Category Archives: Art

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PHOTOGRAPHIC ARTIST ANDRE VITTORIO OPENS SOLO SHOW @ URBAN GALLERY

Last Saturday, it was a full house at URBAN GALLERY for the opening reception of ANDRE VITTORIO‘s “Abstractions on Metal” solo show of photographic art. running until April 28th, the show features stunning B&W architectural portraits from around the world (the Eiffel Tower looks magnificent)….Paris….as well as a series of brightly coloured shots of the waters surrounding the Venetian island of Murano (below). In fact, the photos reminded me of the fine Murano glass work for which the artisans of the island became famous.COLOUR ABSTRACTIONS Andre Vittorio April 201820180407_140936Andre was thrilled with the turnout of family, friends and fans of his work…20180407_14104620180407_151738 20180407_162800Snap’d newspaper photographer Kate McGartland dropped by to cover the show – here’s Andre showing her his Murano series which certainly captured her attention!20180407_143849And KJ Mullins, publisher of NEWZ4U.ca also came by to cover the event, seen here below 2nd from left chatting with Wayne Abell (at left) of Urban Catering (who supplied the yummy refreshments).20180407_151916Gallery director Calvin Hambrook (below left) was on hand to welcome other artists, including Tunde Omotoye (far right) who may be participating in an upcoming group show at the gallery.20180407_140755Prior to the guests arriving, I managed to grab a few minutes to interview Andre ……

Congratulation, Andre, on a fantastic show…and the sales started early! I watched as the first of the Murano series sold to a very happy fan! I believe it was Murano #8.20180407_171042

“Abstractions on Metal” runs throughout the month of April so if you’d like to spend time with gorgeous, unique artwork, visit Urban Gallery at 400 Queen st East, Toronto – check their website for directions and gallery hours: www.UrbanGallery.ca20180407_13344220180407_13352820180407_141018

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Exciting solo show by Dutch-born Artist PRISCILLA KOOPMAN runs to April 15th

I had the pleasure of meeting PRISCILLA KOOPMAN last year when she was part of the group show by Centennial College Studio Arts Program (1st yr students) hosted at Urban Gallery, Toronto. Although she herself is soft-spoken and humble, her work did all the talking for her….intense, intricate and provocative! Here she is pictured below at left, with my sister, Jennifer, who was visiting from Australia – Jenny was very taken with Priscilla’s work.20170325_142837Last week I visited Priscilla’s solo exhibition “Femme Empiricism” in The Corridor Gallery at the Story Arts Centre (2nd floor) located at 951 Carlaw in Toronto. Wow, what a difference a year makes – more intense details and deeper stories behind each piece and each tiny detail featured on each.20180405_143523 20180405_140034Each artwork illustrates graphic abuse and the sexualization of women as a whole, and of childhood incidents experienced personally by the artist. Speaking with Priscilla, it’s obvious that painting has been her salvation; the perfect healing therapy to calm her demons and allow her to grow artistically and spiritually from the darker, earlier works shown at the beginning of the show to the colourful lightness of her more recent works – sky blues, various hues of pinks, greens and golds.
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Here’s Priscilla to tell you about her art….

I particularly love her fishies…happy little multi-coloured koi swimming across the open waters…20180405_14075320180405_140058Priscilla is planning on returning to The Netherlands this summer so hurry to see her show which runs to April 15th. You can even make an appointment to view the show with the artist herself – details on her Instagram: @allicsirpart20180405_143418

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CENTENNIAL COLLEGE STUDIO ARTS 1ST YR STUDENTS PRESENT “WAIT, WHAT?”

