Art & literature come out to play together at the Leon Rooke & John Metcalf Salon Exhibition

I had the great pleasure of attending the Leon Rooke and John Metcalf Salon Exhibition last night, hosted by Fran Hill Gallery at Rooke’s residence at 246 Brunswick Ave., Toronto—also the new contact space for the gallery since it moved from its St. Clair W./Christie neighbourhood Show Room. The event featured Rooke’s latest paintings and sculptures, and the Biblioasis launch of two new books by Metcalf: The Canadian Short Story and Finding Again the World—Selected Stories.

Ushered up to event in the spacious, open and bright second floor space of the home—with its striking sky lights, interesting nooks and gorgeous fireplace—several of us (including me) remarked that we wanted to take up residence there ourselves. And it was here that we wandered about, viewing Rooke’s art over wine and cheese, and  treated to a reading by Metcalf.

Comprised of small to medium-sized canvasses, and curious, detailed and often delightful sculptures and shadow boxes, much of Rooke’s (who is also an author) work in this exhibit has a light, playful, whimsical quality—with some of the pieces emerging with a richer, deeper palette and darker, mysterious and even erotic undertones. Be forewarned: Not all of the pieces on display are necessarily for sale (exhibit pieces are noted with a number, accompanied by a printed guide with titles and pricing) and at least one piece (the Fish sculpture, featured at the top of this post) sold last night.

Following a brief introduction by Biblioasis Publisher Dan Wells, Metcalf—who also worked for years as a highly respected editor, most notably on Best Canadian Stories, curating the anthology and shepherding writers—read us excerpts from The Canadian Short Story and The Museum at the End of the World. Part historical overview, part critical guide, part love letter to the form, The Canadian Short Story is anything but a dry, academic tome, despite its hefty size. Sharply insightful, and full of humour and interesting examples and anecdotes about authors; hearing the excerpt, it struck me as being the “inside baseball” for the short story lover. And the audiophile journey Metcalf took us on with the piece from The Museum at the End of the World (a series of linked stories and novellas) gave us sharply drawn characters; visceral and present details that pique the senses; and a curiosity shop environment that enveloped the intimate, almost confessional nature of the characters’ conversation—about the musicians, birthplace and evolution of the blues. I was so taken by this work of autobiographically inspired fiction that I left with a signed copy.

All in all, it was a lovely and inspirational evening of striking art, literature and people.

The Leon Rooke exhibit continues throughout the fall; give Fran Hill a shout at 416 363-1333 or franhillartgallery@gmail.com to book an appointment. The residence at 246 Brunswick Ave. is tucked in behind 244 Brunswick Ave., accessed by the walkway to the right.

You can visit the Biblioasis website or your favourite book shop to find works by John Metcalf.

Here are some snaps I took last night.

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Energizing & inspiring: Eclectic – September Group Exhibition @ Fran Hill Gallery

It had been a while since I’d been to the Fran Hill Gallery, so I was very happy to get the heads-up from Fran that the gallery was mounting a group exhibition: Eclectic – September Group Exhibition, which opened last night and runs until September 29.

Located at 285 Rushton Road, Toronto near St. Clair/Christie, Fran Hill Gallery is just around the corner from a lively and diverse stretch of St. Clair. The shops range from the Good Will to the vintage shop Gypsy, from pubs like Dave’s to more upscale eateries like The Rushton, and chain coffee Starbucks to the indie Noir and Pain Perdu. There’s a great neighbourhood feel to the gallery, but you don’t have to be a regular to receive a warm welcome. It’s also a clubhouse of sorts for the artists represented there, to hang out with Fran and other artists, and meet art lovers and prospective collectors.

The participating artists are as distinctive as their work, creating art in a variety of media, and coming from various professional and cultural backgrounds. Pieces done in oil on canvas (Alex Wu’s Untitled lady), pencil or watercolour on paper (Blair Sharpe’s watercolour abstracts), wood (Rosalie Lam’s Canada geese and Lynn Cumine’s nude woman); collage (Steve Rockwell’s thumbnail installation); with digital cameras (Jim Ingram’s NYC photos); sculptures in glass and plaster (Leon Rooke’s “Who’s Your Daddy!); the images ranging from the abstract to portraits and landscapes, to homage to other artists (À la Pablo Picasso’s abstract nudes). “Eclectic” is the perfect title for this exhibition.

The Eclectic – September Group Exhibition artists are, in alphabetical order:

Steve Armstrong

Christopher Arnoldin

Robert Chandler

Tien Chang

Linda Corbett

Lynn Cumine

Michael Warren-Darley

Michael Gerry

Gerald Gladstone

Frederick Hagan

Inez

Jim Ingram

Rosalie Lam

Derek Liddington

Barbara McGivern

Bhashkar Mooljee

Robert Nowacki

À la Pablo Picasso

Leon Rooke

Brian Saby

Robert Schwager

Blair Sharpe

Lanny Shereck (who also has an exhibit opening at loop tomorrow, running September 14 – October 6)

Steve Rockwell

Y.M. Whelan

Alex Wu

Sean Yelland

Standing in the centre of the showroom, immersed in these images, is both an energizing and inspiring experience. And you can feel it too. Eclectic – September Group Exhibition is on at Fran Hill Gallery until September 29. Hours: Friday, Saturday & Sunday 11 – 6 or by appointment. Contact: 416-363-1333 or email: franhillgallery@bellnet.ca

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Fran Hill surveys the gallery & exhibit patrons from the doorway
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The Fran Hill Gallery neon sign glows in the window
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Steve Rockwell’s thumbnail installation
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Alex Wu’s untitled lady gazes at us over her shoulder
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The north room of the gallery
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Lynn Cumine’s nude woman, painted on wood
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Leon Rooke’s plaster sculpture “Who’s Your Daddy!”
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Opening night guests enjoying the patio in front of the gallery