Thomas Hirschhorn installation at the Power Plant, Toronto


One of my favorite gallery spaces in Toronto is The Power Plant.  It is always worth checking out every new exhibition there.  The latest, running from March 11 – May 29, features Thomas Hirschhorn, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, and a small geologically-inspired group show upstairs entitled “To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong?”

Although I feel that Hirschhorn’s eco-political statement in a gallery preaches to the converted, I went there for the color-blast.  As a statement in itself,  it would been more effective in a mall.  I felt that impact was impressed upon the viewer with dense  concentration and a saturated red-and-white domination.

Elsewhere at the Power Plant, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s video piece and a dim installation were underwhelming, however I really like other work by Manglano-Ovalle and have appreciated seeing some of his work here in Toronto.

Altogether, although the current exhibition did not inspire me, the space at the Power Plant itself and the knowledgeable, welcoming staff provided yet another fulfilling gallery visit.  It is always worth visiting this gallery.

some Ossington

Ossington Street in Toronto.

Great little cafés dot the street south of Dundas.  Some craft and design shops also add to the active gallery scene in this neighbourhood.  I went for a walk down Ossington to check out the Davida Nemeroff show at Gallery TPW.  The space at TPW (56 Ossington) has high ceilings yet somehow limited light, which lends itself perfectly to video and installation work.  Nemeroff is a Canadian artist working in Los Angeles.  She has a BFA in Photographic Studies from Ryerson University and a MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University (2009.)  Her exhibit combines new photography with some video pieces, all in a minimal setting.

A Study of Seedless Grapes, 2010 inkjet print

Davida Nemeroff, Jacuzzi Time, digital video 2011

I enjoyed the Davida Nemeroff show.  The video work wasn’t challenging or really engaging, but the photography was excellent and the layout of the exhibition space was mellow, inviting and tasteful.  I came away with imagery to reflect upon and a nice supplement in the form of an essay on Nemeroff’s work by Mieke Marple.  The essay tied in with the show provides a nicely rounded view of the work which continues to grow on me.

There are two kinds of galleries that I enjoy for different reasons.  The first is the “loft style” space, often found in renovated warehouse environments or their own separate buildings which are ideal for installation work and larger pieces.  The second is the gallery, regardless of size, that has good work (often by emerging artists) and provides excellent art at prices that I can afford.  My walk on Ossington revealed a couple of places that hit that second mark perfectly.  One, especially, was Gallery 129.  Today I saw some very reasonably priced work by Sara Caracristi, Stewart Jones and Kate Domina, among others.  I’m definitely going to visit this one regularly.  I have a feeling the paintings rotate regularly.

Two canvases by Stewart Jones

Sara Caracristi, Interconnection








There are fun things at Gallery 129, including Kate Domina's They Shared Everything (right)

Other things:

Great T-shirt at C1 Art Space

Bonnie Baxter, Paris 2, large 2008 Digital Print, Angell Gallery. Love it, can’t afford it…
Textile lighting at Ministry of the Interior
Ministry of the Interior, 80 Ossington. Browsing this store is very fun.

Once Ossington hit Queen, I had to turn east and head around the corner to MOCCA.  My advice to anyone if they are in the neighbourhood is to walk in and check out every exhibit they put on.  Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art is an institution that we are lucky to have.  I’m still recovering from the amazing David Hoffos installation that ended in December.  Now they are featuring a Luis Jacob exhibition and have supplemented it with varied pieces as a prelude by Ron Mueck, General Idea, Michael Morris and Michel Campeau among others.

Luis Jacob

Ron Mueck, Maquette for the Head of a Girl, 2006 unfired clay

Doris McCarthy

Doris McCarthy in her Georgian Bay studio, 2001

I visited Spaz i o dell’arte gallery today and enjoyed the Doris McCarthy retrospective.  She was born in Calgary, 1910, and died November 25th, 2010.  She grew up in Toronto and taught at Central Technical School for forty years.

Complete Barachois, watercolour, 1954

She lived to be one hundred years old and what I found remarkable is that she actively produced art until her late nineties.  From what I saw, most of her work is oil on canvas, but she also created watercolours, woodcut prints, lithographs and even a three-volume memoir. I really enjoyed her woodcuts and the large series of luminescent blue canvases depicting her “iceberg fantasies”.  From 1971 she began a series of paintings set in the arctic.  Her vision of ice is comparable to Lawren Harris’.  Purely subjectively, I find that Harris’ work has a strong element of rounded geometry that dominates his compositions and takes away from that frigid, glassy, spiritual edge that I admire in Doris McCarthy’s Arctic landscapes.