Each year, URBAN GALLERY in Toronto hosts a 10-day exhibition of works from the first year students of the Centennial College Studio Arts program, and this year’s show is titled “Wait, What?”.  Not what you would normally expect from a group of ambitious emerging artists – layered universes of double meaning, hope, despair, humour, longing, madness, genius, and skillful virtuosity. All contained within innocuous 18″ square shadow boxes. You will leave the show thinking “wait, what?”…20180317_134011 20180317_134109 20180317_134039Fairchild Chinese TV news was on hand to record the opening reception and interview the artists and the dept. head….20180317_133944 20180317_135027One of the mature students, F. Mehtap Mertdogan, was there with her family and proudly posed in front of her stunning 3D mosaic titled “Enough!” (below)20180317_135137 20180317_142125(0)The 23 artworks on show offered subjects, mediums and colour palettes to suit every taste and pocketbook – prices range from $200 to $450 – a very affordable way to start collecting your favourite emerging Canadian artists. 20180317_13400320180317_13403320180317_13395520180317_13404520180317_13413820180317_134129Congratulations to all the artists: Mattheas Gabber, Yogin Patel, Kumar Ayyappa, Fiona Wei, Lilian Jang, Lucas Thomas, Arnold Farrell, CL Fisher, Bee Fawn, Alexandria A. Allen-Papadopoylos, Jancy Sivanantham, Lexx Willis, Takanya Marsh, Titar Awua-Imande, Danielle Nothmann, Sharon Zhang, Atheena Sureshmohan, Gabriella Berdugo, Hyewon Kim, Natalie Plociennik, Wayne Wu, Kai Hart and F. Mehtap Mertdogan.wait what“Wait, What?” runs until Saturday March 24th (5pm) at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen st East, Toronto. Check the website for times & more details: www.urbangallery.caUG-Logo-url

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Meet artist & sculptor Osvaldo Napoli, an overnight success 50yrs in the making!!

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Osvaldo “Ozzie” Napoli has been an artist all his life but only recently has he decided to share his creativity with the world.  As he prepares for his first solo exhibition later this year at Urban Gallery in Toronto, Ozzie’s been reviewing his past work and assessing his latest for inclusion. From spectacular bronze sculptures and freestanding wire pieces that will stop you in your tracks, to imaginative 3D wall art comprised of cellphone and computer components, his work provokes conversation, inspiration and adoration! One of my favourite pieces is titled “Bliss” (see below) and is a piece that Ozzie holds dear to his heart….and we can see why.20180129_123307 20180129_123440(0)I recently joined Ozzie for a photo shoot at his Richmond Hill studio of his latest works to add to his website (see end of story for link) and I asked him a few questions about his life, his inspiration and his art.

Chris Chung photographing Ozzie's work

Chris Chung photographing Ozzie’s work

What first inspired you to paint and sculpt?  As a child I was fascinated by the wonders and colors of carnival season in Uruguay.  I used to carve and paint masks from palm tree branches and my friend and I wore them mimicking the dancers and performers at the parades in my neighborhood. [that early influence is clearly reflected in his current work – below]20180129_124126 20180129_124836Who was your sculpting mentor/teacher and how did he impact what you create now?  My mentor and friend was Canadian artist, writer and philosopher Sorel Etrog, best known as a sculptor. He taught me to see subtleties between strengths and weaknesses of composition and content. He also encouraged me to always approach art from my heart with clarity and vision.20180129_134932 20180129_135137You work predominantly in wire, creating stunning human-like characters and fantastical creatures – how do you come up with such ideas?  My ideas come mainly from real life stories and situations that we all find ourselves in as part of our everyday life….but with an added touch of fantasy and whimsy. I interpret the mystical and esoteric aspects of people and incorporate those into most of my work.    20180129_122409

Photo courtesy Chris Chung

Photo courtesy Chris Chung

You also incorporate components from cellphones and computers in freestanding and 3D wall art – where do you find these bits’n’bobs? Surely you don’t smash your own phones?!  I rely on the generosity of family, friends and neighbors to supply me with their recyclable e-trash; they are more than happy to donate to my stockpile and at the same time, get rid of their unwanted electronics.DSC_0029 (1)

Photo courtesy of Chris Chung

Photo courtesy of Chris Chung

You have numerous pieces done in bronze – how difficult is it to cast and where do you undertake that task?  I form the original work in sculptor’s plasticine or wax and then take it to the foundry to be put through a rigorous process where a rubber and plaster mold is made to create a wax-like figure which is then coated with a compound called ceramic. That is then melted afterwards to produce a new mold that can handle the molten bronze…et voila! The sculpture is done and ready to be colored by a process called patina. The whole procedure could take up to three months before its completion. Whew!

