THIS WEEK IN TORONTO: Reel Artist Film Fest, The State of Blackness, The Artist Project & Building Black

Drawing of a black woman's torso and heart like a anatomical drawing superimposed on itStill We Rise by Rema Tavares, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference.

The body, the face, a space – artists’ ability to mirror who we are & who we can be.

This week in Toronto incredible talent will be gathering to celebrate but also critique.

Colourful painting of a man's torso in a suit jacket
The Introduction #8 by Samara Shuter, The Artist Project Toronto.

Black outline of the backside of a woman lying down filled in with geometric patternsAfro-priation by Rema Tavares, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference.

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REEL ARTIST FILM FESTIVAL

Logo for Reel Artist Film Festival Tonight Canadian Art’s amazing documentary film fest, RAFF (Reel Artist Film Fest) launches. Under the direction of the former Executive Director of Canadian Art, Ann Webb, RAFF became the sweet spot in the year for incredible inspiration. The Opening Night has become a big art star event with this year’s guest of honour Kehinde Wiley in attendance. Known for his vibrant portraits of black men that reference the portraiture work of Renaissance painters, Kehinde has (with some trepidation)  moved on to paint women. An Economy of Grace is the documentary that follows Kehinde as he searches for the women who will become his new muses.

RAFF will also be screening two of Art21’s New York Close Up shorts this year. The first is by LaToya Ruby Frazier, one of the artists short-listed for last year’s AIMIA AGO Photography Prize.

“Her work interrogates how the toxic postindustrial geography of Braddock, Pennsylvania has shaped multiple generations of her family, acting as a mirror for the complex social problems that beset America today.” Read more…

The second short is Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.

“In this film, Rashid Johnson discusses the fluid nature of black identity in America and its escapist tendencies, from the Afrocentric politics of Marcus Garvey to the cosmic philosophy of Sun Ra.” Read more…

Portrait of a mirror image of a black man with dreads and suit jacket
Portrait of Rashid Johnson from RAFF website.

Painting of young white girl lying down and tracing the lines of a damask pattern
Vivid Blue by Eric Robitaille, The Artist Project Toronto.

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THE ARTIST PROJECT TORONTO

The Artist Project Toronto LogoAnother great art party happens Thursday night with the Opening Soirée for The Artist Project Toronto. Running until Sunday The Artist Project offers three full days to experience beautiful work.

Eric Robitaille’s pieces show his talent as a graphic designer with stories emerging from the many colour washes and textural layers of his work. “During the last few years, the development of several new techniques has allowed for a more spontaneous and raw style, balanced throughout with meticulous detail.” Read more…

Colourful painting of a man's torso in a suit jacketThe Introduction #5 & #11 by Samara Shuter, The Artist Project Toronto.

Artist Samara Shuter paints crayola coloured canvases of men in suits because the suit “has represented something for decades; power, productivity, strength, economic prosperity, and hard work.” Read more…

upclose photograph of towers like city skyscrapers made of colourful lego
Lego City Tower on Hill Elevation by Laird Kay, The Artist Project Toronto.

Laird Kay has studied planning and design so it’s not surprising his photography reaches back to the concepts of city planning via the playful medium of lego as the building blocks.

“Lego City Elevation, Is it Dubai? Is it Hong Kong? New York? Singapore? Toronto? Vancouver? Or all of the above? Cities used to be the result of collective will and a desire to shape – to control – our environments. They were expressions of the things that happened in them. Now they’re about branding and image. Like plastic, like LEGO City, they’re no longer built to last – they can be pulled down when fashions change. LEGO City expresses the modern absence of community in city-shaping. Although stylized, these photographs of LEGO City show us how the line between plastic and uninhabited has become virtually indistinguishable from the “real thing”.” See more…

Image of 3 white styrofoam cups on white background
Tears in the Ice Box by Noah Gano, The Artist Project Toronto.

The technicolour spectrum contained in Laird’s work on how places start to eclipse our human essence with their artificiality is in sharp contrast to the minimalist whiteness of Noah Gano who also makes use of materials the are divorced from the natural. “Navigating through themes of experience and identity, he works conceptually in photography, sculpture, and collage.” See more…

There is much to see at The Artist Project and much to buy with all artists exhibiting work that is for sale and ready to find a new home. Plan on making a purchase!

