For better or worse, 29Rooms raises important questions about art in the age of Instagram - - Canadanewsmedia
Connect with us


For better or worse, 29Rooms raises important questions about art in the age of Instagram –



Wildthing Vintage owner Erica Peck poses in front of an exhibit at 29Rooms. (Photo by Graham Isador)

For their annual travelling pop museum 29Rooms, culture website Refinery 29 and their curatorial team collaborate with visual creators, musicians and local artists to fill a warehouse with 29 unique installations. The Toronto stop features a range of thought-provoking participatory performances, colourful collage walls and mesmerizing light shows — but it also features a number of branded booths hoping to use the proximity to authentic art to borrow some version of clout, and the result leaves the museum feeling disoriented.

Just a few steps from A LONG LINE OF QUEENDOM — a piece dedicated to the celebration of Black female excellence — is Shop Class. Shop Class is sponsored by major Canadian retailer Shoppers Drug Mart and encourages onlookers to put together their best beauty tool kit by playing with fake power tools. The throughline behind 29Rooms’ installations pushes a positive and necessary message of female empowerment, but the constant bombardment of sponsors seems to suggest that striving for equality also involves buying a lot of stuff.

While the synergistic corporate strategizing can feel alienating for some, 29Rooms does succeed in making space for creators and highlighting their work for a new audience. Featured in the Toronto rendition of the museum is self described neo-folk artist Hannah Epstein, otherwise known by the stage name hanski. Epstein is a local to Toronto whose work uses fabric and other textiles to reimagine the iconography of popular culture. Her piece Heads or Tails is a playful take on everyday materials presented with a sense of mischief and interactivity. It appears as a part of 29Rooms’ Art Park. While she was grateful to be included in the show, she does have reservations.

Hannah Epstein. (Photo by Graham Isador)

“The whole event falls under what I call selfie bait, which seems to be a trend in art,” Epstein tells CBC Arts. “From institutions like the AGO bringing in Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors to your average pop-up space boasting a cheap, novelty photo-op for you and your friends. Being featured in this kind of an art-adjacent spectacle — like 29Rooms — is in some respects a bad career move as it presents work in a context that seems concerned only with exploiting mass audiences. At the same time, I value the mainstream dialogue and want to be a part of it. Having to enter that kind of broader conversation seems to require participation in these more commercial spaces, so it’s something I feel has been necessary but am not sure if I would do it again…I feel that 29Rooms benefits more from being associated with cool artists than the artists really benefit from being associated with a big corporate brand.”

I feel that 29Rooms benefits more from being associated with cool artists than the artists really benefit from being associated with a big corporate brand.– Hannah Epstein, artist

Another local artist featured in the exhibit is Maria Qamar, best known by her online alias HATECOPY. Qamar was born in Pakistan and moved to Mississauga at age nine. She rose to fame on Instagram with satirical pop art panels that explore the differences and similarities between South Asian and North American culture, and to date she has gathered an impressive 193,000 followers on the platform. In 2017 she released Trust No Aunty, a guidebook for girls that combines her unique drawings with musings and anecdotes from her day-to-day life, DIY beauty hacks and even a few recipes. For her collaboration with 29Rooms, HATECOPY was tasked with putting together a billboard showcasing her art. Witnessing Qamar’s pieces on such a large scale — as opposed to looking at her art on a phone or computer screen — brought a new perspective on the work.

HATECOPY. (Photo by Graham Isador)

The fact that HATECOPY has a huge social media following plays into another theme of 29Rooms, where the experience of the pop museum is as much about the documentation of the art on social media as witnessing the art itself. Instead of reckoning with the themes and motifs of the pieces in the present space, audiences are encouraged to snap photos and share the pictures to their online followings. The way audiences interact with the 29Rooms asks bigger questions about trends in the art world. Are we creating work specifically to be shared on the internet? Is there a way to authentically engage with visual art if the art is consumed through your phone camera? What does authentically engaging with art even look like, anyway?

If the purpose of art is to engage viewers in conversations about the pieces, then 29Rooms is undeniably a success — but the conversations may not have been what they intended.

29Rooms. To October 6. Toronto.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Edmonton autistic artist remembered for achieving 'improbable territory' –




Colleagues, family and friends are mourning the death of Matthew Wong, an Edmonton artist diagnosed with autism who was recognized internationally for his landscape paintings. 

