SummerWorks: Art, madness, longing & inspiration in the visceral, cerebral, deeply moving The Red Horse is Leaving

Moleman Productions presents a multimedia, multidisciplinary work in progress with its SummerWorks production of The Red Horse is Leaving; running for three performances in the Toronto Media Arts Centre Main Gallery. Written and co-directed by Erika Batdorf, with excerpts from artist Thaya Whitten’s journals and performance talks, and co-directed and choreographed by Kate Digby, the piece takes us on a thoughtful, moving journey into the playful, pensive and tormented mind of Batdorf’s performance artist/painter mother. I caught the closing performance, along with a sold out house, last night.

Part lecture, part performance art, part fly-on-the-wall experience, the audience is invited into Whitten’s (Erika Batdorf) studio as she faces off with a blank white sheet of Masonite; struggling to manifest her vision, her concept, in colours and brush strokes on a two-dimensional surface. All the while, a Gargoyle (Zoe Sweet) watches, climbing cat-like over tables and chairs—and even curling itself around Thaya—largely unseen but felt; its glowing, lit spine flashing and changing colour along with her breath and pulse.

Cerebral and visceral at the same time, The Red Horse is Leaving also addresses the issues of meaning, ethics, outreach and economics as they relate to art; and the changing landscape of art and artists, and how their work is perceived and received. Back in the 60s, performance art was the big new thing; controversial, revolutionary and exciting. Not so much anymore. Referencing “the red horse”—the subject of Thaya’s work in progress—we get the impression that it represents her muse, her inspiration, her passion. And it’s eluding her.

Beautiful performances from Sweet and Batdorf in this profoundly moving, thought-provoking two-hander. Batdorf’s Thaya is an artist with a curious, sharp and tormented mind; and a playful, tortured soul. Longing for inspiration and connection with her muse and her work, as well as her audience, Thaya struggles to reach out—to the white space before her and the world around her. Sweet is both menacing and adorable as the Gargoyle; moving with precision and grace under and over furniture, and coiling around the artist. Both bird-like and cat-like, it nudges and prods Thaya, offering brushes and even sharing a snack.

Inside Thaya’s secret heart, like her, we realize that longing can be a dangerous and unfulfilling thing—but it’s part of our human nature to strive and struggle to find meaning in our work, our world and ourselves.

With shouts to the design team for their work in bringing this multimedia vision to life: Mark-David Hosale (digital technology and sound, costumes), Sylvia Defend and Joyce Padua (costumes), J. Rigzin Tute (original music composition) and Alan Macy (biosensors).

This was the final SummerWorks performance of The Red Horse is Leaving; look out for the Toronto premier in the Rendezvous with Madness festival Oct 13 – 21.

Department of corrections: The original post had the cast credits reversed; this has been corrected.

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Toronto Fringe: Art, friendship & astroturf in the quirky, edgy, hilarious The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome

Adrian Rebucas, Lauren MacKinlay, Anne van Leeuwen, Richard Young & Carson Pinch. Photo by Megan Terris.

 

High Park Productions takes us to The Freedom Factory gallery (22 Dovercourt Road, south of Queen St. East) for a fly-on-the-wall view of the aftermath of an explosive art show opening. The Toronto Fringe production of Michael Ross Albert’s The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome, directed by Robert Motum, is a quirky, edgy, hilarious look at the indie art world and a group of artist friends as they struggle with finding fulfillment in the personal lives and careers.

Photographer Amy (Lauren MacKinlay) manages an art gallery that’s soon shutting down, so she invites her art school friends to hang their work in one final show—one that quickly closes when radical feminist painter pal Caroline (Anne van Leeuwen) goes all rock star in a hotel room on the place. Cleaning up the debris of art work, wine glasses and broken dreams, Amy is assisted by gallery intern/sculptor Pablo (Carson Pinch) and conceptual artist friend Marshall (Adrian Rebucas) while Caroline fumes and smokes outside before rejoining her friends to explain herself and face the music. And just when you thought things couldn’t get more complicated, Caroline’s fiancé John (Richard Young) arrives and the gang discovers that he already knows Marshall.

Remarkable work from the ensemble, who keeps it real and present amidst all the insanity, razor sharp hilarity and satire. Heartfelt, insightful discussions about the art world, the nature of art and creativity, and the artist’s place within it all—and the existential crisis every artist must confront regarding their work, the precarity of their financial status, and their struggle for personal meaning and fulfillment.

