Tag Archives: contemporary art

Horizontal pix 1

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

?

ANDY WARHOL: REVISITED

It was Saturday afternoon of this long weekend…I was bored, wandering around Yorkville just window shopping and bemoaning the fact that I had no “play money” (it’s rent weekend, big phone & internet bills to pay…blast it) I then suddenly remembered…Warhol! Yes, there’s a pop-up gallery that’s taken over the old Guess boutique space on Bloor St just west of Bay, featuring paintings and prints from the most prolific and important artist of the 60’s and 70’s…Andy Warhol.20150801_143915Most people have seen his “Marilyn Monroe” series at least one time or another and yes, she’s there in all her glory, but there are also many other brilliantly coloured works of art featuring political leaders, royalty and society mavens, as well as his advertising images, paintings of Hollywood divas and cartoon characters…all are represented in the space, thanks to Ron Rivlin’s Revolver Gallery.

One  jaw-dropping image that stopped me in my tracks almost as soon as I walked in was a painting I was not familiar with…Red Lenin (below).  This bright red image looms large over one section of the gallery and I felt pulled right in to his eyes – quite hypnotic.20150801_143644Next to Lenin is this gorgeous Alexander the Great painting (below) which I was also unfamiliar with.

20150801_143652Then there were the socialites, the men who made million$ and spent million$, who supported Andy with commissions and entertained him at chi-chi soirees and Club 54 (below). I surprised myself by recognizing many of the names…then realized how damned old I am that I actually remember who these guys were!!

20150801_143856I had forgotten Andy’s “wild west” series that included Geronimo, Col. Custer, Sitting Bull and “The Duke” who took centre spot on this wall (below). The portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, tho, looked disturbingly like Robin Williams in Night at the Museum but I soon realized just how important an artist Warhol was, considering major movie stars still fashion their on-screen characterizations after his work.

20150801_143843Muhammad Ali was there, as were Judy Garland and Ronald Reagan…even Uncle Sam and the Wicked Witch of the West are on display….

20150801_143716 20150801_143803 20150801_143720

But for me, the piece de resistance had to be the giant Mickey Mouse portrait….although I’m not a big Disney fan, I had purchased a museum quality print of Warhol’s Mickey back in the early 80’s. There was something very endearing and magical about it and the original didn’t disappoint, with some sparklies in the background paint and his big silly smile -I fell in love all over again with my own Mickey.

20150801_143822As you can see (above), Mickey was in great company surrounded by Aunt Jemima, Howdy Doody and Andy himself!

All hail Her Maj!

All hail Her Maj!

Blue Mao...part of a series of Mao Andy painted in various bright colours. Very provocative at the time.

Blue Mao…part of a series of Mao that Andy painted in various bright colours. Very provocative at the time.

The Revolver Gallery at 77 Bloor St West, Toronto, will showcase these incredible works of art until December 31st, with general admission tickets $10 (Seniors $8, Students and Youth $5) and VIP passes for $30 (lots of perks and return visits incl.). If you love art or simply have a soul(!), you MUST go visit in person.   Tel: 647-347-5355 or www.warholrevisited.com

And a big thank you to Korbin and his crew of knowledgeable art interns who guided me thru the exhibit.

Great gift shop with tons of cool souvenirs

Great gift shop with tons of cool souvenirs

20150801_144040And here’s my very own Warhol poster, purchased during the 1982 Hamburg, Germany, exhibition. He’s freshly dusted off and awaiting a re-hang; now if only I could find some space on my walls….

20150802_130917

For more info on ANDY WARHOL’s work and life, please visit: www.artsy.net/artist/andy-warhol