - 2009
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Continuing in the fine tradition of years past, the MONDOarts department dispatched four writers to cover this year’s Nuit Blanche and their escapades during said event. Enjoy!

By Carolyn Tripp

In a city-wide evening of art installations and general mayhem, there’s bound to be differing opinions on the night’s overall success. One can run into terribly beautiful and just plain terrible art in a matter of minutes with an event as heavily saturated as Nuit Blanche.

Bearing this in mind, there were some excellent heavy-hitters this time around. I’m sad to say I didn’t have the time to line up for the carnival rides, the FASTWÜRMS tarot card readings, or even to hit the Liberty Village stretch. The evening’s overall worst crime seemed to be, however, that there was a bounty of formidable and publicly accessible ideas, but a disproportionate amount of effective results. Read the rest of this entry »

Nuit Blanche: An anti-itinerary approach

Posted by art On October - 7 - 2009

Union 1Continuing in the fine tradition of years past, the MONDOarts department dispatched four writers to cover this year’s Nuit Blanche and their escapades during said event. Enjoy!

By Jessie Davis
Photos by Kevin Lynn

Our Nuit Blanche group stood divided; half wanted to follow THE PLAN – an itinerary detailing exactly where to be and when, with bike routes, little red points on the map and brief installation descriptions for further reading. The other half was on a more freestyle mission:  no plan, no time frame, no commitments. Just synchronicity and spiritually altering experiences. I was part of the latter.

From Queen, my group flowed north on Bay Street, where we met the itinerary half of our group in line to see Battle Royal in the bus terminal. The line stretched around the terminal onto Edward Street, and while it seemed to move quickly, our half of the group decided to keep moving in search of The Blinking Eyes of Everything at the Church of the Holy Trinity. In fact, this was what had inspired us to let our Nuit Blanche guide itself. A few of us had been discussing stroboscopic machines recently (also known as Dream Machines), and were really excited to get to see and hear one in real life, so soon after the seemingly-random conversation. Alas, this line wove back a few rows across the courtyard and my group just couldn’t sit still long enough to make it in there – even if there was the possibility of divinatory visions and hallucinations. Read the rest of this entry »

Artist Profile: Steven Laurie

Posted by art On June - 26 - 2009
Mud Flap Project: Herman Kruis's Truck - Highland Transport

Mud Flap Project: Herman Kruis's Truck - Highland Transport

By Carolyn Tripp

“A friend of mine and I were sitting on the sidewalk one day,” artist Steven Laurie explains, “and wondering out loud what it would take for people who didn’t typically talk about art to be compelled to come into a gallery or be interested in a contemporary art show.”

The possibilities often seem stunted by the fairly insular environments that many art communities tend to foster. This is equally perpetuated by design or lack of funds, and a conundrum that many artists choose, understandably, not to address when creating work, especially when it pertains to those exhibiting in galleries. Typically one would choose to have art appear in spaces that specifically appeal to those of the local “known” and “cultured” audience (who are assumed to want to attend a show), versus those who never typically show interest, but might if they felt compelled (those we assume may never attend). Read the rest of this entry »

Luminato: Filme und Musik, Ach Meines!

Posted by art On June - 19 - 2009

tony-025Tales of the Uncanny (Unheimliche Geschichten)
Directed by Richard Oswald and starring Conrad Veidt
Featuring live performances by Robert Lippok, Do Make Say Think and Final Fantasy
Part of Luminato
June 11 @ Yonge and Dundas Square

By Helen Fylactou

It was a dark, dreadful and rainy last Thursday night—perhaps the perfect setting for the Canadian premiere (finally—it was made in 1919!) of the silent German film Tales of the Uncanny (Unheimliche Geschichten). Directed by Richard Oswald, the film uses an antiquarian bookstore as the base of five distinct stories, including Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” and Robert Stevenson’s “The Suicide Club.”