Photo courtesy of Chris Chung

Photo courtesy of Chris Chung

Photo courtesy of Chris Chung

Photo courtesy of Chris Chung

You are now starting to exhibit your work as a mature artist – has waiting this long to share your work with the public been beneficial to you as an artist?  Yes, because I now have the confidence to create with conviction and sound craftsmanship.  I felt that I needed that time to create a vast collection of work which I am now ready to share with the world.

Photo courtesy of Chris Chung

Photo courtesy of Chris Chung

In the fall, you have your first solo show at Urban Gallery in Toronto – what are your expectations?  I’m excited to show my collections to the public and meet art lovers who come out to support the launch of my month-long show. I’m also hoping to receive a good response to my work and gain attention from art critics and collectors. I would love for my works to go out into the world to inspire, provoke, entertain and enhance people’s understanding of the creative process.20180129_13013020180129_130330Yes, I’m excited, too, to see Ozzie’s work in a gallery and see/hear how people relate and react to each piece. I myself was particular drawn to this caged heart (below) …a perfect metaphor for my Valentine’s this year…LOL!!20180129_132039 20180129_131921You can find more photos of Ozzie’s work and learn about his artistic approach to each subject at:  www.artbyozz.com  and keep the month of October free to visit his solo show at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East, Toronto.20180129_121136(0) 20180129_131431 20180129_125447 20180129_130856

 

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Walk the aisles, meet the artists at this year’s Artist Project, Toronto

It was another successful Artist Project here in Toronto for several of my artist friends who sold numerous works to enthusiastic collectors this past weekend.  Hosted in the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place, I walked the aisles set up in the cavernous hall, meeting new artists as well as dropping in on old friends and colleagues. Join me for this virtual visit:20180223_122704Let’s start off with this exuberant and talented artist, David Shepherd (above), whose incredible cloud studies and hyper realism still life paintings blew me away.  www.davidshepherdart.com

Then I discovered Lana Filippone, whose work mixes Edwardian-style parlour shadow frames with contemporary ceramic art (see below). Loved it!! www.lanafilippone.com20180223_123104 20180223_123144Catherine McMillan welcomed me to her colourful booth where her stencil art was well-displayed, representing streetscapes (like Kensington Market, below) and various “smalls” with humourous subjects… I loved her psychedelic bunnies!  www.catherinemcmillan.ca20180223_123645 20180223_123651Quebec artist François René shared his thoughts on participating in this year’s show with his unique art, full of colour and lights. www.francoisrene.com20180223_124405

Then on to Richard Sturgeon‘s double booth showcasing Richard’s spectacular metal sculptures. Sadly, no active website for Richard.20180223_124806 20180223_124831

Richard with fellow metal sculptor Osvaldo Napoli & his wife France

Richard with fellow metal sculptor Osvaldo Napoli & his wife France

Keight Maclean offered classic Old Master-style portraits with a very 21st century twist. Wow! www.keightmaclean.com20180223_12515520180223_125207 Now let’s visit with Joanna Bell (below) whose photographic art was both intriguing and calming. www.joannabell.com20180223_125855 20180223_125812Time to sit-down and rest my “barking dogs” – I tell you, the show promoters really should install carpeting over the hard concrete floor to ease visitor fatigue as it’s a big show!  Saw this great portrait of a goat (below) while I took a little rest…isn’t it great?20180223_124507Back to work….now here’s Chris Harms, a self-taught artist who sculpts using vibrant plexiglass. Fellow sculptor Osvaldo Napoli (pictured with Chris, below) found his work quite  intriguing.  www.chris-harms.co

