The Artist Project 2017

February 23 – 26, 2017
Better Living Center
195 Princes’ Boulevard, Exhibition Place, Toronto

On what was turning out to be one of the nicest evenings yet this year, the Better Living Center opened its doors to the public for a sneak-peek at this year’s Artist Project. Guests were offered small snacks and cocktails as they perused the wide range of pieces that were being displayed in the sprawling, industrial space. Ranging from small hand-drawings to large installations, the artworks shown in this annual exhibition displayed much of the talent that exists today in Toronto. By offering the viewers a chance to enter directly into a dialogue with the artists who were displaying their works, the Artist Project truly provided a unique experience to anyone who chose to walk through its doors.

The Artist Project celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with a 100 foot-long mural by L.A artist Tracy Hiner

One of the main attractions of the fair is Kevin Holliday’s performance project, titled Rub, where the artist has chosen to transform himself into a living statue of the Laughing Buddha. Viewers are invited to interact with the statue in any way that they see fit, thus forming a sort of echo chamber for their actions: by interacting with the statue, they are essentially performing two different acts at once, each with their own prescribed set of customs. The work was done in collaboration with OCAD University’s Center for Emerging Artists and Designers.

Kevin Holliday’s Installation piece Rub, done in collaboration with OCAD University’s Center for Emerging Artists and Designers

However, one of the standout artists from the more independent section of the fair was Ludmila Schnaider, who uses photography to capture the everlasting essence of humanity in cleverly staged poses that mirror great paintings of the past. Proserpine, which recalls the great Romantic painting of the same name by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, shows a contemporary young woman reimagining of the mythological figure. The young Israeli soldier holds the ‘fatal fruit’ in her hands close to her heart in the same position as Rossetti’s model, but instead of a pomegranate it is a grenade. These photographs serve to show that great composition and artistic control will always succeed in producing an interesting picture. 

Proserpine by artist Ludmila Schnaider. Image courtesy of The Artist Project

One thing was certain about this large scale art-fair: it serves as a place for artists, young and old, to display their love for the city of Toronto. Many of the lanes were peppered with paintings of the familiar streetcars that pass – and sometimes stop abruptly – on our busy streets, and of the city’s iconic skyline. Artists old and young alike provided their visions of what the city means to them, many adding elements of their own story to their works. Lorie Slater, who is displaying her series of photographs of Toronto mounted on wood panels, was not born in the city but rather fell in love with it at the age of 17 when she was passing through to London. She then moved here at the earliest chance she could get.

Photographs by artist Lorie Slater

The Artist Project will be open for the entire weekend, so make sure to stop in and see all of the interesting artworks that are being displayed there. You might even get lucky and arrive at a time when one of the special events is taking place; the Art Battle will offer to artists and spectators alike the chance to participate in a live painting contest, where the final works are then submitted to a silent auction. Fifty percent of these proceeds will be donated to SickKids, and a portion of all of the proceeds from the Artist Project will be donated to Artbound’s Creative Deeds Programs.

Text and photo: Jordan Fee

The most fascinating aspect of The Artist Project is in the title: the artist. The reason to visit this contemporary art fair is not the art on its own; rather, it is the pairing of the artist beside his or her work. The Artist Project provides the rare and unmatched experience of viewing a selection of each artist’s oeuvre in his or her presence, all the while asking questions, making observations, and discussing with the artist. Each work becomes activated through this experience, just as every booth offers a thoughtful and unique artistic inflection. The Artist Project’s brilliance lies in its fostering of this enriching conversation between viewer and artist, thereby blurring the lines between participant and spectator.

Michelle Winters’ booth

Collages by Nicole Moss

L.A based artist, Tracy Hiner’s mural

When I asked each artist where their ideas for the displayed works originated, without exception, each response was illuminating. Whether the artist’s source was grappling with notions of “home” and personal identity (Alice Zilberberg, Jeannie Papas), challenging and exploring the aesthetic of the photograph (Nicole Moss, Ksenya von Shlezinger, Laura Kay Keeling), capturing the psychological emanations represented by the subjects (Adam Giroux, Michelle Winters), “drawing with metal” (Joel Sullivan) or replicating the scintillations of light in water (Ianitza Vassileva), each artist that I met offered unique insights into their work. They are insights that I would not have gleaned from studying the work on my own in a gallery.

There are two sections, the Installation Zone and Untapped Emerging Artists that break the rhythm of the booth.

WW Hung’s work, The Girl with Paper Boats opens the Installation Zone. Image courtesy of the artist

Installation by Ryan Pechnick

Julia White’s installation

Installations by Tibor Hargitai (back) and Victoria Chin (front)

The Untapped section with Ed Batista’s work (left)

The Artist Project offers an equally accessible platform for both artists and art enthusiasts. Through the Artists in the Project, any work can become enlivened — the viewer must only choose which one.

