ON TOP OF THE ART WORLD

A pan-Canadian tour of the current art scene

WHILE CANADIANS ARE CLEARLY THRIVING IN EVERY ARENA, FROM THE SARTORIAL TO THE CULINARY, IT SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE THAT WE’RE ALSO KILLING IT ON THE ART FRONT. DIARYSTA OLIVIA COLLETTE HAS THE UPDATE:

 Perhaps the biggest paradox of fine art is that it’s in the business of blazing trails, despite being in a kind of established order. So it’s reassuring that we’re starting to see more women, and Indigenous artists, staking their claim to the contemporary scene.

We’re also noticing new materials, and the impact of technology has de nitely been felt as well, with 3D printing changing the sculpture game, and Instagram allowing artists to work through their ideas in the social arena. None of this rules out classic, material-based installations, and even paintings, which are getting some love.

In the meantime, major global events are inviting Canadian curators to participate, while some of our best artists are enjoying some international attention.

Needless to say, a whole lot is brewing in the Canadian art world.

 

ARTISTS

LAURIE KANG

The Toronto-based artist focuses on photography, sculpture and installation. Her work challenges our expectations of a given art medium, even going so far as to dismantle her own sculptures to gather materials for new work. She develops light-sensitive lm in broad daylight rather than a dark room, and deconstructs the very notion of a picture frame.

JENEEN FREI NJOOTLI

This Yukon-born, Vancouver-based interdisciplinary artist is a member of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. You can catch a glimpse of her activism and art on Instagram, or you can see her work at various western Canadian galleries, including the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba. Working primarily in performance, sound and textiles, her art consciously picks apart and examines the complicated, if political history of the materials she uses.

SONNY ASSU

Sonny Assu is Ligwilda’xw of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations. His works include painting, printmaking, photography, digital art, and sculpture. His tongue-in-cheek approach deals with the realities of being an Indigenous person in Canada. The result combines traditional elements that are either at odds with or have been turned into barely recognizable modern objects. It has the familiarity and disconnect of pop art.

Honourable mentions: David Altmejd, Nadia Belerique, Anthony Burnham, Valérie Blass, Raymond Boisjoly, Jessica Broome, Shannon Bool, Julien Ceccaldi, Sara Cwynar, Moyra Davey, Kim Dorland, Marcel Dzama, Pierre Dorion, Jessica Eaton, Geoffrey Farmer, Brian Jungen, Liz Magor, Kent Monkman, Celia Perrin Sidarous, Jon Rafman, Erin Shirreff, Ron Terada, and Jeff Wall.

 

GALLERIES

GALERIE ANTOINE ERTASKIRAN IN MONTREAL
Located on the edge of trendy Griffintown, and run by the eponymous Antoine Ertaskiran, this gallery is on a mission to give Montrealers access to emerging and established contemporary artists. Most recently, the gallery has shown works by Nicolas Grenier, whose abstract paintings could easily be described as both architectural and abstract. It’s also hosted bold works by pho- tographer Jacynthe Carrier, multimedia artist Julia Dault, and sculptor Ken Nicol.

THE SAW AND AXENÉO7 GALLERIES IN OTTAWA AND GATINEAU
Jason and Stefan St-Laurent, who’ve been dubbed the “twin curators of contemporary art,” run the SAW and AXENÉO7 galleries in Ottawa and Gatineau, respectively. Both spaces have hosted an experimental mix of exhibits, like one featuring a series of threads strung around the room and lit with colour-changing LED xtures, a video installation showing pigmentation-based graffiti drawn on a wall of ice in Nunavut, or a whole show on fake art. In a city with huge institutions like the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History, SAW and AXENÉO7 take pleasure in giving non-mainstream voices a megaphone.

