Tag Archives: Canadian artists

OSVALDO “OZZIE” NAPOLI OPENS HIS 2ND SOLO SHOW @ URBAN GALLERY (runs throughout October 2019)

Yesterday, Sat. Oct 5th, multi-media artist Osvaldo Napoli launched his latest solo show E-POQUE at Toronto’s Urban Gallery.  I spoke with Ozzie earlier in the week and he shared his thoughts and inspirations for his current works…

We walked around the gallery together as Ozzie told me the stories behind each piece….20191003_140159 20191003_140226 20191003_140352Across one wall, Ozzie showed me his collection of “smalls” – each incorporating computer & tech salvage into the artwork to tell the story of humanity intersecting with technology.

20191003_140356 20191003_140405 20191003_140636 20191003_140759…and one piece in particular, Ozzie told me, focuses on the issue of cyber-bullying and how technology impacts the young via social media.

Ozzie will be in the gallery every Saturday during October between 3-6pm to meet with art lovers and share his unique perspectives on technology and the human condition.  URBAN GALLERY, 400 Queen St East, Toronto www.UrbanGallery.caIMG_215420191003_140217 20191003_140242 20191003_140327

TORONTO ARTIST JUDITH McKAY UNVEILS SOLO SHOW “HIRAETH” @ URBAN GALLERY

Running throughout the month of November, Hiraeth is thesolo show featuring stunning and colourful contemporary landscapes and “tree portraits” presented by JUDITH McKAY at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East in downtown Toronto.20181110_132357The Toronto artist explores fantasy as a means of finding peace in a frenetic world. Trees are her allegory for the endless pursuits of modern life: rooted, yet branching out to reach the sky.20181110_132237

20181110_132301Largely self-taught, Judith’s style is free-flowing. She uses both thick impasto and fluid colour to achieve movement and boldness. Fearless about colour, she uses a vibrant palette, applying interference and iridescent paints to achieve surrealistic effects. Her style is constantly evolving via frequent participation in workshops and exhibitions, as well as studying the techniques of other artists.

Judith (below L) was joined by her husband Rob Sylvester (below R), and her daughter Shannon (below C) came in all the way from New Jersey to celebrate the big opening reception!20181110_134458The gallery looked bright and welcoming on such a grey Saturday – and soon the guests started pouring in, admiring all the canvases….20181110_144400 20181110_142700 20181110_141442

20181110_132308 20181110_132620 20181110_145817ARTIST’s STATEMENT: Hiraeth (here-eye-th) is a Celtic word that means a wistful longing for a place to where you cannot return. A place that perhaps never was. The desire for a sense of peace and belonging are emotions I seek to capture in my work. Such desire can often turn to frustration when the real world doesn’t live up to fantasy, and so I depict trees, firmly rooted yet dancing in the wind, to symbolize resiliency as we continue to seek our true home, despite adversity. For this exhibition, I chose a vibrant palette and the use of high gloss medium and reflective paints to create an ethereal effect, as if awakening from a beautiful dream that quickly evaporates and eludes us. The pieces selected for display are meant to truly express what Hiraeth means to me.   ~ Judith McKay

I had the opportunity of chatting briefly with Judith prior to opening the doors of the gallery and she kindly shared with me her process and inspirations, especially for this collection….

If you would like to see Judith’s gorgeous, lush paintings, visit www.urbangallery.ca for gallery hours and directions, and follow Judith on her Instagram account: @judithmckayart

Hiraeth runs now until Nov. 30th at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East, Toronto.

Thank you for supporting Canadian artists!20181110_132455

 

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

 

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

ALLEN SHUGAR OPENS HIS SOLO SHOW AT URBAN GALLERY, TORONTO

Usually the curator for other artists’ shows, ALLEN SHUGAR was proud to present his own work at Urban Gallery (400 Queen East, Toronto) last night for the opening of his month-long show titled SHIFTING LIGHT. Allen is joined here by gallery director, Calvin Hambrook (below L) in front of his title artwork (lower photo)20170907_164910(0) AllenShugar_SHIFTING_LIGHT400Each stunning piece illustrates how light shifts when viewing from different vantage points and I particularly liked the play of light on leaves in this painting (below) appropriately titled “Goldleaf”.20170907_164502In fact, lots of gallery visitors loved these works – within half an hour of opening the gallery doors, the room was packed with Allen’s friends, family and fans.20170907_180622 20170907_175316I managed to grab Allen for a quick interview before the party was in full swing and asked him about his show….

