The Toronto Art Fair, which ended last week, was a whirlwind - exciting artists, works, talks and loads of schmoozing and boozing. What would an art fair be without a little prosecco and beer in hand? Art fairs can be a sensory overload with so many art objects within a small space. It can be draining. As the hype has slowly dissipated in the city, and many of the gallerists confined back within their whitecubed walls, it is time that we reflect on what artists showcased. I have compiled a list of 3 artists that I believe were highlights at the fair. Their differences in process, medium and style all come together in bringing a refreshing outlook and style. Now all of this is of course subjective, but these artists all build upon their creative energy to create innovative thought provoking works.
Of Tlingit descent (an indigenous tribe located from the Pacific Northwest), Mark Presont primarily plays upon the motifs, symbol and materials of his indigenous culture and forces them into the contemporary limelight. While most Tlingit art consists of crafts and readily made objects for use, Preston reduces these shapes for solely an aesthetic purpose - creating an object for contemplation and meditation. He has reduced these symbols to their purest simplest, forms, back dropped against the all white canvas as a mode of clarity for the viewer.
Abstract Button Blanket 41 acts as a contemporary embodiment of the wool tapestries created by North West tribes, called Button Blankets. The canvas hints to their ceremonial blankets with its use of pearl buttons often found embedded within them. The cut out, which is a direct reference to the symbols found in Tlingit tribes, is a playful manipulation which breeds a sense of cheeky playfulness and open mindedness. He invites the viewer to peer through the canvas to explore the shadows and shapes it can create. This can be altered and changed, resulting in a sense of adventure and unlimited possibility.
Abstract Chief Headdress 1 re-contextualizes the headdress worn during ceremonial events. Again, it is evident that by stripping the piece to the bare elemental forms, it creates a dialogue between tradition and contemporary. Using traditional materials such as cotton and shell a appropriating them to a contemporary form.
What captivated my attention was his pieces created a quite calming environment to the busy, hectic mood of the fair. With splashes of colours, and kitsch moving object, these minimalistic painting demanded attention in a subtle way. They are moving and spiritual in the simplest, purest form.
Two terms come to mind when soaking in the works of Guilia Dall’Olio: Baroque and Japanese painting. Evidently different and non relational in any art historical context, the Bolognese artist pulls from these traditions and techniques and blends them to create something mysterious and original.
These 30” x 36” panels are all oil and carving on wood panel. The subject matter explores rich lush landscapes that embody a heavenly dreamlike landscape, void of any humans or animals. It could be said that Dall’Olio follows the tradition his fellow Baroque Bolognese painters by creating grandeur landscapes. By using rich dark colours, contrasted with gestural strokes of white or empty space, he creates a sense of drama and grandeur. This void or emptiness of human subjects then calls upon the oriental tradition of painting where emptiness lays as philosophical notion of bringing totality and significance to something. Emptiness can justifiy an objects importance and brings definition to it. This lush vegetation depicted in these 3 panels is what is significant, - their untouched beauty, pure and void of any tainted-ness.
I believe that the carvings within the painting, again a negative, empty space carved brings a sense of reality to these mystical magical landscapes. It is a bringing the viewer back to reality by exposing the materiality of the canvas.
Eunuch Tapestry 5 is a sophisticated personification of renaissance Dutch painting ideals interwoven with Canadian wildlife and queer art. The tapestry depicts in dark, sombre tones species of butterflies, birds, foxes and even a hidden moose, if your eye can catch him. Also hidden between this fictitious idealized, lush greenery is a figure of a man. The sheer scale of the tapestry engulfs the viewer into this fairytale world. In a sense you become a voyeur to these animals and the naked man among the bushes. His brushstrokes are soft and delicate, mimicking that gingham filter on instagram we all have come to know so well. The allegorical scene forces us to gaze upon them. Why aren’t they looking at us? What are they doing? I want to know more. He evokes this sinister voyeuristic tendency that humans have.
The human figure, though not outwardly sexual, initially oozes for me that forbidden voyeuristic tone of Nabakov’s master piece Lolitia - an unrequited love or lust that can never be reciprocated. The man is naked within the bushes looking off into the distance. He is not aware of the viewer’s presence, yet he demands attention. I find this extremely amusing and playful. This is done so again, through the soft delicate brush strokes and sombre yet baroque palette Logan has implemented in the painting.
Another amusing detail to the artist’s tapestry is the importance of the wildlife and animal figures. As an artist from Saskatoon, it seems implicit for him to relay to his audience a sense of his identity, which is echoed through these animal figures. However, curiously enough the plant life itself is not natively Canadian, rather a fictious depiction of plant life. Maybe in a way to create a mystical, romanticized landscape.
Zacahri Logan’s work surpassed all of my expectations for great artwork. I will go so far to say it was my favourite piece of the show. I could’ve spent hours in that small booth, picking apart each flower and animal I could find.