TRÉPANIER BAER IN CALGARY

Founded by Yves Trépanier and Kevin Baer in 1992, it’s also one of the leading commercial contemporary art galleries in the country. The 3,000-square-foot space was designed by Swiss architect Urs Kick, and is located in Calgary’s happening Beltline district. Over the years, it’s played a crucial role in creating ties between artists and Albertans. Among the eclectic exhibitors are photographer and sculptor Vikky Alexander, painter Christian Eckart, and multimedia duo DaveandJenn.

Honourable mentions: Arsenal, Galerie René Blouin, Never Apart and Parisian Laundry in Montreal; Cooper Cole, Clint Roenisch Gallery and Daniel Faria Gallery in Toronto; and Catriona Jeffries in Vancouver.

 

MUSEUMS

THE POWER PLANT IN TORONTO

This contemporary public gallery is located at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, in what was once a literal powerhouse. When the gallery was founded in 1987, its mission was to expose Torontonians to contemporary art through exhibits, publications, events, and talks. Though it has no permanent collection or any art to sell, it’s been home to some powerful exhibits, including Ydessa Hendeles’s first retrospective, lm artist Patrick Bernatchez, and in 2018, sound and installation artist Emeka Ogboh.

VANCOUVER ART GALLERY IN VANCOUVER

This museum exhibits an extensive breadth of work, and its permanent collection includes art by Emily Carr, the Group of Seven and Marc Chagall. But it also gives back. For example, in 2014, it created the Institute of Asian Art to promote the scholarship and appreciation of Asian art.

REMAI MODERN IN SASKATOON

This brand-new museum in downtown Saskatoon had its inaugural exhibit on October 21, 2017. It featured video artist Althea Thauberger, filmmaker Stan Douglas, mixed-media artist Edward Poitras, and painter William Perehudoff. It also showcased the collaborative works of Indigenous artists Duane Linklater and Tanya Lukin Linklater.

Honourable mentions: The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Toronto (reopening in 2018).

 

EVENTS

CANADIAN BIENNIAL AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA IN OTTAWA

Running from October 2017 to March 2018, the fourth Canadian Biennial is hosted by the National Gallery of Canada, and features contemporary works, Indigenous art, photography, and more. This will be the first Canadian Biennial to show works by artists working in Canada as well as internationally.

BMO’S 1ST ART! INVITATIONAL STUDENT ART COMPETITION

Hosted for several years by the Bank of Montreal, the latest instalment of the competition took place in May 2017, inviting art students from over 100 post-secondary schools across the country to submit images of their work. The winning entries were displayed from November 16 to December 16, 2017, at the University of Toronto’s Justina M. Barnicke Gallery. The winners included Nunavut Arctic College’s Anne Qammaniq-Hellwig’s traditional headbands, photographer Xiao Xue from the Univer- sity of Victoria, and mixed-media/found objects artist Kayza DeGraff-Ford from the Yukon School of Visual Arts.

ART TORONTO IN TORONTO

Canada’s go-to contemporary art event for locals and internationals, Art Toronto isn’t afraid to put on quite a show. Its opening night started with a gala at the Art Gallery of Ontario, while participating galleries and museums hosted exhibits, shows, talks, performances, and special tours. Art Toronto took place in October.

PAPIER CONTEMPORARY ART FAIR IN MONTREAL

This contemporary art event features works exclusively done with paper. So expect to see prints, drawings, collages, installations, photos, and so forth. Works are shown at various participating galleries around the city. The next installment of the festival will be in April 2018.

Honourable mentions: The Sobey Art Award at the National Gallery of Canada; the RBC Canadian Painting Competition; Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in Montreal; and the reopening of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Toronto.And

And now, some staggeringly impressive visuals:

BMO 1st! national winner Xiao Xue’s “Something to Ponder On: A Walking Camper.” Photography XIAO XUE.
Inside the Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran. Photography SUPPLIED
Michael DeForge’s “All Dogs Are Dogs/ Toys les chiens sent des chiens” at theSAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photography DAVID BARBOUR.
Guests engaging with Amalia Pica’s “ears to speak of” at the Power Plant contemporary art gallery in Toronto. Photography SUPPLIED.
By Jenn Campbell

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