Walking Art Toronto 2023

Walking Art Toronto 2023

I arrived at the fair around noon on Friday. The place was already crowded and the booths shone with light and the glory of good art.

Installation view with All Fall Down by Martha Sturdy

The fair seemed larger with more booths than ever. My first visit was Paul Petro’s booth. I know Petro for about 20 years and visited many of his exhibitions in the past. He told me that Paul Petro Gallery turned 30 this year, so this is a kind of anniversary celebration.

Paul Petro in his booth

As I left Petro I heard the announcement of an Artist Talk coming up at 12:30 and I was lucky to attend the Curators in Conversation with Kitty Scott, the curator of FOCUS exhibition in the fair and Connie Butler, Director of MoMA PSI.

Curators in Conversation, Kitty Scott (left) and Connie Butler (right)

It is impossible to see everything in the fair, the number of artworks seems infinite. There are endless variations in ideas, themes, styles and medias – so everyone can find something to love. It turned out that my favourite things to look at this time was figurative art. On the outside wall of Catriona Jeffries Gallery (Vancouver), I had to stop at Brenda Draney’s oil painting, depicting two motorcycle riders, one of them naked. The semi-abstract composition radiates an atmosphere that reminded me of Peter Fonda’s Easy Rider and the motorcycle culture that followed from the 1970’s.

Brenda Draney, Chrome, 2023, oil on linen, 64 x 79 inches

A woman sits on a very big fish in the large composition, titled Immersed by Jia Lu in the main wall of Involute Fine Art’s (Richmond Hill) booth. The artists wrote that “this painting delves into the essence of surreal coexistence, where the enigmatic fish symbolizes endless freedom and silent strength, while the figure of the woman represents the vulnerability of terrestrial life.” For me, there is also something ethereal in it, like in a fairy tale, where a fish can fly and take you to another reality.

Jia Lu, Immersed, 2019, oil on canvas, tree panels, 72 x 144 inches

I love Aida Muluneh’s photographs, and also wrote an article about her Contact exhibition show last year at the Textile Museum, so I was happy to see her portraits in Viviane Art (Calgary). We see the same woman from the front and from the back. Her face and body painted white, only her hair remains black. She always addresses her Ethiopian roots, as the body decoration shows with paint and dots on the front of her face and on her back. What make me think more about these images are the blood red hands. Whose blood is it? Is it coming from hurting someone or being hurt? On the first image there is an extra hand coming from the back – whose hand is that? There might be no answers for these questions but the images are very thought provoking and dramatic.

Aida Muluneh, 99 series, (Part Two), 2014, archival digital print, 31.5 x 31.5 inches

Kriss Munsya’s photography in Robertson Arès Gallery also addresses tribal roots in a symbolic, surrealistic way.

Kriss Munsya, Dark Paradise, (Genetic Bomb), 2022, photography, 35 x 43.75 inches

Pabli Stein’s paintings in the booth of Quinera (Buenos Aires) also depict women, showing their backs. There is a contrast between the realistic depiction of the women and their abstracted burden.

Paintings by Pabli Stein

There are interesting installations all over the fair. One of the most amazing involve these ghost boats made of gauze you can see through and have a feeling of moving water at the same time.

Melissa Morgan Fine Art from El Paseo Palm Desert presents a large scale photography by David Yarrow depicting the Western world so perfectly well with its characters lining up in a bar on both side of a wolf. I can hear in my mind the howling of the wolf in the night. Looking at the figures it would be easy to write a story about their life or make a black-and-white movie where they can move, talk, dance and fight.

David Yarrow, Breaking Bad, photography, 63 x 118 inches

Melissa Morgan Art also has a magic tunnel created by Anthony James that takes you somewhere far, far away in the Galaxy. You can look into it from numerous windows and lose yourself into the dimensions of infinity. Very beautiful and enjoyable.

Anthony James, Triacontahedron, powder-coated brushed stainless steel, specialized glass, LED, 60″

After all this walk and watching my eyes are tired, so I can’t take in anything more. But there is much, much more.

Text and photo: Emese Krunak-Hajagos

*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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