Creatures of myth & memory in the playful, pointed, evocative Cryptids: Prose-Poetry from Creatures of Memory

Cover art from Cryptids: Prose-Poetry from Creatures of Memory by Dee Sparling     

dee original smallDee Sparling is a local Toronto poet/spoken word artist and singer. We’ve been friends for about 16 years, and folks who frequented Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir, either at Q Space or The Central, will recognize Sparling, who performed poetry and a cappella songs during the open mic spots. She’s previously self-published two poetry collections, Sol Believers: Prose-Poetry from the Orion Spur and Freedom Codes: Prose-Poetry from Empires Within, and has recently published Cryptids: Prose-Poetry from Creatures of Memory.

In the Author’s Note, Sparling describes Cryptids as playing “upon the concept of nostalgia and the role it takes in shaping personal and societal narratives,” as well as featuring “various types of mythical beasts and conjurings.” Cryptids as pieces of memory, and also as mythical creatures and monsters.

Cryptids is a magical, evocative collection of 16 poems, woven with rich, textured language that includes ancient biblical (“Ecce Venus” and “Gethsemane”) and mythological (the nod to the Kraken in “Fimbulwinter”), as well as political and natural, references. Reading these poems, one gets the feeling of being gathered around a campfire, hearing tales both fictional and non-fictional—especially “Credit Valley Cryptids (A Final Goodbye),” which conjures up reminiscences of a different time and place with its compass-eye view of ghosts, shades of history and natural landmarks.

Some of the pieces are playful in their observations, taking the point of view of the creatures themselves (“The Underground” and “Memory and the Moray Eel”) or ponder the situation of a creature (“Sparrow without a Care”). And “Painted Desert” portrays the otherworldly, deadly beauty of a landscape with a cheeky, Wild West flavour—the High Noon of the cacti—while drawing a metaphor for the will to thrive and live, coupled with warnings of more parched earth on the horizon.

The cautionary tone continues into space with “Centaurus Loves Cassiopeia,” highlighting humanity’s sense of entitlement with the line “Earth, thy vanity begins… with the licking of your lips;” into the digital realm in “Troll Bytes” and the perception of power in a world of ongoing obsolescence.

Creatures of politics aren’t spared in the pointed and sharply funny “A Day in the Counter-Revolution,” a satirical evolution of man as political animal. Or was it all a dream? And ruminations on the younger generation and nature take on an introspective, speculative tone in “Millennial Breeze” and “Nature Remembers You.”

Words that paint pictures, reminding us of how tricky memory and perception can be—and how these combine to create our own mythology.

Creatures of myth and memory in the playful, pointed, evocative Cryptids: Prose-Poetry from Creatures of Memory.

Keep an eye out for Dee Sparling at Toronto poetry/spoken word events.

Luminous, organic & abstract works, vibrating with colour & tension in Mediated Space exhibit

Humans react and respond to their environment.
The space, atmosphere and the room ingredients, especially the art. Abstract expressionist art has an active and interactive effect on the occupants of a room – offering windows and doors, mood and attitude where there are otherwise merely walls to contain the space. Come and experience mediated space. – Nora Camps

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Nora Camps & Avril Bull-Jones

Abstract expressionist Nora Camps launched a unique exhibit of her work, along with guest artist Avril Bull-Jones, last Thursday night: Mediated Space at Arbitration Place. The site-specific show had an opening reception, and from there will be an immersive experience for those who work in and use the space.

The idea came from an experience Camps had when her work was incorporated into a house staging a few years ago. When the buyers took possession of their new home, they were distressed. The space didn’t feel right. Something was missing. Turns out, what they were missing was the paintings. In the initial showing of the home, the paintings impacted how they perceived and responded to the space.

Arbitration Place is a dispute resolution facility, equipped with a series of hearing rooms, and a staff of resident and member arbitrators, and in-house legal support, as well as a concierge administrative/services team. Two parties will meet to resolve an issue – and although this is not a trial setting, strong emotions and high stakes will still come into play. How will the presence of these works transform the space and impact the rapport between the arguing sides?