Once the bookstore has closed for the night, portraits of Strumpet, Death and the Devil step out of paintings and read stories about themselves for amusement. Four tales are horror stories, and the last story is a comedy involving a fake haunting. Each story has a prevailing weirdness about it, making the stories more unsettling, kind of fun, then scary. In one of his earliest roles, Conrad Veidt (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Casablanca) fantastically portrays emotion and story through his movements and facial expressions.tony-024

Berlin’s Robert Lippok, and Toronto’s Do Make Say Think and Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy) provided the live soundtrack, and I don’t think that the organizers could have picked a better lineup. Lippok’s electronic music is filled with rhythmic beats and spooky, pulsating synth. He has the distinct ability to mash together sounds that ordinarily would not flow with each other, somehow finding their interconnectedness and making them blend in perfect harmony. Lippok’s music creates a sense of tension; perfect as a soundtrack to a horror film.

Keeping with the feel of Lippok’s music, Do Make Say Think combined the improvisational jazz with post-rock. DMST’s mix is genius, but also creates an eerie and uncomfortable feeling for listeners. And to perfectly complete the trio of musicians, Pallett played fluid, natural music. His pizzicato harmonies paid homage to classical music, but still managed to include a contemporary pop-rock vibe. The combination of these three distinct artists and the 1919 horror vibe made it an extraordinary film-watching experience.

OCAD Grad Show: Just Some Thoughts

Posted by art On May - 15 - 2009

Discover OCAD+
94th Annual Graduate Exhibition

By Kerry Freek

Like Matt did last year, I found the prospect of six floors of art daunting. Later, my weary legs and old-woman knees found it worse. However, this year’s OCAD grad show didn’t disappoint.

Ok, well, yes it did. In exploring six floors of student art, you’re bound to have to sift through a ton of crap to get to the good stuff. But the shiny scraps in this magpie’s collection of style, form and media were definitely not fool’s gold. And I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. Amidst all of the (very talented, don’t mistake me) Juxtapoz wannabees, three artists stuck with me, and a few others stayed close, too.

#1: Jesi the Elder’s Satan in the Sonar installation

Sparkles, blow-up killer whales, dollar-store tealights, and religious paraphernalia came together in one mega-threatening exhibit. Surrounded by groupings of altars (of the table and wall-sconce variety), a projector screened a crudely animated mélange that garnered mixed reactions. For instance, when two whales jumped out of the water and crashed into each other, exploding into bits of flesh and floods of blood, the room LOL’d. But when two girls stabbed each other down their throats, blurting guffaws turned to nervous tittering.

#2: Stephen Shaddick’s videos

Clearly, as a 2009 Medal Winner, this Integrated Media student was a show favourite, but he deserved it. Shaddick’s study of time and patience challenged viewers with banal yet infuriating video clips with zero reward (except maybe introspection). One video focused on a pot being brought to boil; another showed repetitious footage of a young man attempting (and failing) to walk across a slippery gate. The best clip, however, was the computer screen restarting ad infinitum. The work prompted laughter (of course), but also caused viewers to become conscious of how they get from one minute to the next, and of how frequently they waste their time and on what.

#3: Chris Kim’s illustrations

Kim’s stylized drawings are characterized by a great command of lines (what patience!), a good sense of humour, and a fair helping of social commentary. Decreased brain activity depicts a family gathered ’round ye olde teevee, except their heads have empty spaces through which the magic box’s light shines. In Lack of true communication, a big mouth blabs over the phone to person standing in front of him/her, but the chatterbox is blinded by the telephone cord that’s wrapped around his/her head. Body shame’s naked body becomes the inside of a closet, hiding behind a rack of clothing attached to its neck-rack. While the messages are somewhat simple, the cheekiness of the images work in Kim’s favour, and the technical achievement (again, those lines) is enough to make anyone stop and take notice.

Honourable Mentions

  • Liam Crockard’s angst-ridden Teenage Workshop installation.
  • Ryan Lake’s beautifully coloured, imaginative illustrations.
  • The person whose name I didn’t catch who did the amazing video-remix-slash-sound-collage of evangelical and sex phone line commercial footage.

The Real Art Scene in Toronto

Posted by lifestyle On April - 14 - 2009

Try to picture the word “Real” with extra italics.

By Jenny Bundock

For a long time now I’ve been going to gallery shows in Toronto. I did my undergrad at York in Photo, and during that time I pretty much had to be a gallery hopper to survive. Looking back, I really wish I had taken more advantage of my time in what I have come to refer to as “the real art scene in Toronto.”