Wong, 35, died on Oct. 2. Family and friends confirmed he died by suicide.

“I am in total shock,” said Monita Cheng, Wong’s mother.

“He’s an extremely talented person. He’s a lovely son. He’s extremely kind. He cares about people; he loves to help people,” she said. 

“He was voracious in everything that he did in life,” said Brendan Dugan, the owner of Karma, a gallery in New York City that represented Wong. 

“He accomplished more in the short time he was painting and making work than most people probably do in their whole lives,” he said. 

‘Instant recognition of his talent’ 

According to Dugan, Wong wasn’t trained as a painter; his artwork started from poetry and then translated into photography. He taught himself how to paint. 

Wong earned a bachelor of arts degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2007. In 2013, he completed a masters of fine arts in photography at City University of Hong Kong. 

Matthew Wong’s oil on canvas painting, The Space Between Trees, hangs at Karma, in New York City. (Submitted by Karma/Estate of Matthew Wong)

“Matthew was very unusual in a lot of ways, his presence was kind of uncanny,” Dugan said. 

He first met Wong through Outside, a group art show hosted by Karma on Sept. 3, 2016. 

“Once Matthew was included in this group show, there was kind of an immediate and instant recognition of his talent,” Dugan said. 

“There was always this kind of layering of symbolism and poetry, within the idea of a landscape or nature.”  

‘Improbable territory for a young artist’ 

By 35, Wong had three solo exhibitions — two in Hong Kong and one in New York City. He has one more with Karma that’s forthcoming. Wong was also featured in 13 group exhibitions and two publications. 

David Moos, the owner of David Moos Art Advisory, said he came across Wong’s work at Karma.

Moos was also the modern and contemporary curator for the Art Gallery of Ontario from 2004 to 2011. 

Wong’s mother, Monita Cheng, says he was a self-taught artist. He was autistic and diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome at 15. (Peter Evans/CBC)

“Painting is an extremely challenging medium. It’s a demanding and difficult medium today to make meaningful and relevant paintings, and I think Matthew accomplished that at the very highest level which is remarkable for a person his age,” Moos said. 

“I think he brought his life experience to bear on what is improbable territory for a young artist to to tackle.”

Moos said Wong’s paintings allow people to “step aside from our everyday realm.”

“To look to Van Gogh is almost anecdotal at this point,” he said. “It is utterly contemporary. There’s there’s a plain spoken beauty in his work that I think is genuine and earnest.” 

Mental health struggles 

Wong was born in Toronto on March 8, 1984, though he and his family moved frequently between Hong Kong and Toronto.

According to Cheng, Wong struggled with depression while growing up. 

He was diagnosed with autism as a child and, by 14, he was diagnosed with depression and prescribed anti-depressants.

A photo of Wong as a child, found in his first poetry book. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Wong began seeing a psychiatrist at four years old.

He also saw child psychologists to help him with his social skills, Cheng said, adding it was difficult for Wong to make friends because they moved often. 

By 16, doctors diagnosed Wong with Tourette syndrome, a brain condition causing people to make involuntary sounds and movements. 

“He’d try different jobs and he says it’s not possible for him because he always had problems. His interpersonal skills were very, very poor,” Cheng said. 

Wong’s paintings sit in his studio, located on 53rd Avenue and 87 Street in Edmonton. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Cheng said her son loved North America and disliked Hong Kong, but he continued to live there because collectors there supported his paintings. 

In 2016, Wong relocated to Edmonton with his parents. They lived closed to the High Level Bridge. 

“Even when we were travelling, he would have have a sketchbook, he would sit down by Starbucks, get coffee [and] he would just sketch and draw,” Cheng said. “He said he loved Edmonton.” 

It was in Edmonton that Wong met Matthew Higgs, director of White Columns, a gallery in New York City, which later featured Wong’s art. 

‘He felt that he’s very lucky’ 

Cheng said despite her son’s struggles, he knew he was “lucky.” 

“Even though he suffers a lot because of the mental issues, he felt that he’s very lucky,” she said. “I think Matthew really wanted to be recognized as a great Canadian artist.” 

“Me and my husband, we are extremely proud of our son. He had a lot of struggle, but he also has a very strong mind.

A photo of one of Wong’s paintings in his Edmonton studio. (Peter Evans/CBC)

He’s like rock solid, you know.” 