Text and photo: Laura Hutchingame

Artist Project – WRAP UP

I decided to go to the Artist Project on its final day and see how the artists had done in this, the 10th, year of the annual fair. As I approached the Better Living Center I saw a couple navigating an art work into the back truck of their car. When I inquired – yes it was an art sale. This seemed like a very positive start. Indeed, it was. When I talked to artist, Michelle Winters, she said that she was feeling very positive about the fair and had covered her costs with sales and still hopeful for one more to put into profits. She said she would be back next year, as did former Montreal native Jacques Pilon. He was also happy with the response to his work and hoping that some contacts he had made might get back to him for more sales. For him it was not just the first year at the Artist Project but the first time exhibiting his work at all. Artist, Simon Schneiderman felt that the buying crowd might be different this year from prior years. Lots of traffic but not the sales he had hoped for.

Artist, Michelle Winters

Artist, Jacques Pilon

Artist, Simon Schneiderman

Of course every year is going to be a little different; and for the final Sunday it seemed that there was a good crowd and several artists I tried to talk to couldn’t, as they were in the middle of completing a sale.

In all, I talked to over 30 artists of the 250 at the fair and the overall vibe was very positive. Some good sales and lots of foot traffic. Sculpture artist, Rod Mireau from Peterborough was happy with the results. He had made a few sales and lots of connections. His works were large an his target audience a little different – more designers and industry people so his expectations were in perspective. Encaustic artist , Liz Rae Dalton had her sculptural works in a good location and was pretty happy with the fairs appeal. She came from Kingston and it was her first time at the Project.

Sculpture artist, Rod Mireau

Encaustic artist , Liz Rae Dalton

Tape artist Emanuel Pavao was exhausted from explaining his process even though he had tried to make it seem pretty evident. He had lots of sales for his unique work and told me a story of one of the pieces with the Dollar Store in Parkdale. As he described it, while documenting the location a pigeon was run over by traffic and he dedicated the work  to this unfortunate accident.

Tape artist Emanuel Pavao

Artists Kiel and Amanda of KIAM were thrilled with the four days of the fair. Their work looks at urban landscape and one of the old Honest Ed’s caught my eye. Tel Aviv artist Orit Fuchs had her colourful works on display and said she was getting lots of hugs from Canadians. She was on top of her marketing game giving out gift  cloth bags and chocolates. Indeed she was one of the few artists from outside Canada that I noticed. Realist painter Mary Ann Slater was another happy artist and I liked her ZIPPO painting.

Kiel and Amanda of KIAM

Tel Aviv artist Orit Fuchs

Painter Mary Ann Slater

Again this year there was the UNTAPPED ARTIST Booths and I talked briefly to artist Laura Chakravorty who was happy to get her work out to the public. For her it wasn’t so much about sales as just getting her work seem. I checked out artists Justin Blayney’s portrait of Donald Trump that could only be seen through the lenses of a camera or a phone camera.

Laura Chakravorty

Justin Blayney

There was some bolder work by younger artists such as Adam Giroux and Harv Glazer. Glazer had been at the Project for 6 years an started as an Untapped Emerging Artist. Giroux enjoyed getting feedback from visitors. His work is really contemporary. Hamilton artist, Florian Holzinger’s works were bold and colourful; he was enjoying talking to people.

Harv Glazer

I talked to artist Mikael Sandblom whose work uses photography and painting on metal. He had a few sales and was generally happy. Artist Paul Brandejs was tired after four days and hoping for some last minute sales. He wasn’t sure his unique works on sculpted canvases were in the right spot to sell. He though more traditional works were getting bought up.

Mikael Sandblom

Painter, Paul Brandejs

Twenty one year old painter Ryan A Sobkovich stood in front of his huge painting and told me he had been painting since the age of nine and was taking his work to Ireland. He has an impressive exhibition history plan and his landscapes were great. Painter Susan Gale’s work was urban and lush. It was her first year at the Project. Tick Tock Tom had scrap metal sculptures that moved. He had gotten a good response to his work and said that he hadn’t had high expectations but had sales that day. Tony Taylor’s work was back at the fair for the 5th time and I have always been a fan of his tongue in cheek humor – business suits with reptile heads. Mike Smalley is a veteran of the Artist Project, having participated for nine of its ten years. If you are back this often something has to be working.

Painter, Ryan A Sobkovich

Painter, Susan Gale

Sculpture, Tick Tock Tom

Artist, Tony Taylor

Mike Smalley

Artists have to be selected by a jury, spend $3000 for a booth and man and talk to the public for four days, so this is no easy task. Kudos to all those artists and organizers for making it all work. Fair Director, Claire Taylor who was happy with this year’s  outcome. She has been director for 7 of the Project’s ten years and said that they change artists to keep it dynamic and fresh. With over 15,000 visitors the Artist Project has a good draw and serves up a good selection of art works for the buying public. The artists come from across  Ontario to participate and get their work out there. Taylor and her team can be pleased with this year’s Project  and are no doubt will be soon thinking about 2018.

Artist Project Director, Claire Taylor

Text and photo: Phil Anderson

*Exhibition information:  February 23 – 26, 2017, Better Living Center, 195 Princes’ Boulevard, Exhibition Place, Toronto. Hours: Friday: 11 – 10, Saturday: 11 – 8, Sunday: 11 – 6 p.m.

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