Category Archives: art

Fleeting traces on our wintry landscape

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Sonja Hinrichsen. Aerial photo of Snow Drawings at Rabbit Ears Pass, Colorado 2012

Artist Sonja Hinrichsen is not interested in creating lasting artworks, particularly not in nature. Instead, her ‘environmental interventions’ are temporary installations; swiftly documented and living on in photographs.

“I feel like this planet is so scarred already through human activity and I don’t feel like I want to add more traces as an artist.”

The ongoing community arts project ‘Snow Drawings’ is Hinrichsen’s way of helping us regain a greater awareness of the natural world around us. Her walk patterns largely take the form of swirls and concentric circles, casting designs onto pristine snow surfaces. In a single unbroken line, they follow the contours of the landscape — whirling, meandering, accentuating — and create a visual texture across otherwise blank stretches. These sprawling drawings are short-lived, threatened by snowdrifts and melting.

Here is what she has been able to do with a herd of 50 volunteers donning snowshoes and unleashed onto the open landscape:

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado, 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. We Are The Water -- Snow Drawing project, Colorado 2014

Sonja Hinrichsen. We Are The Water — Snow Drawing project, Colorado 2014

Inspiration to create the snow drawings stemmed from an artist residency in the Colorado Rockies in the winter of 2009. In the winters that have followed, she has created designs on sweeping ‘canvases’ – wide-open fields and frozen lakes – in northern New Mexico, NY, and Colorado.

You may want to compare and contrast this with fractals and crop circles and to consider what the impermanence of this work brings to your enjoyment of it.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009

I discovered the artist in a recent article about her snow studies in the Huffington Post. Below are some of Hinrichsen’s explorations at the other end of the scale: pen & ink drawings resembling microorganisms; and, embroidered words on the leaves of a fruit-bearing fig tree.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Wall-size drawing.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Wall-size drawing in pen & ink.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Wall-size drawing.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Wall-size drawing in pen & ink.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Paradise Tree, Southern Spain 2008

Sonja Hinrichsen. Paradise Tree, Southern Spain 2008

Sonja Hinrichsen. Paradise Tree, Southern Spain 2008. Documented on video and in print

Sonja Hinrichsen. Paradise Tree, 2008. Documented on video and in print.

Federico Babina’s illustrated series

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Babina creates street scenes made up of 26 individual letter compositions.

Here’s a random injection of colour into your day from a guy who has unlimited material to draw from. Italian architect and graphic artist Federico Babina turns out dozens upon dozens of illustrations exploring the intersection of architecture and related design fields. His prolific collection of work straddles contemporary art, cinema, and music – even zoo animals. The roster in each series he produces reads like a kind of architectural Who’s Who: ‘starchitects’ like Jean Nouvel and Zaha Hadid feature prominently, as do modernists Oscar Niemeyer and Corb.

’A’ is shaped by the scooped profile of Alvar Aalto's Riola Parish Church roofline.

In the series entitled Archibet, Babina applies his interpretation of famous architects’ signature styles to lettering. He describes each letter as a “small surrealist building that becomes part of an imaginary city made up of different shapes and styles, all speaking the same language of architecture.” His illustrated alphabet is composed of these 26 individual works of art: ‘A’ is shaped by the scooped profile of Alvar Aalto’s Riola Parish Church roofline; ‘B’ is transformed by the deeply saturated spiritual spaces of Luis Barragán; and, Norman Foster’s technical prowess is captured in a monolithic, metallic ‘F’.

’B’ is transformed by the deeply saturated spiritual spaces of Luis Barragán.

The artist has honed a colourful illustration style that recalls vintage movie posters. To create his images he combines a collage of different techniques, from hand drawing to 3-D modelling and other visualization programs. For me, Babina’s whimsical studies summon up renowned American illustrator Charley Harper’s highly stylized wildlife illustrations, which capture the essence of his subjects with the fewest possible visual elements.

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In nature, Charley Harper saw “exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures.”

