INTERSECTING THE CITY: Urban Fabric at the Textile Museum Toronto shows how the natural and constructed co-exist


Queen. Image provided by Scott Norsworthy.

“Urban fabric as a metaphor for the city” ~ Deborah Wang

“The artists in Urban Fabric: Portraits of a City engage with the interwoven hard and soft dimensions of the city from multiple perspectives; their photographs, paintings, sculpture, film, and pattern-making create a portrait of a city, often taking Toronto as their subject.”

This year’s Toronto Design Offsite included an interesting partnership between TO DO and the Textile Museum. Urban Fabric: Portraits of a City, curated by TO DO’s Creative Director Deborah Wang (pictured right) traversed the intersections of what comprises a city – “the built environment, webs of individuals, and the social, technological, and economic processes that produce a particular urban framework” as well as the insertions / assertions of nature.

The exhibit featured stunning photography by Scott Norsworthy that included the West End of Toronto. Hard isolating walls of bricks, unbroken expanses of asphalt and a multiplicity of electrical wires were softened by gentle light blanketing the concrete jungle with air and sky. Sheila Ayearst‘s series of Concrete paintings also contained a softness despite their subject matter. The canvasses, in varying shades of gray, had titles like Beaconsfield Concrete, again recalling the West End and its rapid development.

“Holes in the urban fabric, these sites speak to the city as an evolving network of development, appropriation, redevelopment, undoing, and neglect.” ~ Scott Norsworthy

(top to bottom) Dundas, Dupont, and Dupont. Images provided by Scott Norsworthy.

“Visitors in search of escape instead encounter.” Jessica Craig

Jessica Craig’s large projection of a location along the Don Valley revealed the lushness of a green Toronto that doesn’t just exist as an unattainable Shangri-La in our imagination.


Don Valley #212 (2012). Image provided by Jessica Craig. 

“Long protected from intervention by floodwaters and topography, the ravine defies construction and therefore profit: it is a fracture in an otherwise unified urban fabric.”

Jessica’s photographic work considers the concept of “terrain vague” and in her essay Landscape off the path she writes:

“Terrain vague is Ignasi de Solà-Morales’ term for abandoned spaces within a city that exist outside the common social realm and are often perceived as empty.”

These transitional spaces, because of the ambiguous mystery they offer city dwellers, hold latent potentiality as places of enchantment and restoration. “The value of the still unaffected land – and the relief it offers to a highly developed city – is difficult to quantify” but there is a sense that spaces, such as these, are seen as necessary in order to restore some sort of balance to the rigid confines of the constructed city.

(top to bottom) Don Valley #212, Don Valley #132, Don Valley #240 (2012). Images provided by Jessica Craig.  

“Roots are the first kind of textile.” ~ Scott Euson

For artist Scott Eunson plant roots are like fibers as they shoot up and spread out and the city is like fabric in that it is made up of many single “elements [fibers] that cooperate with the whole” as it rises up and moves out across the landscape like a rhizome. He spoke on how we often talk about the city as though it is a textile “neighbourhoods are knit together” or “densely woven.” He took wire and wood along with roots and bent metal, all found on walks through the city, to loop and twist a typography into place.

His piece Material Map – Toronto represents the complexity of urban spaces and their intertwining of newly digitized and still naturalized realities. The city is where we are often forced to locate our busy lives but not without letting go of our desire to feel our natural-ness now and again. As skyscrapers rise we haven’t completely forgotten the call of the waves. The shoreline always beckons us to return to some ancient cellular memory. Below the foundation of the city lies what was once the Glacial Lake Iroquois, what’s left now named Lake Ontario which means “Lake of Shining Waters” in the Wyandot language.

I like that this piece presented without judgement. In the assemblage there is no warning about the eradication of nature due to the city, the metal wires are able to co-exist with the natural. Despite the entanglement there is a type of order and an absence of hierarchy. The wood and wire take turns coming up between the foreground from the background, at times each receding, other times bending or breaking out of the grid.

The shape of the work represents Toronto as it is contained by the borders of the Humber River on the West and the Don River on the East. A few wires and twigs grow out past the North, West and East boundaries but at the shoreline of the Lake all halts, deferring to the great body of water that lies to the city’s south.

For me this piece is hopeful suggesting that there can be a resolution between the requirements of a city with all of its systems and our urban yearning for woods and water, that the existence of one doesn’t mean the end of the other.

Perhaps we can wrap ourselves around the notion that balance is not beyond our imagination and our quest to discover where it lies in the urban space is the taut thread that snaps everything in place.

Urban Fabric closed on January 25, 2015. Read more about the show on the Textile Museum’s website.

Images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted.

 

RETROACTIVE: A Look Back at Derek McLeod at the Toronto Design Offsite Festival

Iconographic design right here at home. 