20180223_13015720180225_160444Round the corner, more fun and colourful paintings….20180223_130405 20180223_130520Then look who I found…my dear friend Nancy Bennett who proudly showed off her painting (aptly titled “Paradise”) inspired by my sister Jennifer’s photograph of a Western Australian sunset. Can’t tell you how proud I am for both sister and friend!! Check out more of Nancy’s work at www.nancybennett.ca 20180223_131435 20180223_131502And now here’s Kirk Sutherland (below) one of the popular artists who frequently exhibits at Urban Gallery.  I love his colour bars…so yummy you can almost eat ’em! www.kirksutherland.com20180223_133625 20180223_133633What a delightful booth (below) – I loved Amey Lai‘s sparkly paintings…see more here: www.ameylai.com 20180223_132158Here’s Liz Rae Dalton from Howe Island, Ontario. Many of her encaustic sculptures are created from found materials washed up on the lakeshore. Awesome! www.lizraedalton.com20180223_134427 20180223_134440Now meet “the marble dude”! Bryan Wilcox shows off the beauty contained within these tiny everyday glass orbs with his close-up photographs, perfectly framed and presented…loved ’em!  www.wilcoxcameraart.com20180223_140515(0) 20180223_140534 20180223_140523Speaking of “art dudes”, two of my favourites, Mark Gleberzon and Morgan Sheardown where side-by-side. Here’s Morgan’s signature “Raining Cows” display (below) … www.morgansheardown.com20180223_140955…and here’s Mark’s fun fab art (he’s working on a special wee painting for me with lots of sparkly blue – can’t wait!) www.facebook.com/MJG-Gallery-by-Mark-Jeremy-Gleberzon20180223_141433 20180223_141349Always love running in to Kari Serrao – her work makes me smile!  www.kariserrao.com/encausticgallery20180223_141806Spent some time chatting with the delightful Lori Ryerson (www.focalocity.ca) below, who told me about her recent works. 20180223_130803(0)

Delighted to meet Gene K. Tempelmeyer (pictured below with his lovely wife/booth babe!) who won 2nd Place prize for his urban streetscape, “Life’s Short, Call Now”. Congrats, Gene, I really like your work, in fact there’s one painting I may have to secure for  myself (Lady in Red) …LOL  www.GKTart.com20180225_143343 20180225_160321Joel Sullivan is Canada’s very own “iron man”. Just look at these awesome metal sculptures. I loved the little robot men lamps….the science nerd in me really came out in Joel’s booth!  www.joel-sullivan.com20180225_144537 20180225_144310Nice to see Mark Berens (below) – I saw his work at a big group show in The Distillery District last year. See more of his paintings at www.markberensart.com (he’s in the Untamed Things en plein air group show at Blue Mt. Village in April)20180225_154044So I eventually caved in and purchased a small painting from Mirek Bialy (www.mirekbialy.com) pictured below.  I fell in love with his bold paintings that incorporated strands of copper. Yes, that’s it now hanging on my wall underneath Colin Nun’s “Coop” graphic painting.20180223_133311 Mirek Bialy artist

So there you have it…another Artist Project done and dusted! Thank you to all the talented creative folks who welcomed me to their booths, and big thanks to Ozzie and France for taking me again on Sunday – it was cool to view the art thru your eyes, Ozzie.

Mark your calendars for next year’s event at the end of February here in Toronto. Visit their website for details and dates:  www.theartistproject.com 20180223_123214

 

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DONNA WISE TAKES US FOR “FLIGHTS OF FANCY” @ URBAN GALLERY, TORONTO

I spent a second day surrounded by beautiful artwork, this time at URBAN GALLERY (400 Queen st East, Toronto) where accomplished painter DONNA WISE (pictured below) launched her solo show, FLIGHTS OF FANCY, which runs until Dec. 30th, 2017.  20171202_135335Amid the excitement of the launch, Donna shared with me the fact that a local (and very gracious) fashion designer, Annie Thompson, reached out to her with an offer to outfit her for the launch today so here’s Donna wearing one of Annie’s outfits also called “Flight of Fancy” which perfectly matches her paintings and style (www.anniethompson.ca). Here’s Donna describing her show and talking about her inspirations….