Toronto is kind of screwy, because what you would assume to be the cultural hubs of the city (the ROM, the AGO, etc.) are kind of, well, old. Occasionally you see these institutions try to branch out and grab something fresh from the streets and basements of Toronto, but rarely does it survive. It’s like bringing your flower garden inside, in pots, for the winter: it just isn’t the same and you’re probably going to kill it. Read the rest of this entry »

Artist Profile: inPrint Collective

Posted by art On January - 16 - 2009
Alda Escareño; Quatro Hermanas, 2008, screenprint on fabric

Alda Escareño; Quatro Hermanas; 2008, screenprint on fabric

By Kerry Freek

From FADO to 640 480 to Exploding Motor Car to Team Macho (the list goes on), Toronto’s art scene (past, present, and hopefully future) contains an astounding number of talented, relevant, and productive artist collectives. One such group, the newly formed inPrint Collective, is focusing on promoting printmaking in the city.

This Saturday, they’re holding a benefit to raise funds for a community printmaking centre that fosters an eco-friendly, cooperative, and encouraging environment and serves as a link between emerging artists, local galleries, and printmaking spaces.

Educated at York University, Alda Escareño began with one class in screen-printing that evolved into a full-fledged obsession with all paper and print arts. Her experience has taken her to new printmaking studios, including the Pratt Center for Fine Arts in Seattle, where she’s temporarily located. (She’s returning to Toronto soon.) Maaike Bouhuyzen-Wenger, also a York graduate, is interested in the fusion of visual and written work, as well as sculpture, fairy tales, and medicine. She’s currently working on a project about an artist known only by a pseudonym.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Alda and Maaike about printmaking and the benefits of being part of a collective.

Maaike Bouhuyzen-Wenger; The Tramp Printer Etches her Plate; #8/9, 2008, Lithograph

Maaike Bouhuyzen-Wenger; The Tramp Printer Etches her Plate; #8/9, 2008, lithograph

Hi, ladies. Let’s talk about printmaking. How does this medium serve you best?

AE: I love everything about print. I could talk about the paper, the ink, the versatility of the medium, but it’s the printing process that is unique to printmaking that I enjoy most. I’m referring to the ability to work alongside other artists in a community studio. I find I’m most creative when I see other creating. Seeing other printmakers work inspires me and challenges me to create more. You can print on your own, but then you’d be missing the best part of printing.

MBW: Printmaking is an amazing medium. I’m interested in the written word as well, and bookmaking is inherently related to printmaking as a process. As a medium, printmaking is incredibly flexible, creating everything from very loose, flowing drawings to very industrial and crisp images. The step-by-step processes and repetitive nature of printmaking is another thing that has attracted me. Even a simple, single-layer print has such a process behind it. I find the methods that go into creating anything like this to be both very relaxing and meditative and incredibly frustrating at the same time. My favourite print method, lithography, is very chemical-based; the scientific side of it is one thing that attracts me. Lithography works by desensitizing parts of a limestone to water, and then using that to roll an oil-based ink over the sensitized parts without blackening the desensitized areas.

Alda Escareño; Vital Signs; 2008, lino-cut artist book

Alda Escareño; Vital Signs; 2008, lino-cut artist book

Alda, your printed dolls, hand-sewn books, and scissor portraits point to an appreciation for craft. And your five steps for the Nuit Blanche 35 Steps project were participation-, “making-”, and craft-centric. What attracts you to craft?

AE: My interest in craft evolved out of my love of print and all things handmade. Craft is something comfortable to me; it’s something I associate with home and tradition. It’s something safe but also deeply political. You don’t have to look far to see the growing craft movement. This is a movement of people that know how to make things themselves, who don’t need to buy everything. Crafts encourage learning and go hand in hand with teaching others. They are also environmentally friendly. I like that crafts are so powerful, yet they are often underestimated.

Maaike-tell us about the Tramp Printer. I’m intrigued!

The first run of Tramp Printer, showing most of the edition. Maaike Bouhuyzen-Wenger, 2008.

The first run of Tramp Printer, showing most of the edition. Maaike Bouhuyzen-Wenger, 2008.

