It was an exciting weekend of art followed by an interesting and divided US mid-term election. It's fitting that this post is called Post-Utopia; as if the epitome of greatness had already been achieved and then there was that morning after, a sickness in the stomach and ache all over, the waning trumpet the day after Napoleon fell, the dark news of Che Guevara's body found in Bolivia or the shipping of Ghandi's body back to the capital for further ceremonies. But that's US politics in a nutshell. Let's go back in time a couple of days when that blitzkrieg of amazing art was the center of attention.
Friday night was nothing short of a busy run around to get the last bits of detail in order so that saturday (Nov 3rd) could run as smooth as possible. The office space used to host the event had to be cleared of carpets, tables, desks and instruments before the photos and paintings could be hauled in. Everyone in the group had their own little task that would eventually make the night the incredible success that it was.
There was an array of touching imagery that enriched the evening. Jayne's time-enveloped-piece was a "re-creation" of her grandmother's kitchen table in a time of Soviet ambitions and eventual transformation. In one set of headphones you could hear the playful sounds of traditional Russian music and in the other, stories told by her grandmother. The greenish blue tone of the table gave off light and ease, but was decorated with silkscreen snakes and apples to pay homage to the Garden of Eden and perhaps the cause of the downward spiral that brought forth Jayne's personal Utopia; the fond memory of sitting at that same table eating grandma's baked goods, listening to her chatter and Be.
Coming around to the right was Mark's piece, which was inspired by TaoYunMei and the story of a beautiful land discovered in the mountains. The traveller revels in the delight of such perfection, meeting and greeting the locals of such incredible and immaculate paradise. He is warned that he is not to tell anyone of this location, but upon his return home, he does indeed tell of the greatness and charm of this enchanted land. And he is unable to ever find this land again. The incredible detail in this photo along with this caliber of printing leaves the viewer in awe of the textures and glowing brilliance. Seemingly disconnected from Utopia altogether, once the context of the image is laid into place, you almost wonder how anything else could be imagined. I have seen, myself, the peach blossoms in Sichuan province during the spring and it does very much remind the inner mind of idyllic perfection.
Regarding inner reflections and the subjective calculations of body and mind, Joanne's pieces are a reflection of movement. She describes them as parts of Yoga and the Intentions of practice. In Chinese, this is called Gongfu, which we like to say Kung Fu. It doesn't necessarily mean physical combat. It means tending to a practice over time until mastery is achieved. But clocking in hours is rather different than mindful practice. A story you have to tell is different than a story you get to tell. And for me watching Joanne's metamorphosis from small water-color sketches to large in-the-heat-of-the-moment flailings of expression was so much a part of the art experience as were the paintings themselves. A passion and joy was exceeded, a kind of relaxation of the soul through enduring doubt and uncertainty was achieved. Eventually finding her space, and upon such a large canvass, Joanne spoke through those doubts, claiming ground and inner decisiveness. Intention was always a part of it, and once she found the correct intention, balance was reinstated.
When I just think of Heather Smith, I hear her laughter. Its a bottom-line requisite to hear laughter in almost any conversation with Heather because it is embedded in the spectacles of her mind. In the Wizard of Oz, the man at the gate offers anyone entering the Emerald City a set of green glassed spectacles. This enhances not only the greenness of the city, but gives everyone roughly the same visual experience. Heather's perspective is one founded in joy, humour and adventure. And this is why her Godzilla vs Bunny Rabbit selfie-stick drew so many people's attention. There is a whole back story of an island in Japan that is riddled with bunnies the size of Walruses . Well, not really, just a joke. There are bunnies but they're not that big. Heather was able to dive into the cuddly fascination many people have of bunnies and bring about a series of images in which the people involved are actually in the periphery of the rabbits. Its a laborious process of taking the selfies, but in the day and age of Snapchat and Instagram, you'll never find a better angle of yourself than decorated with monstrous-sized rabbits.
I don't want to toot any horns, but I have to say that Heather Love's TTC pieces shared as much of the majestic as anything else that night. I'm lucky, I get to see them all of the time. I get to see fantastic sketches and elaborate designs on the corners of napkins at home, but this collection is something that should be seen again and again. Those wrinkles and emotions, daydreams and overt withdrawals illustrate the belly of the whale. You see, we just got back from living in China for 15 years. So what may seem like day-to-day nonsense for the average Torontonian, seems like an abstract Koyaanisqatsi film on display 24/7. Heather was able to not only capture the life-like nuances of her subjects, but bring wonderful interpretation. I heard a guy ask where she got them printed. "Those are the originals. You can even see the indentations of the pen." Surely a skill to wow anyone, Heather's attention to detail is a kind of utopia in itself.
As we go around the bend, we are without a doubt awe-inspired by the captivating beauty of Dom's photography. Every square inch of each photo rumbles with natural magnificence. I found myself wanting to just pull up a chair and stare deeply into each one. The detail is so fine that you feel like its alive right there in front of you. Televisions today have incredible definition, but the texture of these images carry a field of depth that simply can't be matched. Is the utopia the mountain? the image? or in the sinews of the artist's gift of capturing? They were brilliant in small print and gasp-worthy blown up to these sizes. And all the more, he has hundreds and hundreds beyond this particular collection. A truly astounding touch, these works share the visionary gift of appreciation.
Last but not least, Geoff switched up the medium by bringing us a story, a novel about the process of being lost and rediscovering the human characteristics that we eventually find foreign. The story shapes our understanding of today and how society views its place in the evolution of convenience. And Geoff brings forth his personal experiences in the more isolated areas of the earth to illustrate a kind of disconnectedness from nature by choosing to be connected. This is the psychological shift that I think will be the forefront of science in the next 100 years. As our biological selves are waning from the tapestry of mankind, our technological selves will prevail and sustain a greater identity. The vocabulary of the 'self' is and will continue to change and change more rapidly than ever before. And our placement within that history may surprise us a great deal, perhaps questioning the technologies of the ancient times in order to flourish beyond the material perfections we face today. Will artificial intelligence be the same as organic foods in the future? Will it become such a norm that, as an option, it will be considered an inevitable path towards the future?
I guess we'll just have to see.
Early on in the night, I joked that there'd be a million people coming and as the night gently moved along I kept wondering when they would stop coming. Not only did all of the artwork look fantastic on the walls, I was just tickled to see and hear so many people discussing the works and enjoying the wonderful snacks. Sorry if my sons ate all the cookies. I, honestly, haven't had such a good time in ages. Incredible thanks to everyone that worked so hard to make it possible. I'm already looking forward to the next topic, the next meeting and the next show. Brang it!
Open Eyes Toronto (OYT) is a creative collective that generates dialogue, design and response to current issues and daily life in Toronto. OYT began in 2008 when two local architects were feeling a bit uninspired by the city - so they invited friends and friends of friends to a living room in the Annex to share creative documentation about what’s happening in the city. In recent years OYT has grown to attract several hundreds and has been hosted at the Centre for Social Innovation and the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. Interesting work and display serve as a the backdrop for conversation and community.