The production features dramatic, evocative works by local female artists Shannon Gernon, Christine Miller, Krista Sobocan and Zabrina Szymanski.

The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome continues every night at 8 p.m. at The Freedom Factory until July 15. It’s sold out for the remainder of the run, but you can always drop by and take your chances on scooping up a spot from a no-show.

Want to check if the show you want to see is sold out? The Toronto Fringe folks have set up a page for sold-out shows, updated daily.

 

 

Luminous images of birds in Clara Blackwood’s Aviary exhibit

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“Frosted Owl” from Clara Blackwood’s Aviary exhibit

Finally made it out to The Hermit’s Lamp this afternoon to see Clara Blackwood’s Aviary exhibit of paintings – and I’m so glad I did.

Largely executed in acrylic on canvas, the pieces presented in Aviary are images of birds, mostly owls. The paintings are at times haunting, playful and otherworldly – and all are luminous and vibrating with colour. The owls on Blackwood’s canvasses are majestic and unflinching in their wisdom, gazing with alert detachment. My favourite is “Frosted Owl.”

Aviary was originally scheduled to close today, but has been extended until December 31 – so ideal for holiday shopping or browsing on a crisp day. The Hermit’s Lamp is an easy-going, friendly space – located at 425 Vaughan Rd. (Vaughan and Arlington).

You can find artist/poet Clara Blackwood on Facebook.

The real & the fantastical side by side @ Nora Camps’ ‘CAPRICCIO. Real & Imaginary’ exhibit

Artist Nora Camps opened her ‘CAPRICCIO. Real and Imaginary’ exhibit at the Papermill Gallery at Todmorden Mills this past Thursday night, with guest artists: Marietta Camps, MaryAnn Camps and Pamela Williams.

The title of the exhibit refers to landscape work, which can be whimsical and fantastical, even collage-like in its assembly of images. Nora Camps’ prolific work shows great variety and vibrant colour – from photography-based (like Spirited Forest, an archival photo print on canvas that combines images of women with trees), to graphic design-inspired (the Fade to Red 1-2-3 triptych) to abstract (the Open series, that bring to mind giant, intense yet benevolent eyes) to expressionistic (land/seascapes like Sound, Surf and Arriving). And she’s created several large wooden sculptures too – her take on the totem pole – and a four-minute film, a moving collage of dance clips, plays on a screen in the Papermill Theatre.

Marietta Camps, Camps’ mother and a local Vancouver Island artist, uses watercolour and oils to paint images recalled from her childhood in India. Works on display include bright and lovingly rendered portraits and landscapes.

MaryAnn Camps’ (Nora Camps’ sister) Cities at Night is a series of startling beautiful aerial perspectives – done in acrylic on canvas – of Montreal, London and Tokyo. These are the kind of magical, shimmering views you’d get if you were flying into that city at night.

Toronto Photographer Pamela Williams shows several of her remarkable black and white archival silver prints of cemetery monuments that she shot in Genoa and Rome, Italy; Paris, France; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both beautiful and melancholy, the marble statuary works are so masterfully sculpted – and so vividly presented in the photographs – that you would swear they could come to life at any moment.

Original music by Tom St. Louis, who sang for us at the grand piano, added to the intimate, engaging atmosphere in the Papermill Gallery – and the celebration of art and friends.

The Nora Camps and guests exhibit is up until September 7.

Here are some snaps I took from the event:

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Upcoming art & photography exhibits: Nora Camps & Lisa MacIntosh

Wanted to quickly shout out two upcoming art exhibits:

Painter/photographer Nora Camps exhibit CAPRICCIO. Real and Imaginary, with guest artists Marietta Camps, MaryAnn Camps and Pamela Williams @ the Papermill Gallery at Todmorden Mills – from August 28 to September 7.

Photographer Lisa MacIntosh: ASK exhibit @ 3030 Dundas West – from September 4 to October 4. LMP_AskPoster2014

In the meantime, you can check out some previous cowbell posts on a Pamela Williams exhibit, and my photo shoot and interview with Lisa MacIntosh.

Robert Chandler surprises with striking canvasses in Scratch exhibit @ Fran Hill Gallery

Dropped by Fran Hill Gallery last night for opening of Robert Chandler’sScratch,” an exhibit of new paintings.