Here are a few of the pieces gracing the gallery walls…20171129_134921 20171129_135028 20171129_134821 20171129_13494320171129_135014 20171129_135039Fine arts blogger Mark Hasan of KQEK.com stopped by for an interview with the artist (below) then enjoyed viewing her work along with the crowd of friends and family who started filing in…20171202_142548 20171202_141704A friend and long-time collector of Donna’s (below L) put the first “red dot” of the day beside one of the stunning paintings, purchasing one of my personal favourites: this delicate image of what, to me, looks like a Japanese geisha. What do you think?20171202_142520Donna’s husband (below L) posed with another family friend in front of this giant pastel hued canvas…..
20171202_141618(0)…and here are more gallery guests enjoying Donna’s work and the fine catering courtesy of www.UrbanCatering.com20171202_140427 20171202_141647 20171202_140244 20171202_140253If you can’t make it down to the gallery in person, here’s a quick virtual trip around one section of the gallery…

Urban Gallery is located at 400 Queen St East, just E of Parliament, in Toronto. Visit the website for directions and gallery hours:  www.UrbanGallery.caUG-Logo-url

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STOCKYARDS GALLERY DELIVERS KNOCK-OUT SHOW WITH 3 EXCITING ARTISTS!

Last night I attended the opening reception for “East Meets West” at Stockyards Gallery owned and curated by my friend, Lola Livingston. She’s been presenting unique showcases for artists since opening a year ago and this time, she knocked it outta the ballpark.  Jean Paul Langlois, based in BC, has been charming the critics with his innovative neo-expressionist paintings incorporating images from 70’s cult films and pop culture, embellishing with bright, bold swathes of colour. I must admit I am in love with these works and only wish it wasn’t rent day yesterday as I would have grabbed my favourite (Gen’l Urko – below, left – from the original Planet of the Apes).20171201_19282520171201_200217 20171201_211946Jean Paul busied himself signing prints of his work for new fans (above). For 2 1/2hrs, gallery guests gathered around him, learning more about these exciting, vibrant paintings, the artist’s inspirations and techniques. Check out more of his work at www.jeanpaullanglois.ca20171201_195811Above, actors Bruno Verdoni (L) and Tatum Lee (R) discussed art and their upcoming film projects.

Al “Runt” Currie, who is well-known to Toronto audiences for his giant street murals on places like Lee’s Palace exterior, delivered a selection of 3D paintings (below) as well as a new series of glow-in-the-dark, black-light images…wow!   www.alrunt.com20171201_192831 20171201_192851_001 20171201_193007Recording artist and music historian Greg Godovitz (below L) was quite taken with Al’s work, posing here with the artist (2nd from L) and other friends/fans. Fingers-crossed we see some of Al’s work hanging in the legendary El Mocambo when it re-opens next spring.20171201_195828 The third artist, Darren Hyde, paints under the name Mr. Hydde and he delivered some extraordinary, detailed works of art that were reminiscent of my previous client, Johnny Deluna (Toronto’s king of pointillism-meets-surrealism). I really wanted to purchase the small orange painting (below, bottom) but friends beat me to it. Grrrrrrr…but I guess I can at least visit my painting..along with a second one they also purchased (the middle one with a big X)20171201_193552 20171201_215558Mr Hydde (above) seemed quite happy with the night’s activities, especially with all the sales!  You can find more of his work on his Facebook fan page: Facebook.com/MisterHydde

Congratulations to Lola and all three artists – there were so many sales last night I lost count of all the red dots (I think Al sold 6 or 7 pieces, a new record for Stockyards Gallery).  East Meets West runs until Jan. 2nd so I recommend you hurry down to Stockyards Gallery at 1611 Dupont Street, Toronto, to experience the art yourself.  www.stockyardsgallery.ca20171201_221336 20171201_221251 20171201_221300There was obviously an old time Hollywood movie fan there last night, buying up 2 of Jean Paul’s paintings showing Judy Garland and Desi Arnaz in costume for roles where each portrayed a native American (from Jean Paul’s “Fake Indians” series).