MBW: The Tramp Printer comes about from a few different sources. It was inspired by a book called The Tramp Printer, printed in a limited edition back in the 1930s. It was about a bum who wandered around from printing press to printing press, selling his talent at typesetting for a bottle of whiskey, followed by a strong shot of kerosene to cure the hangover. The title, however, evoked a different image altogether – a pin-up girl printing. And since I had a bit of space on a litho stone, I just went with it. Printmaking is an incredibly chemical and somewhat industrial process, so the juxtaposition of girls tottering on heels and dressed up was a really funny one. Until fairly recently, I think printmaking has also been a very “male” occupation; in part because it was “serious” work – originally about publishing books and newspapers instead of being an art form, and also because it is a very time-consuming and expensive medium to participate in. Only recently have older forms of printmaking become outdated and obsolete to professional worlds, and has opened up to artists – and with a few changes to society’s rules, female artists also. While the tramp printers aren’t meant to be overly political, they are meant to stand as a juxtaposition to the very “manly” history of printmaking. Most of all, the tramp printers are set up to act as an in-joke to printmakers; they tackle some of the most dangerous, precise, and messy things that printmakers must do in completely inappropriate attire. I tried to create a different type of “tramp” for each print; the first in the series is supposed to look like a classic Betty Boop (only more human) sort of character. The next three are more modern but every bit as stereotypical: a wet t-shirt girl, a revealing evening gown, and a gothic cat-ears girl.

Maaike Bouhuyzen-Wenger; The Tramp Printer Grains her Stone; #8/9, 2008, Lithograph

Maaike Bouhuyzen-Wenger; The Tramp Printer Grains her Stone; #8/9, 2008, lithograph

How did inPrint begin? How did you become a part of the collective?

AE: inPrint came together in the last few weeks of our last year in the York print media program. Like most graduating students, we had trouble visualizing what came next. We were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to find a similar space to that of the studio we all loved and we also were unsure as to what we could do with everything we had learned. Having worked together for so many years it only seemed natural to try to do something together. The inPrint Studio and collective is what came out of this moment.

MBW: Originally, we talked about it as a studio for ourselves, and then considered how many other recently graduated students were likely in the same predicament as we were. Although Toronto has a print studio already – Open Studio – it alone cannot handle all the printmakers in Toronto. We also wanted to create a space where we could get together with other artists and discuss and encourage art-making.

Why is it important for you to be part of a collective? What are the benefits? What are your goals as a group?

Alda Escareño; Let 'er buck; 2008, lino-cut

Alda Escareño; Let 'er buck; 2008, lino-cut

AE: inPrint is the kind of initiative that will support you as an artist but will also help you to grow. We don’t have a studio yet, and we are already learning every step of the way. We want to create a space for printmakers to work and learn from each other. A place where they can collaborate with other artists and get involved in how the studio is run. When it’s finally set up, we’ll have the studio and a space to feature the work being made. We are working to create the kind of space we were looking for when we graduated.

MBW: It is important to create support groups for artists – making art for a living is a difficult thing to do, especially considering today’s current cultural cutbacks. Toronto’s art scene seems very dog-eat-dog vicious, and by banding together, we feel like we can help support ourselves and other emerging artists as we all try to put ourselves out there. We’re hoping to start holding juried shows to promote young artists, and as soon as we have an up-and-running space, we’ll encourage printmaking by offering space for printmakers to practice, as well as holding printmaking classes for people who’d just like to learn how. And, of course, we’d like to run a printmaking studio that operates in as green a manner as possible.

Join inPrint
this weekend! Hard Pressed to Print takes place this Saturday, January 17 at The Cameron House (408 Queen Street West). Doors at 9pm, cover $10. Featuring the musical support of Ten Thousand Creatures and Benhur, Kendal Thompson, Jeremy Gontier, and Scotty Stiles.

Artist Profile: Amy Belanger

Posted by art On November - 18 - 2008
Amy Belanger

Amy Belanger

By Amy Borkwood

Amy Belanger is a multi-talented artist, working with everything from embroidery to jewellery to printmaking. She lives and works in Halifax, but you can find her work all over Toronto: necklaces at Heart On Your Sleeve, “Canadian Ragdolls” at the Souvenir Shop, or online at Toronto-based goodEGG Industries. We chatted recently about her work and practice, and what has been inspiring her lately.

