Art Toronto, Toronto’s International Art Fair

Visitors were so still while staring at Carole Feuerman’s sculpted realistic bodies. It was very interesting to witness how many stood there and glared for more than a minute, becoming one with the object; to many, it felt uncomfortable after a few seconds.

There was another miniature version of an edition called “miniature Serena” with a pearl white tube and clear crystal cap (oil on resin). Feuerman fascinated us with what is surreal and what is real with such extraordinary detail and athleticism for both body and mind.

Carole Feuerman, Midpoint, with champagne painted suit and Palladium Leaf Cap (left) and miniature Serena (right) both life-size sculptures, 2023

This installation by Bayuaji is part of an ongoing series (Weaving the Ocean) which started in 2020, where the artist transforms discarded fishermen’s ropes from Indonesia’s coastline into captivating tapestries, drawing inspiration from weaving traditions, not only from home but also from other countries. Bayuaji has a great passion for his homeland’s rich textiles as well as for other countries and their unique weaving techniques.

This installation showcased seven textiles composed of plastic threads and found objects with six sculptures created from Indonesian boat paddles from Kalimantan, Bali, and Java. These paddles symbolize the interconnectedness of the human body, the vessel, and the water – originally a crucial fishing tool that tells the nation’s history of “harmonious coexistence with the sea.”

Ari Bayuaji, Floating on the Waves, installation, 2023.

Nicolas Baier’s “Retro”, a large print, an insanely detailed piece, has captivated so many because there was so much to observe. From afar, it looks like an entire dystopian city, but the closer you get you begin to see wires, electricity, and microchips as if you were looking inside a machine. The extraordinary details make you literally walk into the image itself and fall down into a deep mechanical “rabbit hole”. 

Nicolas Baier’s Retro, 2023. Represented by Blouin Division.

Art Toronto presented eight new works from the “Flowers series” by Benjamin Langford, made of many photographically printed canvas panels and sewn together with wax thread. A quote by Andy Warhol in the artist’s statement “I always notice flowers” definitely made these beautifully hovering flowers noticeable and even more sense once the technique and the larger-than-life intention behind them were revealed. Langford uses a technique called focus-stacking, a process that originated from commercial product photography. Making visitors attracted to this solo exhibition was the exact intention. We are no longer humans, but bees who are seduced by the sexual organs of the flower and our gaze becomes the pollinator.

Benjamin Langford, Flowers series, 2023. Represented by Baader-Meinhof, Omaha.

In “Paquebot”, an installation by Jannick Deslauriers, the ghostly boats hovering beautifully with delicate materials were quite an eerie attraction, but also a touching reminder to take care of ourselves, because our relationship with time is very sensitive. According to the artist’s statement, it’s a reflection of care, work, and exploitation of bodies. As well as questions about vulnerability, obsolescence, repair, disappearance and (re)appearance. Watching visitors carefully walk around the ships was living up to the intent of this installation; some even dared to peek underneath. If only most of us were as careful with our bodies as with these beautiful, wrecked ships.

Paquebot, 2019 by Jannick Deslauriers. Represented by Chiguer art contemporain.

It was an incredible privilege to witness this mesmerizing 3D portrait built by Korean artist, Young-Deok Seo. Completely made out of bicycle chains attached to each other so tightly, it gives a puzzle-like texture. Although unclear how the features of these portraits are so realistically done, it makes you wonder how such sculpture could have not possibly been cast from a real human face. This mask-like sculpture drew in many photo-ops and children who had incredible fun stepping into the mask sculpture and experiencing the exhibition from a unique perspective.

3D portrait built by Korean artist, Young-Deok Seo

Looking at the interactive installation by Jia Lu and Geoffrey Bonnycastle, “Injured Icoseed”, visitors would take a pen, sign, and tape their name on the shape to become a part of a healing world. Due to war and global conflict and the failing health of our planet, the artists wanted to unite as many guests as possible to stand in solidarity with the casualties of conflict and natural disasters. The Icoseed was inspired by a series of seed paintings by Lu, reflecting her emotional journey of taking care of her mother at a nursing home over many years.

The shape is based on a regular polyhedron with fifteen pentagonal and hexagonal faces, made up of strips of paper hand-cut and assembled by volunteers over a week preceding Art Toronto.

Jia Lu and Geoffrey Bonnycastle, Injured Icoseed, 2023, hand-cut paper

Text and photo: Polyna Alexseev

Once again Toronto’s Art Fair has rolled into town. There is something perverse about people gathering to buy art, discussing which picture might fit in the living room etc. when the news is full of tragedy – wars, massacres, and human misery. Anyhow, life goes on.

Like all art fairs the viewer quickly drowns in a sea of images, mostly decorative paintings. Just about keeping my head above water, still I found much to admire. One artist with a distinctive style who drew my attention was Brenda Draney, whose painting Split Pea was both slightly disturbing and humorous at the same time.

Brenda Draney, Split Pea, 2023, oil on canvas

She is featured in a curated exhibition to the northwest of the building titled ‘Good Foot Forward’. Her paintings are on display as well at Catriona Jeffries’s booth. Also featured in this exhibition is a sculpture, Nothing is Wild, by Kara Hamilton. Sculptures are refreshing in this context given that they thankfully tend to be less decorative in nature, understanding that the fair necessarily caters to those who want a piece which they can live with. Another sculpture featuring three sacks of dirt no less, that coincidentally echoes Hamilton’s, is by Maria Trabulo.

Kara Hamilton, Nothing is Wild, 2019

Installation by Maria Trabulo

Trabulo is one of the exciting young artists shown by Towards Gallery, along with Sophia Lapres who is currently a student at Guelph University. Lapres has two lovely little paintings, artfully cropped.

Paintings by Sophia Lapres

Exciting young artists are also featured at Clint Roenisch Gallery. For example, there is a colourful textile (hooked rug) by Heather Goodchild titled Through to Paradise. It depicts a place, we are told, where ‘those who have gone on will be’.

Heather Goodchild, Through to Paradise, hooked rugs

Textiles are similarly on show at Paul Petro. Established collective Fastwürm present two playful, almost childlike, depictions of erupting volcanoes. The colours positively sing.

Textiles by Fastwürm

There’s of course plenty of work by established artists – including dead ones – to be found. A landscape titled Byway Trees A XII by West coast painter Gordon Smith (d. 2020) is on display at Equinox Gallery’s booth, for example. It commands a handsome price for a less stellar example of Smith’s work. But that is what reputation does to prices! You’ll need approaching a six figure sum to afford this one.

Byway Trees A XII, 2001, acrylic on canvas by Gordon Smith

Some of the booth are so well curated that the display is a work of art in its own right. That is the case with Zalucky Contemporary for example. On its feature wall is a gorgeous painting inspired by ancient Chinese tradition by Lan “Florence” Yee, titled After Liu Songnian. Also shown here is a lovely understated stained canvas by emerging artist Brett Edwardz.

Painting by Brett Edwardz

Lan “Florence” Yee, After Liu Songnian, 2023, 0il on canvas

Lots to choose from in this supermarket of fine art. Good to know there is space for many emerging and young artists. Okay, the work tends to the decorative, again necessarily given that many buyers are looking for a nice picture rather than investing in some future hall-of-famer so to speak. But you’ll not be disappointed, once you’ve learned to swim through it all.

Text and photo: Hugh Alcock

*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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