Babina continues his architecture-themed series with Archimusic, imagining architectural compositions inspired by famous musicians’ hit songs and styles. Here too, his selection of artists runs the gamut from classical music composers, to rock legends, to contemporary singer-songwriters. Among the twenty-something illustrations is a hot red electric guitar-shaped building in the characteristic style of Jimmy Hendrix and one that echoes the repetitive structures of Philip Glass’ music.

Babina draws structures inspired by musicians’ hit songs, style, and album art.

Babina draws structures inspired by musicians’ hit songs, style, and album art.

Babina is the Barcelona-based illustrator who produced Archicine, posters featuring iconic architecture from classic movies. His retro graphic style offers a fresh interpretation of the places where some of our favourite characters lived, such as the ultra-modern, ultra-unfriendly Villa Arpel in Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle, and the striking mid-century redwood abode in A Single Man.

Babina’s version of Villa Arpel, the ultra-modern geometric house in <em>Mon Oncle</em>

Everything gets even further distilled in the series Archipixel. Here, the artist pairs famous architects and their buildings and renders them as pixelated cartoons, like vintage video game characters. The idea of the project, according to Babina, is to “represent the complexity of the forms and personalities through the simplicity of the pixel.”

In Archipixel, Babina pairs famous architects and their buildings and renders them as pixelated cartoons. Here, Le Corbusier and the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp are distilled down to the most basic technology, like vintage video game characters. According to Babina, the idea of the project is to “represent the complexity of the forms and personalities through the simplicity of the pixel.”

Le Corbusier and the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp.

Switching gears entirely, Babina also imagines a new life for iconic buildings from the Catalan capital in his highly detailed Immaginario series. The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (Richard Meier), Torre Agbar (Jean Nouvel), and the once-controversial Forum Building (Herzog & de Meuron) are wholly (re)contextualized here…

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While architecture junkies can collect prints and posters of Babina’s work, the artist has plans to turn his illustrated architectural series into a book. Check out his extensive portfolio at http://federicobabina.com/

NOTE: If you need to brush up on your architecture ABCs, this lively animation by architect Andrea Stinga and graphic designer Federico Gonzalez may help. The video depicts the best-known buildings of 26 famous architects, one for each letter of the alphabet.

Vertigo – without ever leaving the ground

Photos by Tom Ryaboi.

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this is not Toronto

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Not many of us yearn to experience the literal ‘life on the edge’. Toronto-based photographer Tom Ryaboi does. He stealthily climbs to the uppermost reach of skyscrapers to capture some pretty incredible cityscapes. His (mostly clandestine) ‘rooftopping’ exploits have taken him across the globe. His images present an entirely new perspective on urban photography.

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Shots from Toronto, Chicago, and Hong Kong – cities that know a thing or two about towers – are on display at the Canary District Presentation Gallery in Toronto. Paired with Tom’s photography is another vertigo-inducing work named “Aletide”, as part of an exclusive art exhibit called Cities of the Future.

“Aletide”, an audiovisual interactive installation by Italian artists Fabio Giampietro, Ilaria Vergani Bassi, and Paolo Di Giacomo, comes to Toronto from Milan where it was first exhibited last year. The trio collaborated with composer Alessandro Branca to create a sensory artwork that recalls our first childhood experience on a park swing – but amped up. The swinging movement, surrounded by oscillating visuals and wind-like sounds, according to observers’ first comments, “feels like soaring over a concrete and glass canyon.”

Riding Aletide, an interactive swing with vertiginous qualities. Photo by Ilaria Vergani.

Riding Aletide, an interactive swing with vertiginous qualities. Photo by Ilaria Vergani.

Aletide – Interactive installation from Paolo Di Giacomo on Vimeo.

The photographs are on view from October 18th-30th at the Canary District Presentation Gallery at 398 Front Street East in Toronto. For more information see www.CanaryDistrict.com.

Nuit Blanche: Toronto’s all-night exploration and celebration of art

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It is art, collaboration, dialogue, and discovery. For one night only this Saturday October 4th from sunset to sunrise, Toronto will once again become the hive of activity that is Nuit Blanche. City spaces and neighbourhoods will be transformed by temporary exhibitions, installations, design, film, performance, and live talks.