MONDO: Can you tell me a bit about your background in the arts? I know you went to school at NSCAD, and the first time I saw your work was at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition this summer. Can you tell me a little more about you and your work?

Amy Belanger: Well, I could go back as far as decorating pumpkins at my birthday parties and feeling like I had an exceptional talent over my five-year-old companions.  Soon after those youthful days I was in university for environmental resource studies. I had some great experiences in high school, and after that I travelled and worked on farms. Ultimately, this changed my perspective. I became and remain interested in working as part of a community. There are thoughts that a person is educated to improve herself and therefore become a valued citizen in society; or, conversely, that she can be educated in a community- and society-oriented way to make for a better individual. Both are important. Community involves food, culture, music, and arts. This is where I thrive as an individual…and why I decided to pursue art.  I studied textiles at Sheridan College and at NSCAD University in Halifax.  I am living in Halifax particularly because there is such an active group of people working for community efforts, at the amazing farmers’ market, on independent projects, and in the scattered little galleries across town.

MONDO: I’ve seen your gorgeous hand-embroidered black-on-white pieces, and your jewellery is all over Toronto. You’ve noted that you’re now working on silkscreened posters and postcards.  Can you tell me about all these different projects? What draws you to each new medium? And how is it that you’ve got such diverse, incredible skills?

AB: I was talking with my friend Jordan MacDonald about the work he was doing in ceramics and at the time he was being secretive about his project. I said “Are you not ready to show us your work because you’re too far from finished? Are you still in the development stages?” His reply was that he tries to always be in the development stages. I like that. That’s the best way I can attempt to explain why I enjoy working with a variety of materials and subjects. They all influence the other, the last, or the next. The posters and postcards involve silkscreening images that have been compiled in my sketchbooks. While working on the embroidery pieces that you saw at the Outdoor show, I started collecting sentences or things I would hear on the street, and writing them down as a way to reactivate my mind in the midst of all the time-consuming stitching. This collection turned into something like found-word poetry, I guess. It’s still something I’m playing with — in the developing stages, so to speak. The jewellery you mentioned…are necklaces made from broken tea cups and saucers. Similarly, they started out as a diversion project, using the glass studio at Sheridan to figure out how to make the pendants, while I was in my final year studying textiles.

MONDO: Your embroidered works are just stunning — they were by far the best work I saw at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. What inspired them, and what’s the process of the work?

AB: I have had a lot of time to think about what these pieces mean to me, but I still find this a difficult question to answer. I started filling up pages of my sketchbook with lines and mark-making. This felt foreign and exciting because, although these marks are familiar, they are less distinguishable or relatable to our everyday experiences. The connection to landscapes was from looking out the window of the plane. The fields and rivers made up similar patterns. It was interesting to talk to people at the Outdoor show during this time because people, instead of having personal connections [to the work], made many references to traditional craft and art: Inuit stone carving, Maori tattoos or tribal tattoos, Japanese landscapes, Indian traditional quilting and henna to name a few. The use of line is so prevalent in traditional work. It is a different kind of expression that escapes the physical reality in some way, like matter being broken up into molecules and atoms. I also enjoyed pretending I was a Mayan weaver or visiting an African tribe. The intricacies, simplicity, and universal quality are sometimes devalued or lost in our culture. I found these works so exhausting, but at the same time they are calming and reassuring. There is more to see than what is tangible, decipherable, and right in front of us — and although it’s always in-process, this is what these pieces are about for me at the moment.

MONDO: Why textiles?  How were you originally drawn to that medium?

AB: I was working at a summer art program for kids called ArtsKool (good name) after my first year at university for environmental resource studies. I worked for my high-school art teacher, and it was her and a friend and co-worker that convinced me to check out the Craft and Design program at Sheridan College. I think there was less than a month left before fall classes started so I took the first two studios available, which were textiles and ceramics. I really had no idea what they entailed, but I fell in love with textiles immediately! The splashes of colour all over the walls in the mixing room and sinks, the patterns layered all over the drop cloths, the versatility of the material, and their origins and history.  Yes, love! Prior to this, my experience with textiles came from an interest in fashion and cultural dress. I used to make a lot of my own clothes and always enjoyed hunting through second-hand stores for interesting finds and fabrics.