Wong’s family and colleagues are holding a memorial service at the Connelly-McKinley Funeral Home, at 100th Avenue and 114th Street  on Oct. 21  at 1 p.m. 

The Karma gallery in New York City will also host an exhibit featuring Wong’s work, planned before Wong’s death. The exhibit is called Blue and runs from Nov. 8 to Dec. 22.

A photo of one of Wong’s paintings, sitting in his Edmonton studio. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Saskatoon tattoo artist has year-long wait list – Global News




Tattoo artist Jesse Zabos’ schedule is full for the next year.

“I will be opening my books in January and we will see how things go,” he told Global News.

Appointments for Zabos and the four other artists who work at his tattoo shop, Art Sharks Tattoo, are scarce because of the demand for their unique designs.

Regina tattoo shop targeted by thieves for the 3rd time this year

“For inspiration we will take what the client wants, like what their ideas are, and then we will go from there,” he said.

“As artists we do a lot of custom stuff, so we create everything mostly from what’s inside our heads.”

He said designing something the client likes enough to carry with them for the rest of their life involves discussions, which can get very personal.

Story continues below advertisement

“I have done a few like memorial pieces and stuff that’s really kind of touched the customer,” he said.

‘I never want to forget them’: Memorial tattoos help people cope with loss, grief

“I think it’s good to help them heal through sometimes a tattoo as well.”

Darla Lindbjerg, CEO of the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, said the success makes sense, given the quality of the tattoo.

“If people are having a good experience and you are offering a great quality product, people will come back,” she said.

Zabos said part of the reward is knowing his art has such intense meaning for those who wear it.

“Sometimes it gets a little emotional when you finish the tattoo, just to have that closure for some people depending on what the situation of the tattoo is,” he said.

“But it’s really satisfying to make them happy and (know) they can enjoy it for the rest of their lives.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Artist looking to make Waterloo Region more 'WorldRooted' –




It’s a movement drawing community together in a positive place, and it’s coming to the Region. 

‘WorldRooted: the Art Project for People’ founder Bethany Ann Davidson from Goderich, says they have been organizing art shows and cultural events to provide a space for people to develop their networks and find support.

“We’re really just looking to help people find their voice, to support charities both locally and around the world, shine a light on the good and let people connect.” says Davidson.

Davidson says she began WorldRooted in 2018, after learning that a friend and her family were experiencing survivor’s guilt after they had moved to Canada from Syria.

She says her friend and her husband were sending everything they could back to their families who had nothing. 

“I really wanted them to know that I felt for them, so I made a painting and when I sold it, I gave all of the money to them.” says Davidson, “And it’s been kind of like that ever since.”

On October 26th, WorldRooted will be in Waterloo to hold an art event at the Seven Shores Community Cafe.

The solo art show gives residents the opportunity to check out Davidson’s latest work and will offer food and beverages for purchase.

According to Davidson, the location for this event was chosen because of her relationship with co-owners of the cafe and the community built around Seven Shores Cafe.

“My friends Steve and Deb Tulloch, who co-own Seven Shores Cafe, they really had a large impact on me on what it means to love and to live well.” says Davidson, “So when I said  ‘Hey, I would love to have an artisan at your cafe,’ they said ‘Hey, that would be awesome!’ ” 

“We’re just going to get together, those of us who are available that night.” says Davidson, “There will be live music, and we’re just going to have a really nice time.”

Davidson says because of the Tulloch’s involvement with the International Association for Refugees Canada, and their relationship with Adventure4Change owner Jeremy Horne, she decided to donate 25 per cent of all proceeds on October 26th to these charities, and Reception House Waterloo Region.

Davidson says her display hanging at the cafe focuses on food like chickpeas, coffee plants and sugar cane, plants that are grown in different countries but are used everyday by Canadians. 

“A lot of Canadians have seen these pieces and not known what the plant was that was in the art,” says Davidson, “And that’s because they didn’t grown up growing coffee plants, or sugar cane or whatever else.”

“It’s meant to help us see more of our global village, and help then to also recognize that there are people in our community who do recognize these plants and do have a past that is closely connected to this flora.”

Davidson says with her work and WorldRooted, she hopes to inspire conversation between people to foster better understanding each other.

“I believe that artists make art because they have something that needs to come out.” says Davidson, “I’m just putting it out there for people to see, and hopefully people want to buy and take it home, and it becomes a conversation starter for the rest of their lives.”  

To learn more about the event, click here

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading