The Artist Project Toronto is the first indoor public art exhibition since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve attended. It proved to be an interesting opportunity to survey the creative landscape, chat with attendees and note some impressions.
I’m curious to see whether the visual arts have evolved during the past few years and where artists intend to take their process in the future. While artists have not ceased being creative and productive—some even more so—during the periods of isolation, the essential feedback from an audience has been unavailable to many. I am interested to discover whether this has also meant difficult times intellectually and commercially.
The 2022 Artist Project is an important milestone for the arts community as Toronto removes its pandemic face mask and the shared experience of creative immersion returns. Special features at this year’s event include the Fashion Art Toronto live fashion show, the Untapped Emerging Artists Competition, the OCAD/RBC Centre Career Launchers Initiative program installation Evolving Maps: A Collective Memory and the launch of the Deserres Artist Prize.
The Artist Project Toronto has been operating for fifteen years. Previous events were very well attended with more participants displaying their creations over a four days period. This year’s event is scaled back slightly with the disappearance of the popular opening night soiree and just 200 artist booths. Artist talks were cancelled this year but replaced by tours. As in the past, local and regional artists are in attendance but not international ones.
The installation work by Hajer Mustafa displays colourful “seated” clothed figures having plants or flower arrangements nestled in their chests. The idea originated while she was looking at her laundry resting on a chair. For personal inspiration, this vivid presentation invites contemplation.
Installation by Hajer Mustafa
Blady + Van Mil were formerly architectural model builders. Caused to reconsider their independently made art during the pandemic, the couple have evolved their pieces into three-dimensions, formed by dissecting previously painted artworks and rearranging them in a built form. The resulting representations combine as striking collages.
Blady + Van Mil’s booth
Local artist Morgan Sheardown brought his Raining Cows exhibition to the Artist Project. When asked how the pandemic influenced his last few years, he reflected that anxiety and observation have been ingredients that many artists have long drawn upon for inspiration.
Morgan Sheardown, Sentiment of colour from the Raining Cows series, mixed media with multi-layered resin, 18 x 18 inches
Lena Kaia’s black and off-white paintings reflect a somber tone. Assuming that this was a pandemic related artist response, I was delighted to learn that Lena’s artistic process began long before the lockdowns. Her desire to uncomplicate when painting led her to narrowing down the colour selection and focusing on the emotional representation. The paintings individually, and as presented, are engaging.
Lena Kaia’s booth
Polish-Canadian artist Mirek Bialy, brought numerous paintings inlaid with copper ribbons to the show. Mirek offers a positive commentary on the times, noting how the recent conflict bordering his native homeland dates back centuries. His optimistic artworks reflect his hopeful outlook for the future.
Mirek Bialy’s mixed media work
Completing a tour of the Artist Project, it was nice to see some familiar faces and artists who have been part of the community for many years. The show, overall, has retained its flavour for selecting a mixture of emerging and established artists specializing in photography, painting, sculpture and mixed media. Numerous earlier presenters have returned in 2022.
The enthusiastic Fashion Art Toronto live runway experience added to the energy of the opening day. Young Canadian designers Meesh and Ayimach staged their creations in two early evening shows to an appreciative audience. Many of us, myself included, haven’t been out much lately. It was good to see what the younger generation are up to. Their innovative, contemporary spirit of design doesn’t seem burdened by the previous two years.
Meesh Fashion Show by Micheline Wedderburn
Leaving the Artist Project event to the warm sunny early spring evening reminded me that art, the arts community and life generally continues in its creative walk forward despite, or because of, the times we live in.
Text and photo Andrew Colebeck
*Exhibition information: Artist Project, April 21 – 24, 2022, Queen Elizabeth Building, Exhibition Place, 195 Princes’ Boulevard, Toronto. Hours: Thursday: 4 – 9 pm, Friday & Saturday: 12 – 8 pm, Sunday: 12 – 6 pm.