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Logo for The State of Blackness ConferenceAlso on Thursday The State of Blackness Conference begins.

“This conference consists of both closed working sessions and public events. The conference opens with one and a half days of closed working sessions designed to provide opportunities for artists, educators, curators, scholars, and cultural workers to engage in intensive and critical collaborative discussions about the current state of blackness and the challenges and strategies employed to increase visibility. Emphasis will be placed on developing networks of engagement and knowledge exchange while developing methodologies and practices that inform the future of black Canadian artistic production and teaching.”

Labeeb by Abdi Osman, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference

One of the panelists is Abdi Osman a “Somali-Canadian photographer whose work focuses on questions of black masculinity as it intersects with Muslim and queer identities.”

Also included on the public panel at Harbourfront Centre (Saturday 2 pm), are the artists Rema Tavares (work seen above), Olivia McGilchrist (work seen below) and Erika DeFreitas.


Discover Me…Series 1 & 2 by Abdi Osman, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference

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Heidi McKenzie, Curator of ‘Face Value’ from Heidi McKenzie on Vimeo.

Logo for Face Value Show

“What you see isn’t necessarily who you are”

Corresponding with the conference is the exhibit Face Value by curator / artist Heidi McKenzie.

“The way people look, and the way they are looked at, has a profound effect on the person being seen. For the bi-racial or mixed-race person, the simple act of being seen by others can be fraught with tension and ambiguity. The familiar unconscious act of identifying and categorizing a person’s race based on their face value slips beyond the concrete into the murkiness of the grey zone.”

Olivia McGilchrist Artist Statement from Heidi McKenzie on Vimeo.

(whitey) Discovery Bay by Olivia McGilchrist, panelist at The State of Blackness Conference 


Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

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Building Black at Daniels Spectrum

Another artist using Lego in his work is Ekow Nimako who uses the toy blocks to produce pieces that are about the less-than-playful issues around identity and racial narratives.

For the month of February his work in the show Building Black is part of Daniels Spectrum’s programming around Black History Month. On the main floor of the Arts Centre, Ekow’s work greets you at the side entrance and lines the hallway outside the theatre spaces. His masks reflect the cultural legacy Ekow inherited from his parents who immigrated to Canada from Ghana. They are each infused with their own personality and speak of the strength and tenacity of culture.

His other figures have darker stories which Ekow, also a writer, provides. Mounted on the walls is the poetry he has written for each piece. A golliwog sits less than comfortably, performing a stiff smile that would make Paula Deen feel nostalgic. The life sized figure of a child dressed like a flower girl is exhausting in its detail but also in the back story. Ekow was researching slave narratives and considering the lost girls who would never be granted the innocence of childhood dreams.

Flower Girl Requiem

Forever innocent they say,
Free from taint or world decay,
Pretty basket filled with blooms
Plucked from the earth none too soon.

Love she for all her hope and youth,
Her pretty gown, the purest truth
Her basket and the whites within,
The blooms of cotton, soft and grim.

The world can never seem so stark,
So bright, so safe, so cold and dark
As when gazed upon through childhood’s eyes,
For which my precious dare not oblige.

Alas, her aisle will not be strewn,
For she who’s ever loved is gone
The child of flowers, picked and praised
Forever innocent, they say.

Recent spread in Grid Magazine on Ekow installing his show.

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As part of the Building Black show Ekow will be giving an artist talk Talking Black this Sunday 3 – 6 pm at Daniels Spectrum, Regent Park.

More details and schedules for the events can be found on the websites listed below:

Reel Artist Film Festival (Wednesday – Sunday, Opening Party Tonight)

The Artist Project Toronto (Thursday – Sunday, Opening Party Thursday Night @ Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place)

The State of Blackness Conference (Open to the Public on Saturday @ the Harbourfront Centre)

Face Value (Thursday – March 2nd, Opening Reception Thursday Night @ Gallery 1313)

Daniels Spectrum Black History Month Shows (on now for the remainder of the month)

THE FACES OF ARTIST PROJECT TORONTO 2013: Ivan Alifan

Oil painting of white woman with red earrings and red stiching detail in her blouse
Images provided by Ivan Alifan.

I believe a good work is work that makes the viewer “nervous”, a work that haunts the viewer, to me that is beauty.

