The Power Plant’s fall exhibition features engaging multi-medium art

By Natalie Michie

The Power Plant is known for their seasonal exhibitions of Canadian contemporary art. This fall, they featured five artists who presented a variety of unique multi-medium art.

Visitors were lined up around the building at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery on Friday, Oct. 19 for the Fall 2018 Opening Party.

Each of the gallery’s season exhibitions includes an opening party where admission is free and anyone is welcome.

This season, the gallery featured five artists: Abbas Akhavan, Vivian Suter, Elizabeth Wild, Karla Black and Beth Stuart.

With the intent of making visitors more aware of their bodies and the space they take up in a room, much of the work was created by the artists with the exact intent to be experienced in The Power Plant’s gallery.

As visitors entered the gallery, they were first introduced to Akhavan’s piece, an abstract exhibit with the theme of changing seasons.

 Akhavan’s work ranges from site-specific installations to drawing, video, illustration and performance. His piece featured in the fall exhibit is titled “Variations on a Landscape.” (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Akhavan’s work ranges from site-specific installations to drawing, video, illustration and performance. His piece featured in the fall exhibit is titled “Variations on a Landscape.” (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

His exhibit consisted of green TV screens on each side of the room, a fountain wrapped in a tarp, a stick, and a non-working iPhone charger plugged into the wall.

“His work is left open to interpretation,” said Emily Peltier, a gallery assistant at the Power Plant.

Although there was little information about Akhavan's piece, he included a written component where he asked a group of writers to write about what came to mind when hearing the word “fountain.” Their contributions were featured in booklets available for visitors to take home.

According to Melissa Gerkup, an art enthusiast and event volunteer, the way in which art is displayed here is through one panel that gives little information and another that lists all of the materials that were used.

“The rest is left up to your imagination. It’s up to you,” said Gerkup.

In the next room of the gallery, visitors admired clusters of painted canvases that were hung from the ceiling by artist Vivian Suter.

 Suter’s work is inspired by the landscape and nature in Guatemala, where she lives. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Suter’s work is inspired by the landscape and nature in Guatemala, where she lives. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Gerkup said that she felt like she was in nature by the set-up of how the canvases were hung. Canvases were painted with a wide variety of colours and marks left from elements of nature, such as visible flood stains. This, paired with visitors needing to navigate the paintings to see them all, created a forest-like feeling.

In fact, a large part of Suter’s creative process is her collaboration with nature. It all started after a hurricane flooded her studio and damaged her work. From then on, she began leaving her canvases out to allow them to be altered by the outdoor elements.

“Sometimes it is hard to focus on the individual paintings, but because everything is put so closely together it makes me think that the intent was for the work to be shown as one big piece, rather than looking at each painting individually,” Gerkup said.

As opposed to some art galleries where patrons admire pieces from afar, guests at The Power Plant were invited to walk through the pieces in order to experience them in the way the artists intended them to.

This includes the site-specific piece created by artist Karla Black, who used household items such as eyeshadow, lipstick and blush to create her aesthetics influenced piece. She included her daughter in the making of the piece by having her put her handprints on the walls around the room.

Rebecca Black, a student at the Toronto Film School, said she had a hard time visualizing the planning behind such a large-scale sculptural piece.

“I love it,” said Black, “It has me thinking, did (she) do it in (her) living room first? How does someone come up with this?”

 Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Beth Stuart’s work was displayed all around the Power Plant, including outdoors. Her piece had multiple aspects, such as video, and perhaps provided the most context out of any of the other exhibits.

Visitors saw the first piece of Stuart’s installation while waiting outside, where a traditional 18th-century bathing machine was installed. Guests were welcomed to enter the bathing machine, which was used in the Victorian era by high-class members of society to enter bodies of water.  

Upstairs, Stuart’s take on traditional bathing costumes were hung, and visitors could proceed through a hallway featuring sculptures that symbolize microorganisms found in the sand.

“There is a lot of elements but they are all connected,” said Nadia Nardine, a volunteer and fan of Stuart, “Altogether, it is a feminist view on the 18th century.”

 Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Featuring exhibits since 1987, the gallery has been popular amongst visitors and art lovers for its seasonal exhibits that are always uniquely designed and different each time.

Harry Clarke, a Ryerson journalism student, said going to The Power Plant is one of his favourite things to do. He explained that he tends to go there whenever he feels anxious.

“It is a great place for me to centre myself and remind myself of my existence because for one, the artists always have such an eloquent way of describing existence,” said Clarke, “I always cry here, but it is a good release.”

The Power Plant’s Fall Exhibition will be featured at the gallery until Dec. 20, 2018.






The Walls That Tell Stories

By Madison Wong

 De Araujo’s Queen Street West Mural Project tells the history behind Queen Street West. His mural consists of real musicians, magicians, artists and more who have performed and roamed the street. (Photo courtesy of christiano_artist via Instagram)

De Araujo’s Queen Street West Mural Project tells the history behind Queen Street West. His mural consists of real musicians, magicians, artists and more who have performed and roamed the street. (Photo courtesy of christiano_artist via Instagram)

Mural art illuminates buildings, alleys, and public spaces in Toronto. They are unique in their ability to engage communities by storytelling, portraying messages and honouring remarkable people through vibrant paintings.

Mural artist Christiano De Araujo and his company have completed several eye-catching murals around the city. His most recent one tells the history and culture of Queen Street West. It consists of real artists, musicians, buskers, and others who have performed on the street.

“I love being able to express myself and who I am,” De Araujo said. “I go about my day in a constant high because I’m doing what I love.”

De Araujo said the great part about mural artists having their work displayed in public is the attention they receive from bystanders. Those who take and post pictures, ask questions and compliment their work also promote it.

 Adrian Hayles’ Reggae Lane Mural at Eglinton and Oakwood.. (via  Adrian Hayles )

Adrian Hayles’ Reggae Lane Mural at Eglinton and Oakwood.. (via Adrian Hayles)

Adrian Hayles, mural artist and painter, said he enjoys the community engagement process where he gets to have open discussions with clients about what they want him to paint.

He says that it gives him insight for coming up with sketches, colour concepts and feedback from the community. “Those discussions force me out of my box and allow for extraordinary creative possibilities,” Hayles said.

Standing twenty feet tall and one-hundred feet wide, Reggae Lane is a mural at Eglinton and Oakwood avenues that Hayles takes immense pride in. It features Canadian Reggae legends from that community.

Hayles emphasizes his love for the production process and how close it was to the heart of the community. “The fact that we get to help shape communities by telling their stories and creating pieces that hopefully outlast us is very special,” said Hayles.

Nick Sweetman.jpg

Like Hayles and De Araujo, artist Nick Sweetman has also completed projects that engage the community. He has partnered with StreetART Toronto, youth groups and other painters to create vibrant paintings and community engaging mural projects.

For one particular work, he created a monumental-sized mural with STEPS Initiative, titled “In Our Hands.” Working with a group of emerging high-school artists, they were able to complete a series of four pieces on the outside of Valley Park Middle School in Don Mills.

“It was a really rewarding experience working with girls who had never done a ton of art, let alone paint a huge mural … we really bonded,” Sweetman said.

Sweetman is also proud of a wall that was dedicated to a friend who passed away in September 2017. The project was originally started by himself and another artist, but it soon evolved into a bigger community project, bringing more people involved.

“We took up an entrance of graffiti alley (in downtown Toronto) and made the mural super tall so he’s looking down,” said Sweetman.

 “Mike Kennedy: Remembered in Paint” at Portland and Queen streets. Completed by Sweetman in collaboration with Wales, Tensoe2, Braes, Sight, Getso, Poser, CTR. (Photo by: Patrick Cummins)

“Mike Kennedy: Remembered in Paint” at Portland and Queen streets. Completed by Sweetman in collaboration with Wales, Tensoe2, Braes, Sight, Getso, Poser, CTR. (Photo by: Patrick Cummins)

In the early stages of his career, Sweetman was proactive in chasing jobs. Now, after gaining recognition and partnerships from past clients, he has the jobs coming to him.

Sweetman says he has always kept three main principles in his mind; First to be a nice person, second, to deliver on his word and third to work extremely hard on every project.

“Potentially everything you make is the first and possibly only thing that someone will see, so you might as well make it kickass,” Sweetman said.

This piece was edited by Jacklyn Gilmor

Rachel Rawlins: painting a passion

By: Madi Wong

 Toronto artist and illustrator, Rachel Natalie Rawlins (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Toronto artist and illustrator, Rachel Natalie Rawlins (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Rachel Natalie Rawlins is a Toronto artist and illustrator who brings life to music and her muses with her paintbrush.

Inspired heavily by photography and music, Rawlins has created many unique portraits of singers and other pop culture figures.

She says that collecting ideas through photographs is similar to someone covering a song today that came out in the ‘80s. The cover is out of love for the song and a desire to interpret it in their own way.

“Different songs can evoke for me a certain mood, vibe, memory and even colour. I am inspired to visually represent what I hear and feel, to make my painting move,” Rawlins says.

“I get inspired by the mood of the subjects in photographs, the contrast, and the angles at which they are taken, to tell that story in my own way,” she says .

Rawlins is currently working on a series that strays away from her usual portraits of people: she’s turned her focus to animals.

“I love the magic and the beauty of the animals in the wild like the lions and the giraffe,” she says. “The theme will be the title of soca songs … the one that I started is of elephants and the title is Stampede,” she explains.

 Rawlins holding her painting of Andre 3000, an artist, musician and actor (CanCulture/Madi Wong).

Rawlins holding her painting of Andre 3000, an artist, musician and actor (CanCulture/Madi Wong).

Growing up

Rawlins found her passion for art as a teenager. While attending high school in Scarborough, Ont., she decided to pursue art as a career.

“I realized work was like a job if you didn’t enjoy it. But if you do enjoy it, it’s more like a feeling of accomplishment,” she says.

This decision led her to take a two year digital media arts program at Seneca College, where she was able to learn different artistic techniques, figure drawing, and even to sketch with her non-dominant hand.

Creative Beginnings

“It’s just in me to be an artist, by nature,” she says.

“I have always loved to draw, and from that came a love for painting. I love to see how a concept that I imagine turns out in real life. I also love seeing the ways that different artists interpret the same general idea. I love to see shapes, line work, and colours move and vibrate to draw you in, remind you of something, or make you feel a certain way.”

 Michael Jackson and Mos Def, artist and actor (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Michael Jackson and Mos Def, artist and actor (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

On labels

Though she doesn’t care for labels, Rawlins says, “I do identify as a black woman artist. I am an artist who is black, [and] a woman of West Indian heritage, and loves music. And all of those things contribute to and show up in how I am inspired and tell my story artistically,” Rawlins says.

Artistic journey

Rawlins’ first big show was in 2010 for the “From the Soul” exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Rawlins created a unique set of three paintings that portrayed the same woman wearing headphones. Each of the three paintings portrayed a different emotion.

 

BlameItOnTheBoogie-1.jpg
 Rawlins’ ‘From the Soul’ set, (from left to right) ‘Blame It On The Boogie,’ ‘Rhythms In The Sun,’ and ‘Innervisions: Songs Of Freedom.’ (via  http://www.rachelnatalie.ca/paintings )

Rawlins’ ‘From the Soul’ set, (from left to right) ‘Blame It On The Boogie,’ ‘Rhythms In The Sun,’ and ‘Innervisions: Songs Of Freedom.’ (via http://www.rachelnatalie.ca/paintings)

InnervisionsSongsOfFreedom-1.jpg

She has participated in multiple art shows and galleries where she showcases her pieces alongside of other artists.