As you can tell, Allen is very passionate about art, the painter’s process and working as the curator for Urban Gallery. Below, Allen greeted many friends who came out to support him…20170907_19082220170907_173655….and several fellow artists dropped by including Grace Dam (below) whose shows Allen has previously curated…20170907_182305…and Romi Samuels (below) who hopes to bring a show of her work to the gallery in the near future.20170907_184401Here’s award-winning artist Erik Chong (below with his wife, Jeannette) whose shows Allen has also curated over the past few years.20170907_191308Allen showcased 3 smaller framed pieces (reverse painting on glass) and my favourite one was quickly snapped up by this lovely lady.20170907_191204 20170907_164314So many gorgeous pieces…you must visit the gallery to see for yourself!20170907_184325 20170907_170622 20170907_171732And of course, the refreshments were works of art, too, courtesy of Urban Source Catering20170907_164657 20170907_165202(0)

Artist statement:
Colour, light, the cycles of nature (so extreme in our climate), the beauty of the human form – these are the subjects that inspire my paintings. Naturalistic representation has never much interested me. I take, rather, a transformative approach that seeks to capture a purely subjective experience, a state of mind, an evanescent thought. In this respect, my work owes as much to musical and literary influences as it does to visual stimuli. My aim is to suggest the extraordinary that lies just beneath the surface of the ordinary.  – Allen Shugar

SHIFTING LIGHT – Paintings by Allen Shugar
Exhibition dates: September 7 to September 30, 2017
Gallery hours & directions:   www.UrbanGallery.caSTILLNESS oil on canvas Allen Shugar

MEET HANNA KOSTANSKI, URBAN GALLERY’S ARTIST OF THE MONTH!

Last night, Toronto’s coolest indie art venue, URBAN GALLERY, hosted the opening reception for HANNA KOSTANSKI, whose work is inspired by vintage photographs of our city from years gone by, found in the City of Toronto Archives.  With permission from the Archives, Hanna has recreated well-known intersections and streetscapes from the early 1900’s through to the 1980’s, adding colour and movement to the imagery, bringing the scenes to life.  Her show, 20th Century Toronto: Intersections & Interactions, runs until August 26th at Urban Gallery (400 Queen St East, Toronto) and I strongly recommend you visit in person to see if you recognize each of the locations she’s painted. Betcha you’ll be amazed to see how our city has changed!

About the artist:  Hanna was born in Szczecin, Poland, and grew up in Hamilton, Ontario. She obtained her BFA from OCAD University in 2007 and currently resides in Hamilton and works in Toronto. Her work can be found in dozens of private and public collections in both cities.Hanna Kostanski YONGE AND DUNDAS 1978 acrylic on board(Above) Yonge and Dundas, 1978 Acrylic on Wood 30″ x 60″ by Hanna Kostanski
From City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 92, Item 49 • Original Photograph by Harvey R. Naylor

Artist Statement:   For nearly a decade my work has been focused on the visible passage of time, experienced through the exploration and documentation of abandoned and decaying buildings in cities like Hamilton and Detroit. I have always been fascinated with historical architecture, specifically how we interact with our buildings and structures, and what happens when that interaction ceases to exist.

My current body of work continues to explore the connection between people and their environment, but with a focus on historical representations of that relationship.  To that end, I have been working on a series of paintings based on photographs found at the City of Toronto Public Archives. These images span several decades and are nostalgic of the city as it used to be. They celebrate the many past incarnations of Toronto, the vibrant intersections of the city and the interactions of its people.  Hanna Kostanski (2017)

The gallery was quickly crowded with fans of Hanna’s work which has recently garnered some exciting media attention – even Toronto Mayor John Tory has weighed in on Twitter about Hanna’s ability to capture a sense of time and place with her large format paintings.20170803_18202620170803_17482220170803_17564020170803_16431220170803_164228Two of Hanna’s BFF’s came to support her and found a familiar sight in this painting (below) of Yonge Street between Queen & Dundas! 20170803_171702 20170803_173123I think this fellow (above) must work on Bay Street – he appears to be looking for the location where his office now sits and explaining the old geography to his lovely companion.20170803_173228 20170803_180704Hanna welcome many of her friends and fans (above), all of whom seemed eager to see her newest paintings.

