Just home from an artistically inspiring visit to Toronto. Saw Allyson Mitchell’s ‘Creep Lez’ at the Katharine Mulherin Gallery, Jamelie Hassan’s ‘At the Far Edge of Words’ at Mocca, Evan Penny at the AGO and then a crazy night on the streets for Nuit Blanche. Allyson Mitchell’s work is amazing, both as an artist and as an educator. There was a catalogue of her work and her writing at the gallery, and I spent a good hour reading about issues of feminism and body image. She has the ability to cut right through the rhetoric to the heart of the matter, and as I read her writing I find myself questioning and recognizing where my beliefs and ideals have just been thoughtlessly absorbed from the current culture surrounding me without questioning the veracity, or the source. The status quo is so deeply imbedded in us that I wonder what’s necessary to shake off the rose coloured glasses of complacency.
What I love about Allyson’s work is how she uses humour and warmth to convey the message, but says it distinctly nonetheless. Jamelie Hassan’s show is a retrospective of 30 years worth of work. I love her use of neon lights with traditional religious and cultural signs and symbols. Her work explores her Arab cultural background and how that colours a lifetime in Canada. In her travels around the world, she can only ever be the visitor, and her work a subjective commentary on themes of language, memory and identity. I found a lot to relate to personally in her work. Haden and I spent a lovely afternoon at the AGO where the highlight was Evan Perry’s larger than life distorted figural sculptures. Mesmerizing and disturbing at the same time. I am in awe of the technical skill that goes into creating these pieces, while at the same time repulsed by the haunting distortions. Very cool.
And then finally Nuit Blanche. The streets of Toronto were filled to overflowing with crowds of people out to follow their maps through a city overthrown by art. I have to say that it isn’t my favorite way to look at work, lining up to be hurried through, and having the noise and chaos of the crowds to contend with. But there were some pretty amazing pieces, especially considering that it’s a 12 hour event, basically dusk till dawn. Two pieces in particular stood out for me. Aaron Moran’s piece REFLEXION was a sculptural piece with video projected onto it. That in itself was of interest to me, but the best part was the sudden realization that part of what we were seeing in the video, was ourselves looking out at us. That is definitely an idea that I would like to explore further in my own work. One of the last pieces that we saw was World Without Sun by Christine Davis, which was in the Nathan Phillips Square in front of City Hall. Six huge satellite dishes with a mesmerizing video collage of underwater sea life, and the tiniest organisms to the vast expanses of the entire universe. The imagery was stunning, and I loved how the images played out over the six dishes, sometimes unified, sometimes disparate, somber black and white suddenly bursting into colour, and the experience of standing in the square in the dark, staring hypnotically at these videos, actually created a creepy dystopian sense of loss. The feeling that if we aren’t careful, perhaps that’s all we’ll be left with. It was a powerful piece, and the music score was haunting and romantic too. She definitely accomplished what she set out to convey with that piece. It was a wonderfully inspiring trip, can’t wait to go back!