 

 

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URBAN GALLERY UNVEILS “LAND ON FIRE” – NOVEMBER’S SOLO SHOW BY MARY LYNNE ATKINSON

This past Saturday, Urban Gallery (www.urbangallery.ca) in Toronto launched their solo art show for November, LAND ON FIRE, featuring stunning abstract landscape paintings by MARY LYNNE ATKINSON, pictured below with her “Night Sky” 36×48 acrylic on panel painting. The show runs through to November 25th.

20171104_142315Mary Lynne was thrilled to greet friends & family, and within minutes of the doors being open, one of her smaller pieces sold (the one to the right of the group below, titled “Solitude” with the little red dot on the name tag). That was one of my favourite pieces and I had my eye on it myself. But as the saying goes – you snooze, you lose!20171104_140115 20171104_141705Above, Mary Lynne chats with a gallery visitor about the two pieces to the right, “Wind” (upper) and “Firedance” (lower) both of which are 19×19 oil & resin on 16 gauge steel. Look at the close-up details of these two (below)…I love the texture.20171104_134400 20171104_134355I spoke briefly with Mary Lynne before the gallery got crowded – here’s what she had to say about her inspirations for these works….

ARTIST STATEMENT:   Land on Fire is inspired by waves as patterns in time and space. Formations that look like ocean waves in their immensity, silence and immutability draw me in. My paintings are rooted in the ‘tangible’ of the physical world. They are also inspired by questions surrounding our human relationship to Earth. My challenge as an artist is to draw the connections between both the tangible and the intangible.

By moving into a landscape through colour and gesture, painting becomes a meditation on space expanding and time evolving. The vast, silent, unforgiving spaces challenge me to express my ideas and emotions of timelessness. Each painting has its own silence. ~ Mary Lynne Atkinson 

ABOUT THE ARTIST:   Mary Lynne Atkinson is a mid-career visual artist living in Midhurst, Ontario. She holds a B.A. from Wilfrid Laurier University and a graduate diploma in Studio Process Advancement from the Haliburton School of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited widely in Europe, notably in the Carousel du Louvre, Paris, 2012 and 2013. She was awarded a Bronze Medal, Paris, June 2014, by the Societé des Arts, Lettres, Sciences. Her paintings have been exhibited in numerous curated shows including the Miami Art Basel and S Space Gallery, New York, NY.  Atkinson continues to exhibit extensively in Ontario, and her paintings are collected nationally and internationally.

Fellow artist Erik Chong and his wife Jeannette dropped in to view Mary Lynne’s work (below)…20171104_142117(0)…as did so many other fans of great Canadian art (below)20171104_142248 20171104_142332Here are some other fine examples of her work on display at Urban Gallery…20171104_131244 20171104_131239 20171104_131204 20171104_131157…and this 8×10 framed mixed media on panel titled “Amethyst Mountain” (pictured below) has also peaked my interest. Maybe I should add this to my Santa list?20171104_131133Land on Fire runs throughout the month of November at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East in downtown Toronto. For gallery hours and directions: www.urbangallery.ca

And congratulations to Urban Gallery for being named runner-up in the Best Independent Art Gallery category in this year’s NOW Readers’ Choice Awards!!  Nominated 2 years in a row, bravo Urban!Readers choice_runner up