Fellow artist Nancy Bennett (below) looks like she’s calling a cab from the intersection of Yonge & Dundas…LOL20170803_172148Amidst the hub-bub of the busy gallery, I managed to grab Hanna for a quick chat about her work…

Hanna is also offering fine prints for those who don’t have the space for the original BIG paintings…here’s a happy art-lovin’ family who purchased 2 prints of their favourite paintings….20170803_173528(0)Here’s Wayne Abell of Urban Source Catering (they always present the most deelish treats for gallery openings!!) with KJ Mullins, publisher of NEWZ4U.ca, a Toronto-centric e-newspaper who really liked Hanna’s work.20170803_173304If you would like to come and play “spot the street” with Hanna’s work, please visit www.urbangallery.ca for gallery hours and directions.  You can also follow Hanna on social media via her own website: www.hannakostanski.com

 

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Thank you for supporting Canadian artists!

NANCY BENNETT TELLS HOW SHE WALKED AWAY FROM THE 9 TO 5 LIFE TO EMBRACE HER INNER ARTIST

When I first came to Toronto in the late 70’s, I fulfilled my parents’ dream of a safe and secure life with an office job (dull…urgh!) which, thankfully, I walked away from in ’79 for a life in showbiz when I landed my first audition, the role of Magenta in the Toronto theatrical production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show! which obviously became my parents’ nightmare…LOL!  I had been doing my 9 to 5 work at a renowned investment house called Wood Gundy, where I first met Nancy Bennett who, unbeknownst to me at the time, was also struggling with her own office vs. arts dilemma.

Skip ahead a few decades and one day I encounter the same Nancy Bennett at an art show exhibiting her fabulous vibrant work – we’ve been playing catch up ever since.

Nancy in her booth @ Toronto's Riverdale Artwalk

Nancy in her booth @ Toronto’s Riverdale Artwalk

I was thrilled to hear of her journey since I last saw her when we used to share office gossip at our favourite after-work cocktail lounge; she has since left her busy career in the financial sector to devote her life to creating art full-time.  After securing her house, buying a dog and having a baby (whew, I’m exhausted even listing those), Nancy turned to her first love, painting, in 2008 when global finances took a very hard knock, impacting her career as well as most of those working on Bay Street.  As Nancy tells it….“I first started collecting works by local artists as an antidote to my work life which had become increasingly toxic…then I began painting again.”

After being laid-off from her day job in 2013, Nancy immediately began painting full-time; her first show “Kiss the Sky” at the Women’s Art Association of Canada, featured paintings of skyscapes using a knife, brush and rollers on canvas and wood, in both large and small formats. It took a couple of years and a deep “Group of Seven” phase for her to cultivate a style that feels natural – layered knife paintings on large wood panels. I recently visited Nancy’s studio and saw this new piece (below) that’s still in the early stages – she showed me how she layers her work… 20170721_105045

“My paintings combine skyscapes, which are universal, and landscapes, which are specific to each location. I’m passionate about sharing the appreciation for my urban home setting and emphasizing that we’re all under the same sky – a commonality that helps us talk and create art together. The sky is a constant in all our lives and is a source of unity, calm and wonder as well a source of endless variety. Through my work I encourage people to look up and know they are not alone.”

Nancy continues….”I paint with oil paints on wood. Through these materials, I feel a connection to the history of my craft. In the current world of social media, the relationships and communication are real but have a fairy-like quality, flitting around the edge of “real life” and fading away completely if not nurtured. All the new media art tools today have evolved through the work of artists over centuries. The textures of different paints are an inspiration for the hundreds of filters available on Instagram. My passion with oil painting is a homage to traditional creation and its interaction in the digital space is my acceptance to our technological evolution.”20170721_105005

In 2015, Nancy co-founded the Four Corners Studio Collective, a Toronto based group of four emerging artists working together, learning from each other’s skills and experiences and supporting growth in their respective careers.  That same year, she curated #TwitterFirstFriday, a monthly art show conducted on the social media platform.  The goals were to encourage networking between artists around the world and promote art through sharing across multiple networks. Throughout 2015, on the first Friday of each month Nancy gathered works posted by artists, evaluated them for suitability and adherence to the show’s rules and shared with an online community.

Nancy is a member of The Artists’ Network, CARFAC and the Akin Collective, and in 2017, she began volunteering at Art Heart, an arts program for vulnerable adults.