Nuit Blanche was conceived in Paris in 2002 in an attempt to make contemporary art more accessible and engage the audience to examine its impact on public space. Toronto was the first North American city to fully replicate the Paris model. The international success of the festival has expanded its reach to sleepless cities around the globe – from Riga to Melbourne, Kyoto to La Paz.

Now in its ninth edition, Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche showcases more than 120 projects created by over 400 local, national and international artists. Below is a small sampling of what you can discover…

Piece by Piece

Clare Twomey

Installation 'Piece by Piece' by leading ceramic artist Clare Twomey. Photo by Sylvain Deleu

Installation ‘Piece by Piece’ by ceramic artist Clare Twomey. Photo by Sylvain Deleu

Internationally renowned for her interactive interventions in prestigious British and American museums, Clare Twomey creates a spectacular commissioned performative installation about making and collecting, to honour the Gardiner Museum’s 30th anniversary. Piece by Piece features an army of over 2,000 ceramic figurines – inspired by the Gardiner’s rare Commedia dell’Arte Harlequin collection – that demonstrate the conflicting emotions of everyday life. During the exhibition, her Canadian premiere, an on-site artist/maker will create more statuettes to add to the ever-growing ghostly white world.

The Garden of Renova

Luigi Ferrara and The Institute without Boundaries

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-The Garden of Renova_3Renova’s coloured and scented toilet paper line is the raw material in a temple-like environment reminiscent of a garden of earthly delights. Using the bathroom tissue over substructures, the installation features a labyrinth, hedges, poppies, garden ornaments, and a 3D-printed fountain. Creator Luigi Ferrara, Dean of the Centre for Arts and Design at George Brown College, and his team at IwB invite the public to interact with the paradise surroundings.

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-The Garden of Renova

LandMark

Multiple Artists

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-LandMarkCurated by Exhibit Change, LandMark is an interactive photographic installation focused on the dynamic nature of community engagement and city building. Large-scale photo essays showcased throughout St. James Park share stories of some of the city’s unsung heroes and reveal the many layers of Old Town Toronto’s history. The initiative seeks to strengthen community partnerships in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

Walk among Worlds

Máximo González

Walk among Worlds_2013-UCLAIn this immersive installation Argentine artist Máximo González explores the effects of light and lightness, while reflecting on the political divisions of the world. The piece is composed of 7,000 beach balls printed to resemble globes; each representing one million of the inhabitants of the planet. The globes, made of a petroleum derivative, require the introduction of human breath to give them their geoidal shape. They come in three different sizes, alluding to the concepts of “first” and “third world.”

Good News

Antoni Muntadas

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014_Antoni MuntadasBarcelona-based Antoni Muntadas is considered one of the pioneers of media art and conceptual art in Spain. This installation examines the duality of media as a source of information and an instrument of manipulation. The piece displays a wide range of headlines in order to incite the viewer into rethinking the meaning of the messages, creating a defiance in the uniformly constructed “media flow”. A stream of information engineered by advertisers is to be consumed as a whole.

Melting Point

LeuWebb Projects

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Melting PointIn the sound and light installation Melting Point, Fort York’s two south-facing cannons are stocked with “an artillery of glowing good feelings”, pouring forth “sparkling tributaries of light”. The work reflects on the drivers, both cultural and natural, that have shaped the historic site – a preserved battlefield surrounded on all sides by condominium towers, raised freeways and train lines. Accompanied by the immersive sounds of rolling waves and trilling harps, LeuWebb‘s project lays a defense against the swirling market forces beyond, countering hard with soft and dark with light.

Solar Dehydrator

José Andrés Mora

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Solar DehydratorToronto Hydro searched for artists to submit proposals for a contest to repurpose an old fridge, in support of their Fridge & Freezer Pickup program. Mora’s winning design, inspired by the appliance’s already existing insulation and components, transforms the refrigerator into a solar dehydrator.

