For the third year in a row I find myself magnetized to five or six artists at The Artist Project held at the Exhibition Place in Toronto. Each year over 200 artists are lined up in booths with art ranging from paintings to sculpture. Walking away from the show this year I realized the artists each had a different focus or intent yet there is always a common thread between them; their art stood out from the rest. The intention of an artist varies, some create due to a life altering experiences, others create by telling a story of the past and present, while some use art as a form of playing. The actual making of a piece can be a physical experience where we push our bodies, minds, and creative ability to the limits. This energetic extension of ourselves sometime produces work that is so powerful that artists themselves don't realize what they have created until they are finished.
I can never seem to paint what is in my mind and I gave up many years ago because I have learned what the process is more important than the original idea. When working with clay and glazes, after becoming quite experienced with it, the artist knows only to a certain extent what is going to happen. Laurne Blakey has mastered the ability to play with clay and also leave room for the unexpected. Her organic shapes mounted on square tiles creates an exquisite contrasted. I saw Laurne in the summer at the show at Trinity Bellwoods park and was captivated by her colour and form. She continues to play with form, colour and texture and yet again I couldn't take my eyes off of her work.
Claudia Cote was another artist taking natural materials to a new level, literally. With her multilayer segments of wood contrasted with the organic lines of sculpture itself, she creates pieces that are screaming to be touched. Coming from Montreal she is like most artists, working in a small space yet still manages to create unique and solid pieces. Her snow sculptures exhibit her ability to make the snow come to life and her diverse subject matter shows her ability to push the boundaries with materials,creativity and play on real life situations. I will definitely take the opportunity to see more of her work next time visit Montreal.
Jeremy Down's process is one that definitely stands out from the crowd. You won't find to many artist climbing up a mountain with all of their gear and then snowboarding with the product back down to their studio. It's the energy and movement in the pieces that shows the connection to the location of where the work was created. The colours are further enhanced with the 3D canvas segments that demonstrate how an artist can take a visual experience and transform it into an emotional connection.
Vinginia Lee's story is one of many histories that all meld into one. Each connecting the past with the present and the patterns that exist with the change in humans. Our actions in any time period have had an impact on the world around us, specifically the physical environment that nurtures us. Lee captures the stories of both her own cultural background, and that of others, in a way that pulls the viewer in with it's aesthetically stunning colours, texture, and movement. Her use of these elements catches the audience into reliving a past we are all part of and and in turn opens up a door some wish to keep closed.
Although not a child any more Mike Smalley plays with materials like a child does when discovering something new. I have seen Mike's work the last three years and although at first glance there seems to be only a slight changes in his work, it is apparent that parts of his process remain the same he is always pushing his boundaries and playing. The result this time around, scale, stronger contrasts and a feeling of entering another world.
The best for last Nissim Ben Aderet. Where do I begin. I met him last year at The Artist Project and his openness to share his process and story were just as inspiring as the work itself. Keeping my eye out for him all night I waited until the end to speak with him, as his booth was packed. Yet again his work expanded and continued to show a talent that is beyond practice and comes from a place deep within. His large scale drawings on canvas are ones that open so many doors to conversation, interpretation, story telling and simplycaptivating to look at.
I look forward to seeing these artist next year as well as any new artist that come to The Artist Project. Who knows, maybe I will be there too.