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TOAE 2010
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As usual, we're giving this important Toronto art event a page of its own!

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2010 Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto; July 9-11

On Friday, opening day of this show, the steady rain kept me away. Saturday’s fresh, bright air was more inviting but, after a couple of hours, the heat and glare in Nathan Phillips Square were building to the point of being intolerable. Undoubtedly, several worthwhile artists were overlooked but there comes a time when a viewer who's been circling around and around in the heat can't tell the difference between a Picasso and a Port-a-potty. Still, I did my best to get a fair sampling of the many works on display, with particular concentration on my favourite genres: painting and drawing.

Sadly, several favourite artists from previous years were missing. It seems unthinkable that they could not have been juried into the show, had they wanted to participate. Perhaps they found that, given the downturn in the economy these past few years, sales did not warrant the layout of the participation fee. However, I was glad to see the work of many whose art I’ve admired in previous TOAE shows and elsewhere. For the sake of trying to keep these comments within reasonable limits, though, I’ll focus mainly on artists whose works are new discoveries for me.

Some of the most exciting would be the landscapes and city scenes by Charles Wakefield. His series featuring Toronto’s Brickworks I find particularly interesting. One of the most striking compositions shows stark trees in front of a conglomeration of rectangular, snow-covered roofs and, in the hazy distance, the city’s skyscrapers. What I love most about the paintings is their rough-hewn, individualistic quality – which may have something to do with the fact that they were mostly done on location. www.charleswakefieldartist.com

Another urban artist whose works pleased me very much is Jerry Campbell. His small paintings find unexpected beauty in the mundane and humdrum – like back lanes, abandoned garages and parking areas. Maybe some of the appeal of these paintings is that they too are done mostly en plein air.   www.jerrycampbell.blogspot.com

 An artist whose still lives make a distinct impression is Duane Nickerson. His large painting of a composition comprised of cardboard, crumpled paper and some gnarly wire is stunning. www.duanenickerson.com

As always at the TOAE, the students’ works are shoved off to the north end of the square, adjacent to the city hall buildings, on the east and west sides. Luckily, I pushed on to the very end of the row on the west side, past some empty space, where three or four lonely booths stood. There I discovered the very small – about three inches by four inches – watercolours of Stefan Nicoloff. Consisting of very simple designs, they suggest, with the minimum of means, various scenes. One, for example, might be a patch of green grass, a high rise building and a tree. These works show how little is required to create a good composition that evokes an urban ambiance we know so well.

Other works particularly interested me in the student areas. Stella Cade does very dramatic female nudes (or semi-nudes). www.stellacadeblogspot.com Jaspal Birdi’s painting of someone hovering over a sickbed struck me as a remarkable in execution and subject matter. Crafts don’t, as a rule, interest me very much, but I couldn’t not be charmed by the tea towels and aprons by Jen Kneulman and Lauren Hunter, featuring their fine drawings of things like sailboats, birds in flight and mason jars. And, if you’re looking for something crude and shocking – which every art show should offer – there are the cartoon-ish lithographs of Neil Lapierre.

In what might be called the strange or off-beat department, I’d include the small paintings of Anthony Diberardo with their comic book style approach to pop culture. www.diberardo.com Xiaoling Guo’s mostly black-and-white paintings make weirdly-skewed statements about human scenarios and village scenes. You get droll humour in Eric Cator’s paintings of odd situations. www.ericcator.com Patrick Sthelil’s marvellously intricate drawings also give you slightly fantastic slant on human affairs. www.patrickstaheli.com A brightly-coloured child-like feeling comes through in the comic art of Jennifer Barrett. www.jbarrettart.com Although painted with great skill in terms of realism, Shannon Partridge’s interiors, often with an exotic animal included, give daily life a thought-provoking twist. www.shannonpartridge.com

Among the abstracts, I especially liked the large bold works of Debora Sloan with their occasional suggestion of something like a door emerging from the morass of colour. www.artisin.ca Christina Vannelli’s small collages, incorporating things like bits of torn paper, are effective. www.christinavannelli.com Cara Dry makes strong statements with her mixed media abstracts, in spite of their limited chromatic range of grey, black and white, with touches of red. The colourful, chaotic abstracts of Scott Pattinson have appealed to me in other shows and now he’s going for even more exuberant explosions of colour. www.scottpattinsonart.com

Still lives that impressed me with their unique sensibility – a delicate, slightly surrealistic style showing an Iranian influence – are those of Sayeh Irankhah. www.firouza.com In a much more realistic way, Joanna Czub’s close-up views of folds of blue fabric have an arresting effect. www.joannaczub.ca Somewhat similar in the intensity of their realism are Lindsay Chambers’ takes on silver and crystal. www.lindsaychambers.ca