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ARTIST ROMI SAMUELS OPENS HER SOLO SHOW @ GALLERY 1313 IN TORONTO

Last night was one of the most enjoyable opening receptions for an art show I’ve attended in some time. South African-born, now Toronto resident ROMI SAMUELS launched her solo show THE LION, THE WATCH AND THE WARDROBE at Toronto’s Gallery 1313 with a gallery full of family, friends and art lovers as well as representatives from the South African Consulate.20171026_175241The main gallery showroom looked more like a safari with giant canvases of elephants, lions, giraffes, baboons and even a hungry looking crocodile (below, Romi’s husband Frank was busy on social media while being stalked by the giant croc…watch out!)20171026_173709The paintings reflect Romi’s childhood experiences in South Africa – can you imagine looking out your window and seeing elephants roaming outside?20171026_17572620171026_172536Guests seemed in awe of the giant B&W canvases and it’s easy to see why…20171026_181950 20171026_175044 20171026_175101Before the doors opened, I managed to corral the Samuels family for a photo – below LtoR: husband Frank, Romi, daughters  Hannah and Adina (son Josh arrived later in the evening)20171026_173738Romi’s proud sister Vivienne couldn’t stop smiling all night! Here she is (below R) giving her artist sister a great big hug!20171026_203443… and another friend, Elizabeth Greisman from the JCC (below L), also offered her congratulations.20171026_202455(0)As well as the wild beasties, there is a smaller gallery at the back that features some smaller, more intimate portraits of things found in Romi’s closet.  The stunning painting of lace gloves (below, centre) was sold – this was one of my personal favourites so I’m happy the gloves have found a new forever home.20171026_175007 20171026_175002One of the high points of the evening was when guest Mr. Goce Tasevski presented Romi with a bouquet of pink roses….such a lovely moment I was fortunate to catch with my camera20171026_185941In fact, there were quite a few floral tributes given to Romi, and her sister Vivienne even brought cake. Yum, her lemon poppyseed cake was deelish!  Daughter Hannah is quite the culinary expert, too, and she catered the whole affair. Hannah is my new BFF – she made the most amazing chocolate truffles. I would have taken pics of those, too, but we all gobbled them up so quickly, there was nothing left to photograph…LOL!

Being Thursday night, I immediately flipped thru the pages of NOW Magazine to see if I’d managed to get Romi listed…wow, even better – her show was listed under their “Must See” column. Woohoo!20171026_181439So 9pm came around and as the guests departed I managed to grab an exhausted but happy Romi for a quick video interview to get her reaction to the evening’s celebration.

Her show runs until Nov. 5th at Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St West, Toronto  www.g1313.org  and if you would like to learn more about Romi herself, visit her website at: www.romispaintings.weebly.com The Lion, the Watch  - JPEG

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SOUTH AFRICAN-BORN ARTIST HERDS WILD BEASTS INTO GALLERY 1313 FOR SOLO SHOW OCT.25-NOV.5

South African born and raised, and now Toronto resident Romi Samuels’ solo show “The Lion, the Watch and the Wardrobe” runs Oct. 25 to Nov. 5 at Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St West in Toronto with an opening reception on Thurs. Oct. 26 (6-9pm) .  Romi’s floor-to-ceiling canvases illustrate the wild beasties that surrounded her family home in South Africa, painted in bold strokes of black and white. She also brings together a collection of colourful “portraits” of items found in her wardrobe, many of which belonged to her artist mother, plus a very special family heirloom – a pocket watch.

Her work features distortions, thick paint and strong colours. Her creative inspirations include the great South African painters Irma Stern, Wolf Kibel, and Maggie Laubser who were strongly influenced by the teachings of the German expressionists. To learn more about Romi please visit her website at www.romispaintings.weebly.comThe Lion, the Watch  - JPEGI recently had the opportunity of chatting with Romi when I asked her about her early artistic influences and her childhood in South Africa which has obviously informed many of the paintings in her upcoming show.