Camps and Bull-Jones are two very different artists, with divergent approaches and media. There is an intensely deep, expressively dramatic feel to Camps’ work, while Bull-Jones’ pieces have an organic, storytelling quality, at times nostalgic and whimsical. And yet, both artists create works that are rooted in a personal response to nature and the space around them – engaging, moving and evoking a response in the viewer.

Abstract expressionist Camps works mainly in acrylic, with pieces ranging from the shimmering, luminous and textured Flowers Silver to the deeper, dramatic palate of Red Trees Reflected, to the sensual and organic touches in On Pond and Below Sea Level 3. Interesting dynamics emerge in how the works are placed in the space (in the reception area, hallways and hearing rooms): Red Trees Reflected is hung opposite Blue Portal in a startling and moving contrast of hot and cold, with the Blue Portal canvas revealing tension of its own, as a red horizontal line cuts across an oceanic blue and white background.

Bull-Jones’ work incorporates a variety of printing processes, as well as acrylic and watercolour, creating images inspired by the patterns and dance of nature. Falling for You is a whimsical portrait of falling leaves. Contrast is evident here as well, the cool blue background of the falling leaves in Plunging Lines hangs in the same room as the hot, organic orange and cinnamon of Balanced Sizzle. There are scenes of anthropomorphized flora in the nature love-in So Special and the emerging figure in In and Out; and an illustration style in the fable-like Mystical Universe, where four elephants ride a sea turtle.

As these spaces get used over the course of the exhibit, I imagine these works acting as both flies on the wall and catalysts to the nature and tone of the proceedings that unfold.

A lovely combination of luminous, organic and abstract – vibrating with colour and tension – in Mediated Space.

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The beauty & power of nature with a touch of whimsy – Inez/Recent Paintings @ Fran Hill Gallery

It was a lovely evening to be at an art opening last night, out of the rain and inside the warm, intimate exhibit space at the Fran Hill Gallery for the opening of Inez/Recent Paintings.

I’d had a sneak peek of the exhibit when I dropped by the gallery to pick up my Blair Sharpe painting a couple of weeks ago – and also met Inez – and I was struck by the vibrant colours, the contrasts of light and dark, and the strong strokes in these beautiful renderings. Inez’s canvasses celebrate the awesome power of nature, as well as its beauty, and with almost whimsical touches – details like the red canoe in “Mazinaw Rock,” dwarfed by the enormous rock face behind it. There are also canvases featuring Fraser Lake – and each has a different mood. Lighter colours – pink and orange – in some, while primaries and darker blues and purples dominate in others.

When I returned to the gallery last night for the official opening, there were lots of folks present – friends, fellow artists and folks from the neighbourhood – also friends of Fran and the gallery – a great, diverse group of people coming out to support the artist and admire her work. The gallery itself has a cozy, intimate feel where strangers make each other feel welcome – this is thanks to the gallery’s convivial owner/host Fran Hill, who is always happy to meet new people, introduce you around and make sure you have a beverage. And the fancy sandwiches served at the opening last night were made by the artist, with the help of some friends. While I was there, Fran introduced me to artists Alex Cameron, who has a show on at the Moore, and Brian Saby, one of the other artists she represents at the gallery.

Another great night of art and friendly folks supporting the artist at the Fran Hill Gallery.

The Inez/Recent paintings exhibit is on until November 4. For more info, visit the Fran Hill Gallery website: http://www.franhill.ca/

And check out these websites for the locations that inspired Inez’s exhibit:

Bon Echo Provincial Park: http://www.ontarioparks.com/english/bone.html

Fraser Lake, Ontario: http://www.bancroftontario.com/index.cfm?vNavID=5&vSubNavID=84&vSub2NavID=43

For more info on Alex Cameron’s current exhibit – A Decade in Review – at the Moore Gallery (on until Oct 27), please visit: http://www.mooregallery.com/MOORE_GALLERY/main_gallery.html

For Brian Saby’s work, check his page on the Fran Hill Gallery site: http://www.franhill.ca/?page_id=37

“Mazinaw Rock” – you can’t see it here, but the little red canoe is at the bottom right
Gallery owner/host Fran Hill
Three more paintings from the Inez/Recent Paintings exhibit
This is one of my favourites – and it sold last night!
Artists Alex Cameron, Brian Saby and Inez.
Fran Hill (centre) and guests – this is another of my favourite paintings