Cityscapes interest me very much – why not find the beauty in what we see around us every day? – and several artists caught my attention in this vein. Diana Menzies captures something of the fleeting quality of busy urban life. www.dianamenzies.com I like Pat Dumas-Hudecki’s signs sprouting like flowers on posts. www.dumas-hudecki.com Among several intriguing works, Karen Visser creates a fascinating composition of doors and metal rods in a sleek, modern setting. www.karenvisser.com Shannon Dickie’s blurry paintings convey the effect of kids skating and dancing. www.uoguelph.ca/~sdickie You get a bleak feeling of urban blight in David Ray Alexander’s boxcars and motels rendered by painting over photos. www.motelthirty.com Alison Fleming does attractive little studies of store fronts. www.alisonfleming.com The crowded, junky effect of the inner city comes through somewhat darkly in the paintings of Jessica McCann. www.jess-mccann.com A somewhat similar feeling – but in a more abstract way, incorporating splendid design – is conveyed in Rachel Vanderzwet’spaintings. I love the drawings that Nancy Oakes does while walking in the city; loose and "scribbly", they still manage to incorporate very strong compositional qualities. www.nancyoakes.ca Although Jae-hong Ahn’s paintings mostly focus on eerily dramatic studies of people, one that should be considered a cityscape is an ominous view of a white van at the side of a road. www.zhibit.org/jahn Nobody captures the neon razzle-dazzle of downtown better than Kyle Clemens does in his semi-abstracts with their joyous bravado. www.opengallery.ca

Two landscape artists whose expansive, moody works made particularly strong impressions at this show are Peter Fischer and Peter Rotter. www.peterrotter.com Joseph Samson’s seascapes have a somewhat similar appeal. Combining both seascape and urban elements, the works of Marie Rioux, rather greyish and dark, are striking in their bold composition. Celeste Keller shows many accomplished works, but a small painting of a crowd around Niagara Falls fascinates. www.celestekeller.com George Raab’s solemn, dark etchings express a love for nature that’s trance-inducing. www.georgeraab.com I wouldn’t normally include fibre art in a discussion of landscape paintings but Sylvia J. Naylor’s works are so fine that they deserve mentioning. www.sylvianaylor.com Craig MacNaughton’s free-wheeling ink and watercolour works, done on location, express his enjoyment of many sights encountered on his travels. www.craigmacnaughton.com

It’s a little hard to decide whether Agnieszka ‘Mishi’ Foltyn’s works in cont on mylar fit into the category of painting about nature or about people but her dark renderings of bird wings in flight and her bright evocation of dancing striped stockings are equally captivating. When it comes to the human figure, the line drawings of Cagil Atas Dogan offer much to admire. www.doganart.com/cagilmain.htm I was also impressed with the figure work in Clint Griffin’s large, loose picture, in a somewhat dripping-paint style, of three people, including one nude, who are walking away from us. www.cuckoocollection.com

Of course, many favourite artists from previous shows reminded me why I like their work. Todd Tremeer’s watercolours have often focussed in an ironic way on military themes. Now I’m seeing strange groups of men meeting around tables, as well as some more conventional themes like waterfalls and boating, all stamped with Mr. Tremeer’s unique personality. www.toddtremeer.com For superb handling of watercolour, in a loose and very wet technique, no one could do any better than Yaohua Yan’s lanscapes and city scenes. www.yaohauyan.com For an entirely different watercolour thrill, there are the meticulously worked and dazzling paintings of Micheal Zarowsky. www.zarowsky.net Or the sublimely minimalist watercolours of Dominique Prvost who creates scenes merely with broad swaths of colour. www.dominiqueprevost.com In other landscape modes, there are Laura Culic’s brooding vistas and Anne Renouf’s skeletal trees against mysterious horizons. www.lauraculic.com www.annerenouf.com Andrea Maguire’s shadowy human shapes have intrigued me previously but now I’m particularly struck by her rectangular abstracts in subtle, earthy tones.www.andreamaguire.com Speaking of the human element, Paul Robert Turner’s dramatic portraits always command attention. www.paulrobertturner.com Steven Beckly’s photographs, although I’ve seen most of them before, still send off erotic vibes, with bare legs glimpsed from behind doors and in bathtubs. www.stevenbeckly.com Randy Hryhorczuk, well known for his paintings of billboards, now shows portentous paintings of airplanes flying low over roads and overpasses. www.hryhorczuk.com When it comes to dynamic depictions of older buildings in inner cities, I’d be hard pressed to choose between those of Brian Harvey and Stewart Jones. www.brianharvey.ca www.stewartjones.ca But one of the artists whose take on the city pleases me most is Gordon Leverton. His geometric compositions showing the upper portions of houses crowded close together – roofs, eaves, walls windows – always invite lengthy contemplation. www.gordonleverton.com

[Where available, links to artists’ websites have been provided. Note to artists: If you want to enhance your chances of being mentioned in a review and having the reviewer provide links to your website, please print up a card with your info presented in clear, easy-to-read format. It doesn’t help when a reviewer working late into the night is forced to fumble for the magnifying glass to read the fine print on your oh-so-tastefully designed little card!]

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