MONDO: I’m really interested in your community involvement. Do you consider yourself to be part of an art community, a craft community?  How do you combine working as an individual on your own projects with being a member of a specific community?

AB: I am often so inspired by the talent and great work in this little city. A few weeks ago, there was an event called Nocturne, an evening art event. It was fantastic. These are the events that I get most excited about and would be strong in any city. There was so much collaboration: from the event organizers, the individual galleries and participating artists, to the public transportation (free — with art and music en route). Every gallery was full and just walking down the street would take you to another installation, performance, or music in the street.

My involvement thus far includes attending events and being enthusiastic and participating in local crafty fairs. I would definitely love to be more involved in these events — which might involve showing my work here in Halifax. Currently I’m bartering, silkscreening for a local artist, Michelle St. Onge, in exchange for a beautiful textile space. It’s a great opportunity and definitely makes me feel like I’m a part of this craft and art community.

MONDO: Whose work are you influenced by?  Which local (Halifax) artists are you interested in right now?

AB: These people are all fantastic: Chris Foster, Lydia K, Laura Dawe, David Harper, Picnicface (comedy team).

MONDO: Are there any other mediums you’re interested in trying out?

AB: All other mediums! I would really like to build a house (cob or straw or wood) actually!

TIAF: A Rich Man’s Game

Posted by art On October - 10 - 2008

By Matt McGeachy

The 9th annual Toronto International Art Fair, Art Toronto 2008, took over the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this past weekend, with over 100 galleries from 14 countries displaying their wares and, no doubt, racking up millions of dollars in sales.

Wandering around the sprawling grounds of the convention centre, I was struck with a sense of the excesses of the art market: I watched one well-coiffed couple from Miami drop $25,000 on an exceptional piece by painter Paul Beliveau at the Gallerie de Bellefeuille booth; they placed it on their credit card. With one swipe, they spent my net worth on a fantastic painting. I nearly fainted spending $150 on a print by Melinda Josie. So what, exactly, is it that separates a $25,000 piece from a $150 one? What separates me from them?

My means, it seems. More and more the price of playing the art game is rising, at absurd rates. Works by the Group of Seven are now fetching millions at auction. In fact, I heard one dealer appraise a work by comparing it to a Tom Thomson, but affordable. Or affordable for now, anyway, at the easy price of $7,000.

It seems that the two separate planes on which money and art have existed are rapidly colliding, and I can’t say it thrills me. So for example, Beliveau’s breathtaking paintings of book spines exist in a separate realm of value from the money paid for them. The exchange of one user-created value (money) for another (artwork) is what the art market is all about. Increasingly, however, as evidenced by the record-setting auctions and huge art fairs such as TIAF, there seems to be confusion about their interchangeability. How else can we justify the expense of a year’s salary (for some people) on a painting, or photograph? If we accept that money can, indeed, be exchanged for the value of a work of art, then the only thing separating me from Beliveau (or Robert Polidori, or John Hartmann, or James Lahey) is not my appreciation of the work, but the appreciation of my stock portfolio. TIAF taught me that for now, art markets are rich men’s games.

So what’s a poor art lover to do? Sit back, relax, and dream.

Matt’s #1 pick from TIAF:

Fred Herzog’s My Room, Harwood Street 1950 nearly brought me to tears. The dull light of the photograph serves to lift the quotidian image of his toiletries on the windowsill to the level of the transcendent sublime. The rain on the window and the autumnal colours evoked a sense of isolation: safely confined in the room, but lonely and gazing outside. Such emotion captured in one photograph is overwhelming and overwhelmingly beautiful.

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MONDO is a non-profit, weekly, Toronto-based, online magazine that focuses on arts, culture, and humour. We’re interested in art of all kinds (music, theatre, visual art, film, comics, and video games) and the pop culture that we inhabit.The copyright on all MONDO magazine content belongs to the author. If you would like to pay them for more content, please do. To contact MONDO please email us at editor@mondomagazine.net

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