Project REACH

Student artists from the Toronto Catholic District School Board

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Project ReachProject Reach is a collaborative installation authored by students from 201 TCDSB schools across the GTA celebrating the value of charity and how it transforms lives. Visitors are greeted with hundreds of human hands – symbol of our ability to reach out and change the world. They beckon us to come closer to discover what these students want to communicate through personal messages, imagery, and found objects.

Implied Geometries

Valerie Arthur

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014-Implied GeometriesIn Implied Geometries, Valerie Arthur seeks to uncover the otherwise invisible characteristics of a place. By simultaneously recreating all of the flight paths in a series of tennis games it will reveal the space within the court as much more than an empty void. The court will become a web of movement and speed, exposing the underlying forces that truly define it and inviting the audience to experience moving through the courts in a new way.

Wisdom of the North: Moose Cree and Attawapiskat

Johan Hallberg-Campbell

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Johan Hallberg-CampbellThis exhibition presents a photo essay documenting the time artist Johan Hallberg-Campbell spent alongside the Canadian Red Cross, photographing volunteers working in the communities of Moose Cree and Attawapiskat. These images include engaging large portraits, vast landscapes and touching personal moments captured by one of Canada’s leading photographers.

Global Rainbow

Yvette Mattern

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Global RainbowThe high specification laser light projection Global Rainbow will blaze through Toronto’s night sky. From Chinatown to the CN Tower, it will cast beams of colours up to 60 kilometres. Created by New York- and Berlin-based artist Yvette Mattern, it has been displayed in cities around the world since 2009. It literally “paints the sky” with seven simple but distinctly powerful lines of colour representing the rainbow spectrum to create an artwork that is performative, sculptural, painterly, and minimalist in form. As a powerful and luminescent symbol of peace and hope, it embraces geographical and social diversity.

June Callwood Park

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Ure-tech surfaces colour much of June Callwood Park. Photo by gh3.

Ure-tech surfaces colour much of June Callwood Park. Photo by gh3.

Amongst Nuit Blanche’s one-night-only discoveries is the opening of a new permanent space in the city, the June Callwood Park. The gH3-designed park slots trees in amongst pavers, garden strips, and high-tech cushioned pink surfaces all laid out in the waveform of journalist and activist June Callwood speaking the words “I believe in kindness.” Montreal artists Steve Bates and Douglas Moffat created the accompanying sonic public art installation, OKTA, transmitted by speakers arrayed throughout the grove.

This year, organizers have expanded the event into new neighbourhoods, including Chinatown, Fort York and Roundhouse Park. The festivities kick off at 6:53pm. For the full schedule of events, see www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca

Niki Koulouris, Poet.

A dear friend of mine, Niki Koulouris, is riding high these days.

At the Housing Works Bookstore Café in New York City last night, Koulouris was joined by fellow writers Betsy Andrews and Jen Coleman for a reading entitled Oceans of Poets. Each read from their new book of poetry about the sea. And it did not go unmentioned in The New Yorker’s Above and Beyond section…

Koulouris’ first collection, The sea with no one in it, takes her readers on a journey that weaves the distant ocean with both the abstract and familiar of our urban lives. The Canadian-Australian poet’s work is poignantly visual, which is why I’m so drawn to it. I hope you also find much to discover in her work.

The sea with no one in it, by Niki Koulouris. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The sea with no one in it, by Niki Koulouris. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Her next reading, at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event in Toronto, takes place at the Black Swan Tavern on Saturday, September 27th at 7:00-11:00pm.

Below are two poems from her book:

Today of all days 
this is the sea with no one in it 
is this all it will be
unable to dye all it touches 
in primitive ink 
 
what could you give the sea 
but your stripes,
since you ask,
your war paint, your blindfolds 
your appetite for westerns
in exchange for waves
as wide as trains
from the next frontier.
 
(for Cézanne) 
If anything
he must have kept his onions
in a safe
but I think of Cézanne’s apples, 
peaches, pears
turning like
doorknobs
in a house full of
surprises 
 
restless fruit 
tuned at high noon
by the grocer’s scales
 
oranges on togas 
on tables, 
still-blooded, spared.