“I’m a social artist. I thrive in a community, share studio space and have an active online following on social media. Through my paintings, I bring the extended community into my world and transfer my physical space into their digital one. I share my views, interpretations and feelings as I work through a piece. I encourage my online community to observe their own surroundings with an artist’s eye and get involved in my work. I appreciate when they send me photos of scenes that inspire them or remind them of my work. Through this give-and-take, my audience is with me throughout as an active component of my process in addition to being a passive audience to the final piece.”17634397_1444251605608964_2311017889669336969_nUPCOMING SHOWS
August 2017 – Solo exhibit, Deer Park Library, 40 St. Clair Ave. East, Toronto
August 18- 20 2017 –  ArtWalk in the Square at Shops @ Don Mills, Booth #24.
February 2018 – The Artist Project, Exhibition Place, Toronto

You can follow Nancy on Facebook.com/NancyBennettArts or visit her website: www.nancybennett.ca14390924_1241314049236055_5450160895757346700_nAnd if you see Nancy at any of her upcoming shows, stop in to her booth, say hi and learn more about this multi-talented woman who (finally) got to follow her dreams….

URBAN GALLERY CELEBRATES CANADA150 WITH STUNNING GROUP SHOW “O CANADA”

Yesterday, URBAN GALLERY (400 Queen St East, Toronto) opened the doors to officially launch their summer group show O CANADA (runs until July 29), featuring 17 Canadian artists with diverse cultural backgrounds and artistic styles whose individual visions of Canada celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary. Come take a virtual walk with me thru the gallery….

The stunning image by Erik Chong features the lyrics to the Canadian national anthem in all three official languages and Erik posed proudly in front of his painting, “Beautiful Day” (below)20170708_141459Celebrated wildlife photographer Linda Langerak has 3 gorgeous photos of BC creatures in the show (below) – I love the bald eagles…20170708_141140Kirk Sutherland created the frame around his “Terra Nova” painting from found architectural salvage featuring maple leaf designs. How clever is that?20170708_150459Caught this cool shot and realized afterwards that it was all about the stripes….LOL!20170708_150006Pauline Langmaid (below) drove in all the way from Bracebridge to showcase her glorious abstract landscapes…or should I say “lake-scapes”? 20170708_142055Pauline’s two paintings proved very popular with gallery visitors…20170708_160719 20170708_145939Another popular image was celebrity chef & photographer Lyndon Wiebe‘s photo of a windswept view of Port Hope (below). Lyndon brought out an extended print showing more of the scene – located to the west of the town where housing development meets grassland.  20170708_144818(0) 20170708_161500Film industry professional and accomplished photographic artist Karen Silver chose a chilly winter scene of a Toronto park and a lonely bicycle. Now that’s one seat I would not like to sit on…LOL!20170708_142229Kris Bovenizer (below centre) talks with a guest about her two acrylic on canvas works…the sea-faring image on the left is now a label on bottles of a limited edition maple syrup bottled for a Canadian business leader (as Canada150 corporate gifts for his clients). How cool..and congrats to Kris. 20170708_151736And Kris posed with fellow artist Kirk Sutherland and gallery owner Calvin Hambrook (below)20170708_144136Manije Sabet Sarvestani (below) brought two oil-on-canvas works: “Canada Day in Quebec City” (on left) and “Thornhill Festival” (on right). The soft-spoken artist let her work do all the talking and these certainly announced her talent loudly!20170708_145703Kent Bridges was the first artist to score a “red dot” (a sale) for his “Life in a Northern Town”. Here he is (below left in red) with purchaser and fan David Currah of Toronto’s Fife House. Congrats to Kent who was all smiles as he celebrated the sale.20170708_140935 20170708_145308Ronald Regamey uses a technique known as “quilling” to create beautiful 3 dimensional paper & glue artwork. Here’s Ronald being snapped by Calvin in front of his latest piece titled “Alive”.20170708_145416(0) 20170708_145438…Ronald had a number of family and friends congratulating him on his gallery appearance – they were so animated and excited it was hard to get them all to stand still for a photo…LOL20170708_150035Gallery curator Allen Shugar and poet/artist Brenda Clews also met under Ronald’s work….20170708_150050…while Linda Langerak snapped away with Kirk (below)20170708_150521The delicious food was catered by Urban Source Catering and the platters were themselves works of art.20170708_141011 20170708_140959Colin Nun (below left) who recently had his own successful solo show at Urban Gallery, shares his thoughts on his work “Canada” with KJ Mullins (below R) editor of NEWZ4U.ca20170708_152712In fact, a lot of guests remarked on the uniqueness of Colin’s oil-on-canvas typographical and topographical view of the country.20170708_141116Snapd newspaper photographer Gianmarco dropped by to cover the event and got busy snapping the artists…20170708_153729 20170708_153539I managed to grab a quick pic of Joan Andal Romano with her “True North” mixed media on canvas. So many intricate details to view, it must have taken her many hours to create.20170708_15425920170708_140749Several artists were unable to attend, 3 delivered beautiful Canadian landscapes – Stacey Kinder‘s “Light” featuring a stand of trees in the fall, Christine Marin‘s “On Bear Trap Road” (2nd pic) and Grace Dam‘s snowy “Canmore” (3rd pic)….20170708_140802 20170708_145552Dam CANADIAN ICONS -CANMORE ALBERTA 48w x 60h oil on canvas..and Aisha Chiguichon was represented by this provocative acrylic on canvas titled “Stereotypes”CHIGUICHON StereotypesVictoria General attended but the shy artist preferred to let her work take centre stage and declined a photo. Victoria works in charcoal on paper – here are “We Need a Bit More Sand, I Think” (upper) and “I’ll Have to Call You Back” (lower).20170708_151807The reception drew many art lovers and more red dots should be appearing alongside these Canada150 artful tributes. I hope you get a chance to visit in person and support the talented artists at Urban Gallery.20170708_144203 20170708_150135 20170708_150423

Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East, Toronto  www.urbangallery.ca20170708_155624

Urban Gallery is also available for rental if you wish to host your corporate or private party, reception or even a sit-down dinner with delicious food & refreshments courtesy of Urban Source Catering. Visit the website for details.

INTRODUCING CANADIAN CONTEMPORARY ARTIST JOHNY DELUNA

I recently met contemporary Canadian artist JOHNY DELUNA (below) whose colourful large acrylic-on-canvas paintings both inspire and intrigue me. He has a solo exhibition this summer (June 5-19) at the Art Square Gallery (opposite the AGO) in Toronto, and I wanted to give art fans an early heads-up so they do’t miss his extraordinary work. xxheadshotjohn1jpgI recently had the pleasure of chatting with Johny over a coffee, viewing his portfolio of mostly 3′ x 4′  canvases, each portraying deeper, darker stories beneath the exterior of bright, joyful images.  Every masterwork has been thoroughly thought out, exploring abstract themes in Johny’s riotous palette of primary colours.  I asked him a few questions about his work, his inspirations and the upcoming summer solo show….

You came late to painting professionally – what was your previous career focus and how did that inform your work?  I always loved painting, but couldn’t make a living at it – I needed a decent job to pay the bills.  The urge to paint never left me, but the responsibilities of looking after a family etc. took precedence.  I didn’t return to painting for over 25 years.  Whenever possible I took on projects that had a significant creative component.  I worked on a wide variety of projects including scientific film production, script writing, advertising , marketing and digital product development. However the need to paint was always lurking close to the surface.  I was always a closet painter.

I actually started painting as a child and worked actively on artistic experimentation and exploration until I was about 25. I was untrained so I tried all sorts of things – found materials, melted and painted plastics, wood burning (pyrography), wire sculptures, stone sculptures and acrylic paints. I mostly painted large semi-abstract canvases. I liked the expanses of color and motion.Collateral Damage MARCHWhat has been the main inspiration for your style and colour palette?  The main inspiration for my work is observing the human condition. I try to say things about, happiness, sadness confusion, hypocrisy, ignorance, cruelty, indifference and self delusion. I never put myself above these frailties – but I laugh at my own weaknesses more than I laugh at others. I try to embed my stories deep enough in the paintings so that each viewer can experience them in their own way.art squI was never a great admirer of pointillism; my style of painting was the result of experiments just to get myself painting again. I simply love bright colors – there are no bad ones. They are like kids in a park – laughing, running and playing together.

Dancing in the Dark

Dancing in the Dark

Upon initial viewing, your paintings are full of humour and lightness, however, behind each work there seems to be a darker meaning. Can you explain your artistic interpretations and share one such story from a particular painting?  As I said, my paintings are mostly observations, parables or vignettes. These are the catalysts for the paintings.  I try to present ideas obliquely. This gives me more freedom of expression and a wider visual lexicon to play with.  It also gives the viewer more freedom of interpretation.

I try to entice the viewer into the work through color, energy, humor and curious or bizarre imagery.  Behind all that is the story – the viewer is free to go as deep as they want. I hope everyone see’s the works differently.One of the more oblique works is about learning to accept people for who they are – not who we think they should be. My painting called  I’d Love You If You Were Someone Else (below) for instance, is an argument between a table and a chair.chairYou paint in a contemporary pointillism style in large format – how detailed and time-consuming is this compared with the bold brushstrokes of other artists?  Each artist approaches their work differently. If an artist can create a stunning piece in ten minutes – that’s great. The piece works or it doesn’t no matter how long you labor over it.  My paintings take about 3-5 weeks to complete. I don’t use a brush – I use a simple calligraphy pen and liquid ink. I can only work a few hours at a time – because I can’t focus any more.