Iceberg Fantasy #40, oil on canvas 1990

McCarthy went back to school at the age of sixty-five.  She attended the University of Toronto off and on for fifteen years until she received her honours degree in literature when she was seventy-nine years old.  A.J. Casson said of Doris:  “…a remarkable woman who developed her own vision and stuck to it.”

Domestic Bliss Fool's Paradise, woodcut, 1948

Skaters on the Pond, woodcut, 1963

The Spaz i o dell’arte gallery is located at 400 Eastern Avenue, Suite 201.  It is quite out-of-the-way, but it is a very good exhibition space.  A full wall of large windows really welcomes the light in this resplendent, white gallery.  There is some seating which invites visitors to peruse its magazines and supplemental exhibition print media.

Canadian art

I subscribe to Canadian Art magazine.  I felt dismayed to realize that the Winter 2010/11 issue did not get delivered to me, long after it had hit the newsstand.  Today I went to the Canadian Art office at 215 Spadina.  I like the Dark Horse espresso bar on the main floor of that building, so it was tempting to go there and also to stop by Canadian Art’s office to find out if my issue was mailed at all.

bronze by Donald Liardi at Trius gallery

I expected them to give me a contact number and encourage me to continue my query elsewhere, and they did that, but it felt so satisfying to steal the issue from their office as I left.  They have many copies, past and current, on display by their unmonitored entrance.  The magazine is pretty good, with articles on John Kissick, David Spriggs, and a reminder ad for the upcoming Wynick/Tuck showing of Monica Tap’s paintings (Jan.22-Feb.19).  Still, the walk to their office was worth it, as I then had an excuse to drop by the galleries at 401 Richmond and at 80 Spadina.  Not a lot going on, but I always enjoy the loft-style galleries of those locations.

Yu-Hang Huang at A-Space Gallery

401 Richmond building


Liz Phillips' oil in the background "Pink Liz"

Evergreen Brickworks

from Dana Claxton's piece "Waterspeak"

Last month I went to Toronto’s Evergreen Brickworks for the first time.  A deteriorated and subsequently partially refurbished industrial space, the Brickworks provides a classic urban setting for installation work.  The Brickworks, however, are so interesting to walk through, that the space itself stands out and overshadows any attempt at art work exhibited within.  People have said the same thing about many exhibition spaces, including the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.  Nevertheless, how could it matter?  I enjoyed the experience of wandering throughout the Brickworks.  It was a memorable diversion worth encountering.  Pieces like Werner Herzog’s incomplete “Lessons of Darkness” seemed weaker than intended within the cavernous Brickworks, where the Mahler soundtrack that Herzog used was swallowed like a faint song in the ghost of a working factory.

Isabelle Hayeur: from her installation "L'Or Blanc"

getting out of Dodge

When I first decided to travel to South-East Asia, I had the idea of staying there long-term. I was focused on staying somewhere relatively cheaply so that I could work more on writing for longer stretches of time.

Although India is interesting and fairly inexpensive, there are many reasons not to stay there:

  • Fear of mosquito bites (that the media always reminds you can lead to malaria and Dengue fever)
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being continually approached as a Westerner, a tourist, and therefore an easy mark
  • Pollution and general filth
  • Relying on bottled water
  • Curry for breakfast
  • High heat and humidity
  • Having to wear trousers instead of shorts in high heat and humidity
  • The incomprehensible head-wobble of the locals
  • Frenzied traffic, even in small cities
  • Constant haggling

Although I think I will return to India, I’m sure it will be with short-term travel in mind. It is not a good place to live, for me.

At any rate, I’ve decided to cut my losses and move back to Canada while I still have a good sum of money in the bank. My most important goal right now is to write fiction full-time over the next year. I am not interested in traveling as much as I am in completing my goal as a writer.

On my return trip to Canada, I had a multiple bout of vomiting and arrived with four days of diarrhea. Farewell, India.

south to north

Vagator, India

bringing in the catch in Benaulim

In retrospect, Mangalore was a very good small city to live in.  I could see returning for a longer stay.  I spent a week in Goa after that, a little further north up the coast.  A night in Benaulim and the rest of the week in Vagator.  The beaches consist of easy-going communities, saturated with palm trees and locals.  The locals consist largely of Catholics and Hindus.  The Portuguese influence from the colonial times a few centuries ago lingers on, and the communities feel a little more like Central America than India.  I really liked Vagator, but I think that Baga is the beach for me next time.

Just after that I headed northeast to Belgaum, and spent a night in Kolhapur on my way up to Mumbai.  More later.


view from hotel window in Mangalore