This is the 5th year for The Gladstone Hotel’s annual Grow Op exhibition, and 2017’s selection makes the strong argument: this is one of the must see shows of the season. Curators Christine Leu and Alan Webb with Lukus Toane have put together a rich ensemble of works that address the idea of landscape, habitat and environment.
Stark Olga Klosowski
The show is a delight from beginning to end. It explores the music of weather, the power of an avocado pit, hidden histories, sandbox topographies, walking on eggshells, mini ecosystems, cloud-gazing, starfruit patterns and the secret world of snails among other things. It ‘s on from the 19-23. If you missed this year’s show be sure to pencil it in for next; Toronto’s art landscape is all the richer for it.
Work in progress; this is a digital re-imagining of a painting I did years ago. Feels kinda relevant at the moment.
It was a Christmas miracle! Ok maybe not a miracle, but it always seems miraculous when an artist receives funding to realize their artistic vision. This is what happened on Christmas Day 1909 when a wealthy Chicago businessman agreed to fund renown Czech Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha‘s ambitious Slav Epic. Ambitious would be an understatement; the work consists of 20 large scale paintings, some ranging in size of 26 by 20 feet. The series consumed the last decades of his life.
The series depicts the history of the Slav people and serve as a monument to both celebrate them and inspire them. The works have a very cinematic scope with their muted palettes and hints of the mystical and the magical. He employs the tricks he learned throughout his years of developing Art Nouveau but the series never truly veers into this realm.
I wasn’t too familiar with the work of Mucha before we stepped foot into the National Gallery in Prague. You are immediately struck by the scale of these works. It appears to be a cast of 1000s. The room is painted a neutral grey and the lighting is low so that even though the works are painted in a muted palette, they pop. These are those rare works that become more rewarding the longer you spend with them.
Unfortunately my photos do them no justice, take a look here for a much better survey. If you find yourself in Prague and are tired of the masses on Charles Bridge, Mucha’s Slav Epic is a welcome respite from the madding crowds.
Who knew these three paintings were originally meant to be a triptych? I certainly didn’t; but now that they’ve been arranged together for the first time (for the exhibition Mystic Landscapes at the Art Gallery of Ontario) since Paul Gauguin painted them , it sure makes sense. The primary colour scheme alone should have been my first clue. The otherworldly theme of the story of Christ’s life as envisioned in French Brittany runs through all three as well as the artist himself appears in all three with him taking the starring role of Christ in 2 out of three. I always found this to be very revealing about Gauguin, it takes some kind of hubris to paint yourself as a martyr. Maybe this is the reason they never made it to a church to serve as inspiration for the pious. Piety was kind of on the back-burner of Paul Gauguin’s life but I guess he did like to dip his toe in the mystic. He was definitely a seeker.
My hat’s off to the curators for pulling off this feat (along with another, I’ll get to in a minute). I was most excited to see Vision After the Sermon when it was announced it was coming to Toronto, but had no idea the other two were along for the ride. Now that I’ve seen them as a triptych it’s hard to see them any other way. This is exactly what good curation should do, shed new light on the familiar and re-contextualize art into new and exciting combinations and narratives. Having said that: my biggest criticism with the AGO is some of their exhibition themes can get really stretched and unnecessary. Please let the art speak for itself and don’t put words in its mouth.
The art not only speaks for itself in Mystic Landscapes but sings. Besides Gauguin you get heavy-hitters like Munch, Whistler and O’Keeffe and lesser known artists like Jansson and Dulac. There is a wonderful room devoted to the work of Claude Monet with fine representations of the various series he embraced over the years. His Waterlilies, Cathedrals, Poplars and Haystacks are all present. Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone is given a place of prominence near the end of the show. A personal highlight for me was this Egon Schiele,
but the biggest surprise of the show is the inclusion of our own nation’s artists. When it comes to landscapes, mystic or otherwise you have to admit Canada can hold its own. Lawren Harris, Emily Carr and Tom Thomson get to share the walls with Monet and O’Keeffe and rightly so. The curators have positioned our artists at the table with some of Art history’s biggest names and this is an exciting and revelatory prospect. It is one thing to propose this in our own backyard but another to shout to the hills, which will happen when this show ends its run in Toronto and moves to the Cathedral of Impressionism itself The Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Make your way to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see Mystic Landscapes. Come for the Van Gogh, stay for the Gauguin and revel in our National treasures before the secret gets out and standing in line becomes a way of life.