Detail from "The Kiss"

Detail from “The Kiss”

Your upcoming solo exhibition is called Spontaneous Levitation – what inspired this title?  Well – Spontaneous Levitation is a bit of a play on the word levity – humour. I hope the show feels fresh, free, and energizing.  img420

At my last show, I met a painter from Brazil. He showed me some photos of his large canvases. They were wonderful. He had injured his shoulder badly in a car accident and had not painted for a number of years. He wandered around the show for about half an hour. On the way out he smiled and shook my hand…“Obrigado,” he said “your work makes me hungry to paint again”.

1457016348What advice would you give to aspiring artists looking to create a life as a professional painter? The only advice I can offer aspiring artists is

  1. Get a day job so you can afford to paint what you want.
  2. Try to be honest and express your inner voice – it’s scary but do it
  3. Open yourself to the unknown – the otherness
  4. Never give up.
"April in New York"

“April in New York”

"Fear of Flying"

“Fear of Flying”

I can’t wait to see Johny’s work in person, hanging on the walls of Art Square Gallery, 334 Dundas St West, Toronto (directly opp. the Art Gallery of Ontario) between June 5 – 19, 2017.  I’ll be posting more details on the show closer to the date so stay tuned.  In the interim, you can follow Johny on Twtr @johnydeluna or visit his website: www.johnydeluna.comThe Usual Suspects

MEET THE PUBLISHERS OF ARABELLA, CANADA’S PREMIERE ART & DESIGN MAGAZINE

Having been a regular reader of ARABELLA, the quarterly magazine featuring the best in art, design and architecture, I thought my own readers would like to learn more about this gorgeous glossy mag and meet the publishers who bring us the beautiful images and stories of those who create and exhibit such masterpieces. You can view the magazine here:  www.arabelladesign.com

Debra and Brian Usher have been supporting Canadian and international artists and galleries with their magazine for many years – in fact, I first met them at Westmount Gallery in Toronto several years back when I was working with artist Bruce Lawes whose stunning hyper-realistic equine paintings were being showcased there at the time. While gallery visitors ooo’d and aaah’d at Bruce’s work, I quietly sat in a corner eagerly thumbing through the current issue of Arabella, intrigued by the contents and marveling at the new artist discoveries to be had inside the covers. (2 of Bruce Lawes’ equine paintings have been featured on the cover – below)9. Arabella Winter 2010 21. Arabella Spring-Summer 2014After many years of living and publishing their magazine in Toronto, a couple of years ago Debra and Brian decided the time was right for a move down east so they purchased an historic home and barn in the seaside town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick and established their business in this picturesque new location. I recently caught up with them via phone and asked them to share their thoughts on the art world, publishing and their new home amidst the salt air and crashing Atlantic waves….

What first inspired you to launch a big glossy art magazine?  We didn’t start with the idea of “big and glossy” but instead looked at what other art magazines were doing and tried to determine how well they provided art consumers and art lovers with an experience that portrayed both the art and the artist in the most effective way.  The artists and galleries we talked to were concerned about reaching a wider audience as the standard “art tours” had pretty much ran their course and their audiences were dwindling.  We started with the business idea – how can we best promote and support the sale of art? To accomplish this we needed to really reach a national and international audience.

Editor-n-Chief, Debra Usher

Editor-n-Chief, Debra Usher

A magazine with national and international distribution required a look and feel unlike anything on the book-shelves. While “big and glossy” is often seen as a waste of a natural forestry resource, it in fact was an important feature for ensuring that ARABELLA was going to be treated much like a coffee-book, a keepsake that could take readers on an artistic and engaging journey that lasts beyond a quick scan and becomes a lasting visual and narrative treasure.

When we looked at “the competition” for the most part, other art related publications seemed to be more focused on “critical dialogue” as this was central to their not-for-profit, charitable commitments to “educating the public”.  As a result their editorial content tends to place more of an emphasis on thoughtful, academic analysis and less on the raw, emotional experience of the visual.  We knew we had to get beyond the boundaries of conventional art publications. ARABELLA had to be about beauty in all its forms and provide readers with an unforgettable reading experience! It was a gamble on our part but we had all sorts of feedback that the audience for critical dialogue was much smaller than the audience of those who want to be visually and emotionally engaged by the art, the artists and their stories. Maybe it’s just a different audience, but we now believe they overlap.23. Arabella Winter-Spring 2015 24. Arabella Summer 2015So, we started ARABELLA in order to help support and promote artists and galleries from a commercial perspective first and recognized that in order to sell art the consumer or reader had to get as close to the art as possible. In designing our format, we emphasized the visual through full colour large scale imagery which requires the highest quality of printing – or as you say “big and glossy”.