“I love the feeling of accomplishment after I have completed a piece … and that other people also love and want my work,” she says.

In the past, Rawlins has also given back to the community by teaching art classes for kids. She believes that arts are very important in learning, especially for young children.

Her work is promoted online and on social media, as well as online sites such as Fine Art America that have enabled her to sell her pieces as mini prints and other accessories.

 Rawlins’ painting of singer-songwriter Erykah Badu  (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Rawlins’ painting of singer-songwriter Erykah Badu  (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

 Painting of pianist Chloe Flower (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Painting of pianist Chloe Flower (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

The best part

Rawlins’ favourite part about her work is seeing and feeling a piece come together.

“I always begin with black. And once the black is there I am more excited to continue, adding other colours and, in some cases, building texture. I also love stepping back and looking at my progress before I fill in the background of a piece,” she explains, “Depending on what my subject is at the time, it can look as though it will walk right off of the canvas.”

This piece was edited by Jacklyn Gilmor.

Wildlife Photography 2015

By: Noella Ovid The 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) exhibition featured three Canadian photographers – grand title-holder Don Gutoski, Rising Star Portfolio winner Connor Stefanison, and 10 Years and Under finalist Josiah Launstein.

Presented by Quark Expeditions, the WPY was on tour from the Natural History Museum of London, England, at the Royal Ontario Museum from Nov. 18 to March 20.

The exhibition is now in its 51st year and made its third appearance at the ROM, remaining to be the most prestigious wildlife photography competition in the world.

Attracting more than 42,000 entries, the display showcased 100 images from amateur and professional photographers of 96 countries.

“The exhibit is one of the nicest photo displays I’ve ever seen,” said Stefanison. “Even if there are people that aren’t too interested in nature and wildlife, I would still highly recommend going to see it just because it’s really quite an interesting display.”

Stefanison started pursuing photography in 2008 and this is his second time winning the Rising Star Portfolio award. Growing up in Vancouver, most of his photos have been taken locally in British Columbia.

“I think when you’re starting out, good things to do are just shoot locally because shooting locally allows you to really work the area that you’re in,” he said. “Also you’ll know the most about your area and you’ll be able to visit those spots frequently.”

Prior to doing photography, Stefanison said he had a large nature background and got interesting in taking photos after joining a nature-based camera club with his friend and his dad.

“My family’s always done a lot of things like camping and fishing and so I knew a lot about the outdoors,” he said. “So just from taking pictures of my friends going off jumps and stuff while we were mountain biking, that kind of got my interest started.”

Stefanison’s most memorable photograph is a wide-angle sunset picture of a loon on its nest, featured in 2013.

“That one I’m proud of just because I was able to find a loon that was tolerant enough to allow an image like that and I just got to spend so much time with the animal, kind of right beside the bird for so long,” he said.

This year, Stefanison has six images included at the exhibition including one called “Night of the mountain goats.” The image frames a mountain goat with a clear, starry night sky. In order to capture the perfect photograph, Stefanison camped outside for three days to allow the goats to get used to his presence.

His advice for young photographers is “not to worry too much about gear and focus more on technique and just learning photography. And also just shooting what you like to shoot instead of shooting what you think others want to see.”

The exhibition itself was displayed in a back lit room with hallways leading visitors through different categories. These included earth’s environments, earth’s design, first shoots, documentary and portfolio.

The tour ended with the two leading winners, Don Gutoski and Ondřej Pelánek. Gutoski visited the ROM to give visitors a tour of the exhibition himself.

“I just really like animals. I came two years ago,” said Morgan Cullen, a visitor who first came to the exhibition for a college assignment two years ago.  “I really love it. There are some great shots here.”

Another visitor, Barry Hart, visited the exhibition with his wife and two grandchildren. “We’re nature people,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll eventually be as interested as us. But we’re not photographers, we’re lookers.”