How did you become interested in painting?   My first introduction to the art world was as a newborn.  I have been told that my mother parked my stroller under the grapevine while she set-up still life paintings and give art classes on our patio.  Growing up, there were always paintbrushes in our house, palette knives, coloured pastels, twisted tubes of paints, batik dyes, lino boards, linseed oil, art books, not to mention the sketch books which were given to me even before I knew how to write – I still have a childish pencil drawing of my family relaxing in a train compartment, which I did when I was about 7 years old.  There were also outings to art galleries and of course my mother’s beautiful paintings (see below) which covered the walls in our home, and I always hoped that one day, like her, I would be able to decorate my own house with my paintings.20170911_142217What was the first subject of your painting?  Now that I think about it I am amazed to remember that my first painting which I did in nursery school was of a crocodile with its mouth wide open (probably inspired by one of our many trips to the Kruger Park – a huge game reserve in South Africa, almost the size of a small country).  And now, some 45 years later, I have, in my current show, a painting of a crocodile in that exact pose (see below).  My first oil painting which I did much later, was a still life with various objects including an African clay pot with a traditional Ndebele motif. So Africa has always featured in some way in my paintings and even now, living in Canada it continues to work its way into my art.Croc - croppedHow did your early years in South Africa influence your work?  As a child my most exciting holidays were our family trips to the Kruger Park. I have vivid memories of waking up at the crack of dawn, hopping into the car with a delicious picnic lunch, hoping to be the first out of the camp gates onto the dust roads looking for game.  I remember how we would suddenly stop the car at the slightest hint of movement and I’ll never forget the excitement of joining a whole row of cars, straining to see what all the fuss was about, or sitting for hours at a waterhole waiting for a thirsty animal to come and drink.  And then there was the thrill of eventually spotting a lion in the distance or of being dangerously close to an elephant crossing the road. So yes, these amazing images of the African bushveld have been subjects of my paintings since childhood.Two lionesses - croppedIn a previous series of paintings, I focused on the people’s struggle for survival in post-Apartheid South Africa which I did on large canvases. These paintings are of ragged children in the veld, mothers with babies on their backs begging for money, craftsmen, construction workers and security guards slaving for a meager wage.20170911_142232On a more personal level, some of my “Wardrobe” pictures also include sentimental items which travelled with me to Canada. So even though I have been living in Canada for 17 years, my paintings still reflect the bittersweet nostalgia of the ex-pat.Gloved hands - cropped Handbarg - cropped Pocketwatch - cropped Red tie - croppedDo you have a favourite medium in which to create?  For many years oils were my favourite, but now, I have also begun to enjoy acrylics mainly because they dry so quickly!  I’ve also started working with collage and mixed media which add a lot of interesting texture to my work.  For quick drawings, ink is one of my favourite mediums – I especially like the combination of a gentle washes and hard lines.20170911_142416What do you hope gallery visitors leave with after attending your upcoming show.   Firstly, because my paintings are so large and imposing, I hope to share that experience of being in such close proximity to the magnificent African fauna. Also, because my paintings are more expressive than literal, I want to communicate their intense emotion to which we as human beings can relate. I also hope that gallery visitors will see that even my “Wardrobe” paintings are not just still-lives, but rather expressions of the personalities behind them.  So basically, my intention is that that people will come away identifying on an emotional level with my paintings or responding to them emotionally or even just realizing that as human beings everything we see or create is influenced by our own emotional responses.20170911_144923What is next for Romi?  I never know in advance what I am going to paint. I usually start off playing around with something which develops into an idea and then becomes a body of work.  So my next series will be as much of a surprise to me as it will be to you. [laughs]

Opening reception takes place on Thursday Oct. 26th (6-9pm) at Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St West, Toronto. For gallery hours & directions: www.g1313.org   Light (kosher) refreshments will be served so if you would like to attend and meet Romi, kindly RSVP to FordhamPR@rogers.com  Space is limited so email me a.s.a.p.

Although it’s not in this show, here is one of my fave Romi paintings – I just love chickens and Romi painted some of the hens that used to run around her childhood nanny’s property back home in S.A.20170911_141930