The first thing that strikes me about Robert Chandler’s paintings is the colour. In some cases, colours that you’d never have thought would work together – like pink, red and orange – do work together. Most of the vibrating canvasses have a decidedly urban sensibility to them, and the stacked, outlined squares in these compositions bring to mind multi-level dwellings, a computer keyboard, a bird’s-eye view of a street grid. Then Chandler surprises the viewer with two lighter canvasses, which appear to be white-wash over colour, with abstract, geometric drawings scratched onto the surface. And then the yellow and black piece, which put one fellow visitor in mind of two crosses sinking in water, the yellow disappearing into black. I noticed how the one titled “Red Writer,” pictured in the exhibit flyer – the image used in the gallery’s exhibit invitation – looked more reddish in print than in real life, which was more bright pink. And the red in the canvass is the colour of blood. Vibrant and a bit disturbing.

I didn’t note titles for the most part, though I did take the list around with me. Titles are something that interests me – but not necessarily the artist. More importantly, I found myself and others there last night, returning to look at the paintings – and noticed that there was something different to see.

Come see for yourself.

Robert Chandler’s “Scratch” is on at the Fran Hill Gallery showroom (285 Rushton Road, Toronto) until November 24. Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday 11 a.m.m – 6 p.m. or by appointment: franhillgallery@bellnet.ca – or call 416-363-1333 or 647-768-6865 (cell).

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Saturday = Artaday

Yesterday was a day of art and friends – “Artaday,” as my partner in creative crime Lizzie Violet coined it – as we attended two art exhibit openings and a very unique haunted house experience. Here are some highlights, as well as the details, of these events.

5 By 5 exhibit at the Gladstone Hotel Art Bar Gallery features five local artists, who have joined forces for a collaborative painting exhibit:

Jacques Albert uses a mostly subdued palette of earth tones, creating organic, flowing pieces featuring nature and figures that are both moving and haunting.

Brenda Clews combines text and figures using a vibrant primary palette for a series of electric works.

Jennifer Hosein’s beautiful paintings are sometimes disturbing, sometimes ethereal, and water colour-like in a striking use of blues and greens.

Anna Karoliina Koskinen’s works include some lovely snapshot moments of human and animal subjects, the images of people capturing a second’s worth of joy and pensiveness.

Greg Nordoff’s paintings have a sharp photographic quality to them, with images of mysterious, sexy women, as well as finely detailed architecture and portrait work.

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5 By 5 – Brenda Clews performs some of her poetry.
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5 By 5 – Lizzie & Laurie take in Jennifer Hosein’s work.
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5 By 5 – Opening reception guests mingle, with Greg Nordoff’s work in the background.
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5 By 5 – Guests chat, with Jacques Albert’s and Anna Karoliina Koskinen’s work in the background.

5 By 5 closes on October 26, so get on over to the Gladstone Art Bar Gallery.

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Kill Joy’s Kastle – The tour waiting area aka “the Womb”
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Kill Joy’s Kastle – The larger than life Goddess figure.
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Kill Joy’s Kastle – The Carpet Muncha installation.
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Kill Joy’s Kastle – The Hall of Straw Feminists (Liz Lemon & Margaret Thatcher).

Kill Joy’s Kastle at 303 Lansdowne Ave. is a scary fun haunted house trip into women’s studies, feminist thought and gender fluidity. Our tour guide Keith Ann McWoman, a prof at McMaster U., leads us through the space, which features thought-provoking, spooky and humourous images and installations. Totally destroys the stereotypes of joyless, humourless feminists and lesbians by giving these preconceived notions a good send-up. On until October 30 – 4 till 8 p.m. daily or by appointment. Take the alleyway on the south east side to get to the entrance.

Urban Federation of Artists at Gallery Catalyst is a remarkable, edgy and eclectic multi-artist show. Here are some artists that stood out for me:

Nik Beat’s work is a selection of darkly whimsical multi-media collage pieces, featuring images of pop culture and famous musicians.

Dr. Seuss – yes, that Dr. Seuss – unique drawing style is on display, and for sale, in numbered prints of illustrations from some of his most beloved books.

Tanja-Tiziana gorgeous black and white photographs combine nostalgia, memory and iconic architecture.

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Urban Federation of Artists – Opening reception guests mingle & view the art at Gallery Catalyst.
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Urban Federation of Artists – Lizzie Violet & artist Nik Beat.
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Urban Federation of Artists – Nik Beat’s and Alice Zilerberg’s art on display, with pieces & prints available for purchase in the trays below
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Urban Federation of Artists – A live model in full body paint stands in the front window.

Alice Zilerberg’s stunningly beautiful altered photographic images are where dream meets nightmare meets fairy tale.

What art has inspired you recently?