This past Wednesday, artist and curator for Urban Gallery ALLEN SHUGAR unveiled his stunning “Summer Sumachs” painting installed in the new luxury Chartwell retirement residence called The Sumach located on…Sumach Street (of course!) in downtown Toronto.Located inside the entrance foyer, the 3 x 3 panel painting overlooks the reception desk where residents and visitors can enjoy viewing Allen’s interpretation of the native sumach tree in full bloom – perfect for brightening up those grey winter days. I took the opportunity to briefly interview the artist about this work……
Allen, congratulations on your recently unveiled installation at the new Chartwell retirement residence in downtown Toronto. Being on Sumach Street, your painting featuring the colourful sumach tree on multiple panels fits perfectly into the space – tell us how you were contacted for this commissioned work. At Urban Gallery, we occasionally receive requests from companies (in this case Daniels Corporation) for artists to submit proposals for commissioned art works. In the past, we have passed these requests on to artists who have exhibited in the gallery and whose work we felt was particularly suited to the project – resulting in some successful and lucrative commissions for those artists! I myself had never responded to one of these requests before, but this one really sounded like it was right in line with the type of work I like to do, so I thought, why not!
How long did this magnificent work take to complete, and in what medium did you work? The painting is oil-on-canvas. I was on a very strict schedule in order to meet a pre-established installation date. I had just slightly over 2 months to complete the work and this had to include enough drying time (oil paint is slow to dry) so that the pieces could be handled safely for installation. It was a very tight timeline for a painting of this scale and I really had to work furiously in order to meet the deadline!
Did the client give you certain parameters or directions as to content and style of your work? A lot of my paintings are nature studies and it was some of those that I sent off as examples of the type of work I was proposing. The client was particularly interested in a painting of mine called TRANSITORY FOREST which is painted on 9 panels and totals 6 feet square in size. They requested a painting of the same size and format but they wanted Sumach, in full summer bloom, as the subject matter. This made perfect sense with the new building being called The Sumach Building, located on Sumach Street in downtown Toronto and it suited me just fine, because I’ve always admired Sumach trees and this gave me the opportunity to paint them.
As the curator of Urban Gallery (since it opened in 2012) who is responsible for working directly with the individual guest artists organizing the hanging of each month’s shows, how does it feel to see your own work presented in such a fashion? I’m very pleased to have this work installed in a public location. It’s on a scale that would make it unlikely to find a home in a private residence and here, in the lobby of The Sumach Building, it can be enjoyed by all the residents and their guests throughout the year. I think it might be particularly appreciated in the winter when it can almost stand in for that much missed glimpse of green from a window.Any other commissions on the horizon, and how about any upcoming shows of your work at the gallery? I did complete another commission just before starting on this one. It was a smaller work painted on 3 panels for a residential installation. It was also a nature study entitled “Morning Mist” (pictured below) and depicted a branch of a Ginkgo tree in Autumn colour. At the moment, I am busy working on a number of paintings with a wide variety of subjects – nature, figurative and abstract – which I hope will become part of my next show at Urban Gallery. Thanks to hosts Katrina (Lifestyle & Programs Mgr) and Margaret (Gen’l Manager for the building) for arranging the visit and hosting an artist talk with a group of residents who were interested in the art hanging in the various community rooms in the building. Here, Allen engages with his very enthusiastic audience… We were also given a tour of this new residence by Katrina and oh my, the attention to detail in the fixtures and fittings…wow! They have a small cinema, a reading room, a games room, a well-appointed gym, a large rooftop patio and a fabulous full-service dining room; there are several layouts & sizes for the rental units all with washer/dryers, dishwashers…all the mod cons. The Sumach offers a selection of personal services for those needing a little extra care, too. Definitely worth checking out if you are planning for retirement. www.thesumachbychartwell.com
To learn about Allen, visit his website www.allenshugar.com to see past and current artworks, and feel free to drop into Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East, Toronto, to view works he’s curated for other artists. urbangallery.ca