Up Close at Art Toronto

Around ten minutes into my walk through the Art Toronto show it struck me how lucky we are to live in an age of artistic plurality. There is no dominant theory; no historical arrow of progress along which art is meant to strive. Artists are free. Free to explore any intellectual or aesthetic avenue that appeals to them, and there are galleries that’ll support them. You probably won’t like everything in this show, but you’re sure to find more than a few things of interest.

The show is vast so it’s only possible to describe a small sample. What I found most interesting was work that upon close inspection, made you completely re-evaluate your first impression.

At Trepanier Baer’s booth a large multipaneled piece by Ryan Sluggett covered an entire wall. Arranged like giant dominos, it’s graphically punchy artwork. But up close, I sensed that there was an odd depth to the image. There’s crisp paint on the surface but there’s also fuzzy imagery somehow behind or inside. It’s as though my eyes couldn’t quite focus.

Ryan Sluggett, William Morris Tank, 2023, oil and gouache on organza over collage in Plexiglas frame

Ryan Sluggett, William Morris Tank, Detail

Even a detailed closeup photo cannot fully explain what this looks like!  The paint is applied to organza, a type of gauze, and between the painted elements we can see through to collaged elements behind.

Blain-Division Gallery presented several works by Nicolas Baier. Touches is a silver glittering rectangle with a gridded surface. It scatters light like the white noise of a blank tv channel. As I walked up close, there was a jolt of recognition: these chromed shapes are actually keyboard keys.

Nicolas Baier, Touches, 2023

Nicolas Baier, Touches, 2023, detail

As an interesting aside, this piece made me realize that the space bar is always convex while all other keys are concave. They reflect differently.

Another work by Nicolas Bair, Lounge, presents us with a colourful computer generated wireframe.  There is a sense of an interior space, but it remains ambiguous.  Trying to figure out the image I suddenly realized that the visible pixels in the image are not printed but woven. The image is rendered in wool!

Nicolas Baier, Lounge, 2022

Nicolas Baier, Lounge, 2022, Detail

Galerie Robertson Arès had a piece by Francois Arès. It’s an abstract image on a glossy surface. I assumed it was a computer-generated work but up close I was surprised to find tiny hand painted dots. These are on a transparent surface and cast subtle shadows onto the surface behind which creates a shimmering effect as you move around.

Francois Arès, Without which, it would not exist, 2023

Francois Arès, Without which, it would not exist, 2023, Detail

At General Hardware Contemporary there’s a piece by Joe Fleming on polycarbonate. It made me think of old masters’ paintings that have been x-rayed to show the changes and revisions that led to the final image. In Fleming’s case all the layers are visible at once. He uses both sides of the transparent surface, in some cases carving directly into it.

Joe Fleming, Steak, 2023, enamel, collage and polycarbonate

Joe Fleming, Steak, 2023, enamel, collage and polycarbonate, detail

Over at Monica Reyes Gallery, Andrew Kent has a dark piece in which you can glean the image of water waves that look photographic. Only on very close inspection did I realize that this is all handmade: graphite on paper.

Andrew Kent, Impossible Monsters, 2023

Andrew Kent, Impossible Monsters, 2023, Graphite on paper, detail

Myta Sayo Gallery presented a piece by Jill Paz. The image is of tropical vegetation in a rainbow of colours. I quickly recognized that the surface is made from corrugated cardboard. But the image is not printed or painted. As I looked closer, a filigree dot screen emerged. The image has been laser etched into the cardboard. In some parts the top layer has been completely burned away.

Jill Paz, Eventide, 2023

Jill Paz, Eventide, 2023, Detail

This is but a small sample of the show. I doubt one could spend too much time at this exhibition. There’s always more to see – even in work you’ve already looked at!

Text and photo: Mikael Sandblom

*Exhibition information: Art Toronto, 255 Front Street West, North Building, Toronto, Hours: Fri 12 – 8 pm, Sat 12 – 8 pm, Sun 12 – 6 pm.

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