Sarah Beattie, Say Sneeze
The Artist Project is back in Toronto for a 6th year and welcomes over 200 international and local contemporary artists to its juried art fair. After Thursday’s opening night party, The Artist Project opens its doors today, for the first time at the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place, to give seasoned and first-time art buyers alike the rare opportunity to meet and purchase directly from the artists. The fair was launched to give independent artists a professional art fair where they can sell their work, and where the public can engage and create relationships with the artists from whom they purchase pieces.
Show Director, Claire Taylor, has watched The Artist Project grow in its six years from 90 to well over 200 artists. With that, Taylor has seen several new and varying types of mediums join the fair, which the public has been able to discover and explore in a more accessible way than the norm thanks to the event’s personal and intimate set-up. This year, fair go-ers have Artist Project favourites to look forward to like The Artist Competition, for which the theme this year is “faces” and all exhibitors at the show are invited to submit one piece to compete. The Artist Project also brought back the Video ArtBox — “we feel it’s important to feature the work of artists working in digital media and video,” says Taylor.
New at the fair this year is the “Uptown/Downtown Hotel Art Tour” where visitors get an exclusive look at the private art collections of Toronto’s Shangri-La Hotel and The Hazelton Hotel, both of which boast a wide variety of pieces including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more. And as for what’s new in recurring themes this year, Taylor reports, “we are noticing a great deal of surrealism and fantasy, as well as industrial urban landscapes.” In fact as what’s trending inevitably changes year to year, The Artist Project offers an Art Outing Tour that explores the trends and themes present at the fair.
What’s interesting in the assortment of work at the show, is that even with contemporary art including installations and videography, Taylor says that painting continues to be one of the most prevalent mediums, but photography isn’t far behind. In fact, Sony is one of The Artist Project’s major sponsors, inviting select photographers to try out their high-end camera equipment with the results displayed on the Sony Full-Frame Studio at the fair. As for newcomers to the art world who are interested in purchasing their first piece, and who might find all this information overwhelming, Taylor advises to take a step back and appreciate the moment, “enjoy the process of meeting and speaking with artists and ultimately buying something that you love!”
The Artist Project was created to give artists a professional atmosphere to network and sell their work, but they also help emerging artists gain notoriety with Untapped, their juried competition solely for up-and-coming artists. Those chosen are awarded their space at the exhibition for free with the opportunity to partake in The Artist Project and reap the potential benefits of being seen by galleries and collectors at no cost to the artist. I had the opportunity to chat with three Canadians from the roster of Untapped artists, whose mediums vary from photography, to glass, to painting.
Elaine Chan-Dow is a photographer who went back to her love of the craft after completing a degree in Urban Geography and entering the corporate world. “I never stopped taking courses at night to continue honing my craft,” says Chan-Dow, “I really never gave up on the idea of pursuing art. A few years ago, I finally decided to commit myself to photo-based art full-time, went back to university to complete my Fine Arts degree and now I’m starting to have some success.”
Today, Chan-Dow’s photography has been seen in galleries across Toronto and the M55 Gallery in New York City. Her photos are taken with a minimalist approach, which gives the subject matter a heightened sense of grandeur. It also seems her past in Urban Geography plays a role in the subject matter of her photographs especially given her work present at The Artist Project, Libraria, which explores the evolution of libraries.
“For Libraria, the reason I wanted to print on large scale is so the viewer can be in the moment, as if they were right there at the library. Perhaps even a fantasy of them jumping into it and appreciating the architecture and infrastructure, or even the availability of knowledge, the free access,” she explains.
Elaine Chan-Dow, Libraria: 10. Toronto
Jesse Bromm works mainly with glass, and incorporates found objects and miniatures into his work to create familiar yet thought provoking scenes. After majoring in glass at Sheridan Institue’s Crafts and Design program, Bromm found a new way to work with glass as an artist-in-residence at the Harbourfront Centre, “I started [there] two years ago and it is primarily a ‘blowing studio’, which isn’t the aspect of glass I focused on in school,” says Bromm, “so with my rudimentary blowing skills and drive to use glass as glass I began to make simple blown work and to look to other materials for the detail and content that I missed from my casting work of the past.” — which led him to his current work in Landscape, present at The Artist Project.
While the pieces in Landscape indicate some worry behind present day norms (like a glass jar of bullets under a picturesque park), Bromm says he isn’t concerned by today’s “altered perception of reality,” but rather questions it.”To have concerns, I think you need to have questions in place. I think I’m more trying to find the questions then trying to find answers/voicing concerns.”
Jesse Bromm, Landscape: I
Jane Duncan is a photorealist painter with a past in Theatre Design studies, which has lent itself to her dramatic pieces. Duncan returned to painting in 2008 after coming to a place in her life where she was ready to put forth ideas and concepts she could confidently call her own. “I don’t think it was a wasted 10 years on hiatus [from painting], for it was over that 10 year period that I was able to watch and learn from other artists and other art practices,” says Duncan.
Inspiration for the photos that Duncan ultimately creates her paintings around start with her toy trunk, “It’s very much like a ‘tickle trunk’ if you will. [...] I play with them like toys for a bit just to see what kind of trouble they can get themselves into,” she shares, “I then conduct a photo shoot. Sometimes it results in a visually interesting story and there are times when I have to chalk it up to a good try.” But with Trophy Lovers, Duncan’s work featured at The Artist Project, she clearly struck gold when enacting scenes with figurines from the tops of trophies.
“Although I’m happy for people to enjoy my Trophy Lovers series as shiny happy people holding hands, I’m also hoping people will observe that these are all constructed realities. They are dream-like, but ultimately fake. There are several different ways in which the theme of ‘the artificial’ or ‘constructed realities’ comes into play in this series,” says Duncan.
Jane Ducan, Trophy Lovers: Pillow Talk
The Artist Project is at the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place, February 22-24.