As opposed to presenting “analysis and critical dialogue” from an external, expert perspective, we decided to focus on what is now pretty much accepted as the most critical aspect of selling – i.e. namely to tell stories, particularly from the perspective of the artists and the gallery owners.   ARABELLA gives artists and galleries their own voice and helps readers connect with the people behind the art.22. Arabella Fall 2014Are you both artists yourselves? Have you dabbled in any creative arts?  Both our careers have involved multiple aspects of creative arts. Brian and I have been involved in painting, photography, and creative crafts.

For the most part, these activities have been secondary to us pursuing business careers that focused on helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses through effective change management and leadership development.  Anyone involved in these aspects of businesses will recognize and identify with the creative processes and innovation required for success.

With so many newspapers and magazines going out of business on almost a monthly basis, how do you keep Arabella relevant & popular?  Well actually that’s two questions.  I’ll deal with last one first.  The relevance and popularity factors are pretty much driven by having a strong network in the commercial side of the art world. We are constantly monitoring and research trends and patterns through direct contacts; as many forms of media as possible; and feedback from artists, as well as our readers.

The format and editorial focus on the magazine, as outlined above, is built on understanding what is popular and relevant with our readership. It pretty much follows that we have a very strong chance of addressing customer needs.

The issue of newspapers and magazines going out of business is really a direct result of these mediums failing to understand what readers are looking for in their lives. ARABELLA recognizes a critical reality – namely that we are in the entertainment business. Our readers are looking for an opportunity to take a journey, to appreciate beauty and make it a part of their lives.

Having said that, our biggest challenge is funding the production of the magazine through direct advertising revenue. This is a problem that we share with newspapers and other magazines.

Brian, a couple of years ago, you moved home & business out to St. Andrews, New Brunswick, from Ontario – how did this move impact your work and lives? And can you tell us about your lovely new home?  Our move to St. Andrews was first and foremost a lifestyle decision. We were first enchanted by the people, and the architectural and cultural charm of the town and the region. Something about moving to the sea seemed almost like a natural at this point in our lives.

There’s no denying that there were clear economics involved as the real estate values were significantly more affordable. But at the same time we realized that a lot of what we do to produce the magazine is actually done via the internet and we actually had already established a virtual team of writers, photographers, and designers.  With access to “relatively high-speed” internet we thought the move was well worth it.

Brian Usher, Publisher

Brian Usher, Publisher

There have been some limitations – but most of these are now under control as we have now established a local New Brunswick production team and we are looking to reach a wider audience by using a Toronto-based publicity specialist and targeted advertising to continue to expand our footprint in the market.  The one limitation Debra will be sure to mention is access to the range of food stuffs we were used to in Ontario. But no question the seafood is bountiful and we have a much better appreciation for what’s involved in being a part of the fishing industry on the East Coast. It’s certainly not an easy occupation, particularly given the amount of time spent on the ocean in winter months.2. The Anchorage and BarnOur new home (pictured above) is locally described as a Maritime Gothic Revival residence and is listed in the Canadian Registry of Historic Places. The original house was built in 1825 as a rectory for the first Roman Catholic priest and the house is now known as The Anchorage.

This style is characterized by the three Gothic gables that break the plane of the roof-line. The central and largest cross-gable, with a pitched roof, is flanked by two smaller cross-gables with jerkin head roofs. The cross-gables are heavily molded and each contains Gothic Revival windows. Gable returns and single-story bay windows are used in the side façade. This attractive property has beautiful grounds which, when built, occupied an entire block-face.1. The AnchorageIt has both the charms and the wrinkles of a building that age. One of St. Andrews most historically significant homes, The Anchorage has been fully restored and up-dated while remaining faithful to its design and character.  The main house has undergone several renovations and extensions over the years with the addition of a major size barn/garage now adjoining the swimming pool area. This building is almost critical for housing all of Debra’s various