In the history of art if you could paint a realistic portrait of the person then you could paint anything in the world. That notion is still believed today, because a “face” is the most complex object in the world. One wrong stroke of the brush and the face is no longer representing the model and it is believed that the artist has failed.

That intense difficulty is what first got me interested in portraiture because I love giving myself hard tasks to accomplish. I did a replica of the “Girl of the Pearl Earring” in 12th grade. At that point I felt I had achieved the realism that I had always wanted. Now that I’m 23 accurately representing a face was no longer my main intention. I have realized that those imperfections or mistakes that artists make are beautiful. Because regardless of whom you are painting in the portrait, you are always painting a portrait of yourself. It is those imperfections that make up your character in your art.

Oil painting of white woman with scarve with red folk embroidery

The portraits that I paint say more about myself than they do about the sitter. I think this is also the main reason why I believe portraiture is still relevant today – this intensity to the relationship between artist and the sitter which produces a different meaning or aura than photography. So today my goal is not to paint accurately but to push portraiture to a new level.

Oil painting of androgynous bald woman with white painting dripping erotically down her head

My quest for traditional beauty is slowly disappearing…I believe a good work is work that makes the viewer “nervous”, a work that that haunts the viewer, to me that is beauty. If my work creates a physical or physiological tension or drama for the viewer then I’m doing a good job.

Oil painting of androgynous looking bald white woman with white paint dripping down her face holding a rose in her hand seductively as though she is about to eat it
Images provided by Ivan Alifan.

View more of Ivan’s work on his website and his blog.
Follow Ivan on twitter @IvanAlifan or Facebook.

Get ticket info for the show as well view all the participating artists at www.theartistprojecttoronto.com or follow along for updates @TAP_toronto & #TAP13.

logo for Toronto Artist Project 2013 in dark blue with image of woman in profile with veil like cutout over her eyes

THE FACES OF ARTIST PROJECT TORONTO 2013: Artist Christine Kim

mixed media collage with paper cut outs around black and white pencil drawingImage provided by artist Christine Kim.

“What’s in a face that makes it the nail on which we hang our ideas about people?”

My work speaks to themes of uncertainty, tension and unease that come with being uprooted, confronting borderlines, and questioning your place in the world.  In my illustrations, I focus on androgynous figures because of their position – they fit anywhere and nowhere. They are shrouded in mystery and ambiguity. So much of our understanding of others hinges on the face and the gesture; however, I am interested in what we do not know, what is hidden.

This body of work is inspired by Nathanial Hawthorne’s short story entitled “The Minister’s Black Veil”; his writing investigates a minister whose dark, inner struggles have materialized in a black veil.  It becomes a symbolic reminder of the darkness within everyone.  In this series of graphite portraits, I am interested in exploring the contrast between light, fragile lace and the gravity of darkness. Figures are concealed in black lace, which is worn like fleeting shadows or permanent tattoos.  Usually worn at funerals, black lace is a symbol of death, mourning, and sorrow.  There is mystery created by the concealment; the lace is a fence that prevents outsiders from entering.  These faces are obscured, ambiguous, but they may yet be known.

Various works of drawings of androgynous people with paper cut outs around the work and hanging down from ceiling
Artist hand holding cutouts of some of her drawings of a little boy
Woman holding up a piece of paper like a veil with her profile as a shadow behind
Above black & white photographs of Christine Kim and her studio by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

I’m interested in portraiture because of how much hinges on the face. I’m inspired by what is seen by the viewer as well as what is hidden. One quote comes to mind –

“And what’s in a face, anyhow, except the uncomplicated story of a man? What’s in a face that makes it the nail on which we hang our ideas about people?” (Rick Moody, The Black Veil, 6)

Pencil drawing of androgynous figure surronded with collage of butterfly wings, cut out black bird, chairs and Japanese paper prints.
Image provided by artist Christine Kim.

See more of Christine’s work on her website and her blog.

Series of four watercolour and ink self-portraits of artist sleeping
Image provided by artist Christine Kim.

Get ticket info for the show as well view all the participating artists at www.theartistprojecttoronto.com or follow along for updates @TAP_toronto &  #TAP13.

logo for Toronto Artist Project 2013 in dark blue with image of woman in profile with veil like cutout over her eyes