As beautiful as an Eames or van der Rohe chair is right now in Toronto we have what could easily be the next new wave of iconic designers working amongst us. Derek McLeod is one such designer. His work is flawless but without that precious and inaccessible feeling that design can sometimes leave you with.

Not only a furniture designer, Derek also creates beautiful objects – tables and lighting –  which all blend in seamlessly with his furniture.

With such great designers milling around the city it’s necessary to continue to build a community of support to foster what is a growing design movement, not just in Toronto, but across Canada.

In Mason Studio’s interview last year with Derek they ask him “how can Canada develop a design identity on an international stage?” Derek replies:

“There is a funding model in place for various arts and craft based practices in Ontario and Canada, though they are specific about the works not being commercial, i.e. design. It would be fantastic to have the municipal government try to push local manufacturing and design or have the provincial or federal government aim to create more value out of some of the resources available here, i.e. wood that can be turned into furniture instead of being shipped away as planks.”

Close up of a dark wood chair, people standing behing it talking“Sum Chair” by Derek McLeod, Prototype Section of IDS ’12. Image by Leah Snyder.

Ditch Home Sense. Shop on Dundas!

Another way to support Toronto designers is to shop local for all the things you require for your home. Queen West and King East are the more established design hubs but you can also find amazing design in Parkdale, along Queen East or Dundas West, Ossington (between Dundas / Queen) and in The Junction.

This weekend at the Interior Design Show (IDS) you can head to the Studio North / Prototype and the DesignBoom Mart sections to not only see the latest designs by this city’s creative geniuses but also talk to the makers! To know the person you purchase your piece from is an extra bonus that the Big Box stores will never be able to offer. Also check out the Creative Class section to see what student designers are dreaming up and prototyping.

In the background “Frill Table” by Derek McLeod at Shiny Pretty Things show, Cooper Cole Gallery, TO DO ’13. Image by Leah Snyder.

The Toronto Design Offsite Festival plays a huge role in promoting local talent. Derek’s work has been featured each year in shows like 2013’s Shiny Pretty Things, 2012’s The Associates, 2011’s Tools and 2010’s Heavy Metal. These shows have been beautifully organized by architect / designer Joy Charbonneau another amazing contributor to the design scene here in Toronto as well as one of the co-founders of TO DO.



Sometimes Joy and Derek team up always resulting in something stunning, like their Tufted Bench which can be seen during TO DO at the Ontario Crafts Council.

“This wooden bench makes use of the shaping capabilities of a CNC machining centre to create a surface that emulates tufted upholstery. The top started as a simple slab laminated together with planks cut to match the width of the tufts. The shallow concave ‘pillows’ would present a significant challenge to fabricate with typical woodworking techniques, thus the CNC was employed to sculpt the wood surface. The legs were also fabricated in the same machine by cutting half of the profile, flipping it over into a custom fixture and cutting the other half.  Hand sanding and an oil finish complete the bench.”  See more about the chair here…

Tufted Wood
Dark wood bench with the top part resembling tufted cushion

If you haven’t already checked out TO DO in past years then this is the year to get out and find out how truly talented Toronto is.

Derek will be showing as part of the Light It Up Show at Cooper Cole Gallery. Opening reception is tonight from 6 – 10 pm and will continue through to Sunday.

Be prepared to see something brilliant!

See more work at www.derekmcleod.com


All images of Derek McLeod’s work, unless otherwise noted, provided by Joy Charbonneau.

 

MEANWHILE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD: Design in Dubai

Flag with advertising for Design Days Dubai in front of the skyscraper The Burj Khalifa
Image from Design Days Dubai
.

Design Days Dubai and the emergence of a design community in the UAE.

Shows like IDS (Interior Design Show) here in Toronto have helped demystify design for a general audience. For the price of an entry ticket you can see fresh work by new independent Canadian designers in Studio North and Prototype or take advantage of international guests speaking on design and architecture. Along with Toronto Design Offsite, Design Week’s independent festival that runs concurrently, it’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing. But if you ever happen to be in Dubai in March there is a new show that is growing a community around design in the Emirates. (More MIXED BAG MAG posts on design in Toronto with TODO Festival & Highlights of Design Week 2013)

The first fair in the Middle East that focuses on furniture design and design objects Design Days Dubai aims “to strengthen greater appreciation and understanding for design as a form of applied arts.”

What I love is that the aesthetic collected is BOLD! The work you see at Design Days Dubai shows no fear when it comes to exploring form and materials. But somehow it still manages to be accessible maybe because it is so over-the-top fantastical that it is the recognizable stuff of our dreams – playful, imaginative, and in many cases, like nothing we have ever seen before in the flesh within our reach.

