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Thursday, October 2

MORLEY SHAYUK : LOTUS


Viewing Morley Shayuk's evocative new exhibition Lotus at Paul Petro gallery, it's hard to pinpoint why everything looks so familiar and yet so strange.  He has created pieces rooted in age-old spiritual ideas, referencing sun worship and the changing seasons, and has executed them using the most mundane--even tacky--renovation materials.  You will recognize Durabond stucco, the building material used to cover styrofoam, a material that has become pervasive in exterior renovation and architecture today. There are strange glass shapes that if assembled would create a standard Home Depot door window pattern; there's also an ugly plastic vent, flimsy mouldings, and pressure-treated lumber.

Shayuk's rays of sunshine, organic symbols, and Egyptian-style reliefs have been manipulated, abstracted and hidden by these various building materials, yet their strength and original meaning comes through.  This new collection of works seem to question not just aesthetic beauty but the value of art, poetry, and spirituality in our contemporary age. The seemingly random placement of little bits of glass, stone, and ceramic draws the eye, forcing the viewer to look closer, looking for patterns and meaning and questioning what is precious.  Shayuk looks to our modern man-made landscape and computer-designed structures and asks how this infrastructure aligns with the human soul.

We were particularly intrigued by After Jay Isaac, a copy of a sculpture by the Toronto artist Jay Isaac. Shayuk has "renovated" Isaac's piece, originally made from found pieces of old trim, by recreating these wood elements out of styrofoam and covering them with stucco.  What was originally a raw expression of form and line has become a premeditated assembly. Through this "renovation," the piece becomes bloated and fake, bringing to mind Victorian-era buildings that have been "updated" by styrofoam facades, complete with false keystone and oversized moulding. The copy becomes a controlled cry for reality, whether in the environment around us or in the way we live.

There will be a closing reception at Paul Petro Gallery, 980 Queen W, for Lotus on Saturday October 4, from 2-5 pm, along with Shelagh Keeley's After Lucretius/de rerum naura.




















Monday, September 8

JUNCTION TWINS


junction n. 1 a point at which two or more things are joined. 2 a place where two or more railway lines or roads meet, unite, or cross. 3 the act or instance of joining. (The Canadian Oxford Dictionary)

Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood, according to the West Toronto Junction Historical Society, “began as an accident of geography: the junction of Indian trails which became highways and finally railways.”

Whatever its origins, and whatever the reason (converging ley lines?) something about the Junction seems to breed joinings, and not just of railway tracks. The local stores, for instance, have some surprising junctions of their own. The main drag, which stretches for several kilometres along Dundas Street West, from about Keele to Runnymede, has an unusually high number of twinned businesses—two stores of the same type existing side by side and producing interesting effects of skewed double vision.

Take the junction of these two, which seems to sum up the fever-pitch gentrification of the neighbourhood. With a deranged proliferation of hand-lettered signs, Sweet Trolley Bakery seems to be reacting to the newer gluten-free, vegan Bunner’s like a desperate lover on the way out, screaming about her cinnamon buns while her rival sits coolly by, confident that her reputation and stylish facade will do the trick.



A similar old-versus-new dynamic exists with these side-by-side salons, although the sense of rivalry is not quite as strong.  Rather, with Eva’s old-school vertical blinds and dark interior you get the feeling of the elderly pro handing on her knowledge to the perky newcomer, with her bubbly sign and bright, hopeful display of Moroccanoil products.

Although there’s something slightly off about both of them. There’s a well-established tendency for salons to be named with hair-related puns—The Mane Event, Headonizm, Curl Up & Dye—and Hair Sprung seems to be trying to follow this trend, but I can’t quite figure out the reference. Eva’s is more simply named, but the disembodied heads on the sign and window produce a disquieting effect, compounded by that ectoplasmic “Eva’s” swoosh emanating from the bottom one. A demon barber-ella and her trainee? Perhaps Sweet Trolley could make the pies. Or, even more diabolically, Bunner's could, for consumption by vegans...




The Book Exchange and Dencan Books are the Felix and Oscar of used bookstores, with The Book Exchange’s select collection of neatly arranged, high-quality books sitting fussily beside Dencan’s sprawling, hoarder-like stacks. You imagine TBE fastidiously shooing stray volumes back to join their fading fellows in Dencan’s cascading window display. But despite their differences, these two have the feeling of grudging friends, or at least brothers in arms. It’s a tough world out there for a used bookstore and if this odd couple can lean on each other to survive a little longer, the Junction will be better off for it.

by Sara Goodchild






Thursday, September 4

ARTISTS OF THE LIMBERLOST


It hasn't been the sunniest summer in cottage country.  On a mid-August weekend with temperatures in the low teens and storm clouds brewing, we gave up on swimming and deck staining and headed out to Muskoka's Summer Studio Tour presented by the Artists of the Limberlost. This collective takes their name from a scenic and winding road close to Huntsville. At each stop we rushed inside to avoid the pelting rain and enjoyed both the work and the different cottage styles.

I was very taken with the above sculpture by Brenda Wainman Goulet.  It reminds me of the Greenwich character from the children's book series The Dark is Rising (a must read for the ten year olds in your life).  My favourite stop was at Jerry Friedman's place.  He's a driftwood artist and had set up an interactive display in his shed.  His cottage was the only on the tour untouched by "updates" and  I particularly enjoyed the names he has attributed to his sculptures.










Tuesday, September 2

CHAPEL OF SILENCE



In an age where churches and chapels are being repurposed into residential condos or community centres, the Finnish decided to build a brand new chapel in the heart of hip Helsinki.  It's not entirely clear what brand of religion will be practiced here, instead, the Kampii Chapel of Silence was erected with the intention of creating a quiet space in the bustling city.  Completed in 2012 and designed by Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola and Mikko Summanen, the chapel is operated on a partnership basis by the Helsinki Parish Union, the Espoo and Vantaa parish unions (neighbouring cities), and the Social Services Department of the City of Helsinki.   

The chapel is ecumenical and welcomes everyone irrespective of religion, philosophy or background. The denomination is listed as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and plans to 'hold regular moments of prayer in the future'.  This very non-specific statement alludes to the inclusive nature of the chapel where currently no church services are being held.   

In a culture where people are raised to live with less and share more public space, I think it's a beautiful thing to construct award winning architecture for the purpose of creating a place for peace, calm and a moment to reflect.  Toronto could look to this model and repurpose our churches and chapels into neutral, non-denominational sacred/spiritual spaces.  For this to happen we'd have to prioritize our socialist ideals and turn away from money-making as the primary goal for a successful city.