Located in Canada’s most dynamic, cosmopolitan city, Art Toronto has come into its own as the place to find some of the best work being made in the country today. Now in its 16th year, the fair, housed in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, draws the best Canadian galleries, but also a strong selection from New York, Europe, and Asia. This year’s fair includes a Focus program looking at Latin America, including cutting-edge work from Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia that will be shown in Toronto for the first time. But for many collectors and curators, it’s a chance to see the wide variety of creative energy at work in studios across Canada. We selected 10 Canadian artists to keep on your radar.
8eleven in Art Toronto Projects
The WiFi is the Body, 8eleven, 2015. Image courtesy of 8eleven.
The Toronto-based shifting artist collective 8eleven is up to its sly antics again. (Its name pays satirical homage to the 7-Eleven chain.) As part of the fair’s Projects section, they’re installing a series of enormous sculptural heads (thanks in part to a grant from the Ontario Arts Council) resembling the ancient Easter Island Moai figures. While the authentic figures were thought to contain a sacred spirit, these versions play host to a Wi-Fi hotspot. According to Xenia Benivolski, co-founder of 8Eleven (which operates a small space in Toronto), last year no one could connect to the internet inside Metro Toronto Convention Centre, so she expects fairgoers to stand right beside the artwork while completely ignoring it to stare at their phones. “We want to raise questions about status and spiritual capital at a commercial art fair, while providing a connection to the ether,” she says.
The young Canadian comedic sensation first made waves with her faux designer bread bags—painted urethane-cast bakery items emblazoned with luxury labels. After making mouths water at last year’s NADA New York fair with a stack of hyper-real pancakes smothered with syrup on a plinth, Wise makes her Art Toronto debut with seductive new resin treats. A witty video artist, photographer (known for binging on selfies), and painter, as well as a sculptor, Wise has a surprisingly sophisticated ability to blur high and low appetites at the tender age of 25.
Jim Holyoak working on an ink painting. Image courtesy of Galerie Donald Browne.
If you make it to Art Toronto and see someone drenched in black ink, it’s likely Holyoak. He’s covering his gallery’s booth with 21 feet of paper, which he’ll paint over the course of the fair to create Entangled, one of his super-immersive inky environments. Born in Michigan but raised in the forests of British Columbia, the Montreal-based Holyoak has an imagination full of dense landscapes and wild creatures, which he renders with just the right mix of fantastical flair and painstaking detail. Before earning his MFA, he studied with a master ink painter in China—evidenced in his extraordinary brushwork.
Taking it to the streets Guerilla Girls–style, the photographer made a name for herself last spring when she plastered the city of Winnipeg with her “Perception” series (2014) of posters, which challenges racial stereotypes of Aboriginal Canadians. Gurevich, which recently added her to its stable, is taking the opportunity to spotlight an earlier, lesser-known series of photographs called “Cyborg Hybrids.” Here, Adams created portraits of mixed-race artists that visually emulate the doctrine of the “Cyborg Manifesto” by Donna Haraway, which talks about a post-gender, post-race, high-tech world. Adams is never without humor. Each wears a white t-shirt beaded with an ironic label: “Halfbreed,” “Savage, It’s OK I’m White Too,” and “Spiritual by Default.”
This Japanese–born, Toronto–based painter has been attracting attention as part of a growing contingent of young artists recently identified as “New Realist Canadian Painters,” says dealer Metivier. Blending a painterly Old Master style with a subtle Japanese animation aesthetic, he captures a melancholic side of 21st–century youth culture. Last year his show at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art included a painting called The Nightwatchers (2014), an ode to Rembrandt with a dose of digital narcissism. It’s an enticing mix. Whether you like his subject matter or not, you can’t deny that his delicate brushwork and use of light and shade seems mature beyond his years.
Canada’s rugged topography has inspired artists for decades. The Ottawa-based Lynch, however, seems less interested in the great outdoors than the opportunities for wild, artistic experimentation and the cultural analysis that it yields. Lynch’s quietly psychedelic landscapes look as though he painted a picture, cut out bits and pieces of it, and then pasted them back in the wrong place. (They are not, in fact, collages, but cohesive acrylic and oil paintings.) His canvases are just part of the picture: for Art Toronto, he’s recreating a large part of his installation The Pass (2014–15), an archive of items (including his paintings) addressing the history of the fur trade, resource extraction, and forced labor camps in a remote area near the British Columbia/Alberta border.
Myre’s ability to translate the conceptual into beautiful abstractions lands her on this list. A Montreal-born Algonquin, the artist spent years (with the help of others) stitching over every single letter of the 56-page Indian Act with beads. The 1876 document established guidelines for governing Aboriginal Canadians and overseeing their assimilation into Canadian society. At Art Toronto, she’s presenting striking black-and-white scans of the backs of these beaded pages. A mesmerizing, almost three-dimensional weft and warp emerges with the excess threads wildly poking out of the grid, forming an abstract, calligraphic language of their own.
There’s a long tradition of landscape painting in Canada, so to stay above the fray takes a different kind of vision. Craig Morphew sees the world in constant motion and captures that energy with surprising serenity. All in a single moment, wind blows, leaves rustle, clouds rush by—and yet nothing is blurry or frenzied. Her angular style is inspired by the aesthetic of Japanese woodblock printing, as are her limpid colors. At times, her images of skies and horizons bring to mind Japanese animation, where nothing is ever static. It’s unusual to see that kind of energy ascribed to beautiful, desolate landscapes.
It’s not surprising to learn that Gertler, who recently signed on with Corkin, has a background in architecture (as well as art). The Toronto-raised artist is based in Princeton, New Jersey now, where he’s finishing his graduate degree at the Princeton University School of Architecture. But he’s still deeply connected to the Toronto scene, and recently co-founded The Studio at 93H, an art space for short-term residencies in an abandoned coach house in the city. To make his exquisite black-and-white works, he digitally combines his own drawings with photographs, some taken, some found. Seamlessly mixing an unlikely variety of visual clues—landscapes, architectural renderings, archaeological studies—he creates strangely compelling scenes that hint at another dimension, one with different rules about the nature of time, space, and scale. “He’s thinking about a new world order, via architecture,” says dealer Jane Corkin, who is presenting his first solo show with the gallery next year.
The work of Toronto-based Lam, a relatively recent grad of OCAD University (Canada’s best-known art school) exemplifies a growing movement toward highly skilled, labor-intensive artmaking. Mixing expert lithography and paper-cutting, she creates elaborate, dreamy installations that push the sculptural possibilities of paper. This is her debut at a major art fair and her work is sure to draw attention, not only for the complex handiwork involved, but because it has a beautiful graphic simplicity and intriguing narrative quality.