Your gallery advertisers are treated to lots of non-traditional perks such as editorial coverage of their shows and individual artist profiles – how has this impacted your relationships with advertisers?  You’re right! The promotional aspects of the business involve a combination of advertising placement; features on galleries and artists; and social media promotion for artists, galleries and events. It’s an extensive package and the editorials are extensive (usually 16 pages) and provide an excellent marketing vehicle for individual artists and their galleries.  This service is not offered by other Canadian or US art magazines.11. Arabella Summer 2011 12. Arabella Fall-Winter 2011With more and more magazines going strictly online, have your subscribers remained loyal to the quarterly hardcopies? Let’s face it, Arabella is more like a collectors’ coffee table book than a regular magazine.  ARABELLA is available both in print and online versions. You’re right about the magazine being more like a collectors’ coffee table book. That was our intent from the get-go.  We have both print and online subscribers but the unanimous feedback we get is that there’s nothing like the print version. Only print can present the visually stunning content and readers consistently remarks about the importance of “touch” and physically turning pages.20. Arabella Winter 2013 26. Arabella Spring 2016You’ve just released a new hard-cover art book, The Love of Flowers, and previously had published It Starts With a Dream, your first hard-cover book highlighting images of Canadian art, architecture and design. What’s next on your book publishing agenda – can you give us a hint or two?
We are currently planning the creation of a book to be released in the spring of 2018, as homage to the coastal areas of Canada and the artists who capture its mystery and its siren call. Four hundred (400) pages of extraordinary art and artist profiles will be showcased through a myriad of forms, styles, and mediums. At the forefront of the book, Canada’s legendary artists – both living and remembered – will be featured. These will include Alex Colville, Mary Pratt, Christopher Pratt, Tom Forrestal, William Forrestal, Fred Ross, David Blackwood, and Maude Lewis. Following these featured Canadian icons will be 40 other Maritime artists, each celebrated with an eight-page profile, with full-bleed images of their best art and words to describe their own personal stories. This book will heighten any art collection, jump off bookshelves in Indigo and Barnes and Nobles stores across the continent, become gracious gifts for family and friends, and will have a special spot on coffee tables everywhere.arabellaMailercopycopyAnd any exciting new artists or galleries being featured in the next Arabella (and when is it due for publication)?  Frank Hyder is truly one of our more unique artists to grace the pages of Arabella Spring 2017. His unique sculptural heads and swimming fish are bound to capture our readers’ attention.

Spring 2017 will have an assortment of artists but this issue more than any other will showcase the work of artists across the country as well as their will be quite a selection of 3 dimensional work as well as paintings and craft.

We are bringing back two stunning architectural homes – one from Paris and the other from California.

A new feature is the gallery listings and shows at the back of the periodical. We are trying to make each issue more in keeping with a book, and the cover will be slightly heavier – more life a soft cover book.

We introduce in this issue the start of Gallery Owners and Collectors Comments which should interest a lot of readers to hear different points of view from around the country.

To read the current issue online, plus subscription and advertising information, visit: www.arabelladesign.com

A little more about ARABELLA magazine:

ARABELLA’s mission is to produce the most exquisite Canadian Art, Architecture & Design magazine edited for those with a passion for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and living life well. A truly unique Canadian magazine created for people who aspire, are achieving, or have already accomplished a luxury style of life reflecting what it means to be Canadian.
Each issue presents original, in-depth editorial on the best of Canadian contemporary and historical fine art; galleries to visit; artists to collect; architecture and living spaces; unique stores to visit; business and personal life style profiles, landscaping and interior design; luxury properties for sale; unique travel destinations; and food and wine to savour.

ARABELLA is dedicated to supporting and promoting creative talent and related businesses through specialty print and digital media publishing, special events/destination marketing, and professional development programs. We believe in the power of arts and culture in building stronger communities, national identity and economic development.

ARABELLA, our major quarterly magazine publication, is now in its ninth year and is distributed across Canada (Chapters & Indigo, Coles and Smith Books) and the US (Barnes & Noble, Books a Million) and has a global digital circulation on all major platforms. With each quarterly issue we reach 350,000+ readers.

ARABELLA’s print and digital publications play a critical role in presenting Canadian creative talent to the widest possible audience while providing in-depth, visually compelling insight into the best of art, residential architecture, landscaping, interior design and luxury lifestyle products and services.

ARABELLA’s vision is to go beyond the boundaries of conventional publications and produce the most exquisite Canadian Art, Architecture & Design magazine for consumers who aspire, are achieving, or have already accomplished a luxury life style and have a passion for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and living life well. It’s about beauty in all its forms and providing readers with an unforgettable reading experience!

With layout and design features unlike any other North American print or digital magazine, each issue (which is more like a book) provides visually compelling, in-depth information and insight on the best of art, residential architecture, landscaping, interior design and luxury lifestyle products and services from the traditional to the contemporary, from the local to the internationally inspired. 18. Arabella Summer 2013