Colourful chair in a baroque style with Mondrian style painting in back and woman sitting beside in high heels The Proust Geometrica Chair on display the PF Emirates Interiors. Image from Design Days Dubai.

People walking through indoor exhibitions, painting with spattered painted on white canvas on left side. Visitors at Design Days Dubai. Photo by Siddharth Siva. Image from Design Days Dubai.

Sculpture of white face suspended ceiling and arms coming out from wall holding utensils, smiling ready to eat. Woman in background signing a book. Image from Design Days Dubai.


Image from Design Days Dubai.

A million times (Time Dubai) by Humans since 1982 from Humans since 1982 on Vimeo.

Man in traditional arabic style dress looking at large black and white abstract painting
Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan tours a special preview day at the Inaugural Design Days Dubai at Franziska Kessler
. Image from Design Days Dubai.

Exhibit space with assorted tables, chairs and contemporary design objects Southern Guild Gallery, South Africa. Image from Design Days Dubai.

Gradient Mashrabiya by mischer’traxler for Carwan Gallery, Beirut. Image from Design Days Dubai.

Man hanging a basket like structure woven from camel leather on wood frame. People looking on. Kwangho Lee at his workshop, Camel Leather Weaving at Design Days Dubai. Image from Design Days Dubai.

Chairs shaped liked bean bag chairs makde from coiled rope.Meltdown Chairs by Tom Price, UK. Photo by Klara Urbanova. Image from Design Days Dubai.

The Sharjah Art Foundation. Image from Universes in Universe.

The Sharjah Biennial – art work that pushes the envelope with some serious play and dark humour.

And in another desert location down the road, the Sharjah Biennial gathers together  incredible established and emerging artists who produce projects that skip over, around and through the artistic expressions of new media, street art and installation like kids at a game of hopscotch. Case in point – this stunning-crazy-brilliant piece by French-Tunisian “calligraffiti” artist El Seed.

Art work with collage of Arabic script and human figures with saying Please be Aware this Image Contains NudityBeware of this Artist by Ramin Haerizadeh. Image from www.sharjahfoundation.org.

For obvious reasons, the work that pools around this intimate Biennial is often about analysis of the politics of body, space, and nation but because the execution is so beautifully rendered the intense work powerfully draws you in through your eyes to open your heart and mind to important issues.

The Sharjah Art Foundation. Work by Imran Qureshi. Image from Universes in Universe.

The Sharjah Art Foundation. Work by Mustapha Benfodil. Image from Universes in Universe.

Like Toronto, Dubai is rapidly expanding while exploring what this means for this city that has become an international destination and like Toronto it will be exciting to watch how Dubai grows as a destination for design.

Toronto's CN Tower rising between condo highrises with early evening clouds forming in the sky Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

DESIGN MATTERS: Toronto Design Offsite Festival 2014

FINAL COUNTDOWN! For just $10 you can help support this amazing independent design festival!

Designers are the magic makers, the interfacers.
Designers allow the stuff of dreams to come to life.

Designers have the capability to make our day with well played functionality.

And that is why design matters! Because we live in a world where we engage with design round the clock.

Supporting a community that nurtures designers so they can give birth to great design just makes sense.

This festival is near and dear to my heart because as a designer it brings together some of the best independent talent we have in Toronto and each year I walk away inspired. Plus this warm bunch of creative geniuses do a fine job of thawing out Toronto in the coldest month of the year.

ONLY A FEW HOURS LEFT! Check out Toronto Design Offsite’s Indiegogo Campaign to see how you can help for as little as $10 and upwards for some great perks.

Limited Edition Silk Screen Tote by Studio Jay Wall – Get this Perk by Donating $50

 

 

 

Salvaged Wood Candle Holder by Ian Devenney – Get this Perk by Donating $75

 






From top to bottom, left to right. 1. Work by at TODO ’13 Launch Party. 2. Plate for Imm-Living Not Forkchops Show, Photo by Krystle Merrow
www.krystlemerrow.com @ Studio Huddle 3. Cob Holders by Lana Filippone for Imm Living’s Not Forkchops show 4. Bruno Billio’s install for Come Up to Room Event at The Gladstone 5. Zahra Ebrahim of archiTEXT at the TODO ’13 Launch Party 6. Michael Revil Madjus of Imm Living & Gelareh Saadatpajouh, R & D Director of TODO 7. Vivien Leung, Organizer for Pecha Kucha Toronto 8. Ashley Rumsey and Stanley Sun of Mason Studio at TODO ’13 Launch Party. Unless otherwise noted all images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Festival Talks: Zahra Ebrahim from Toronto Design Offsite Festival on Vimeo.

Festival Talks: Vivien Leung from Toronto Design Offsite Festival on Vimeo.