ArtTO gallery crawl: Trick or treat for art lovers

Walking door to door on dark streets in late October in search of a welcome and treats is not just something kids get to do on Halloween.

Thanks to Art Toronto, an annual showcase of local, national and international art in the city, you can do it at local galleries. I headed out for this year’s ArtTO West End gallery hop to discover art in my home turf – Bloor and Dundas West.

First stop: Mercer Union, where I saw inspired pieces by indigenous artist Duane Linklater. His use of construction materials in installations speaks to larger issues of mining, pulling resources from the North and its impact on native communities.

#artToronto gallery crawl
Duane Linklater’s Construction materials and commentary on the impact of mining resources on northern communities

It was at Mercer Union that I met fellow art lovers Jan and Mark, a B.C. couple who’ve been coming to ArtTo for several years. They were also starting out on the art hop.

I caught up with them again at the Daniel Faria Gallery, exhibiting Canadian artist and novelist Douglas Coupland‘s show Polychrome. Turns out they’re friends of his. That was a neat surprise.

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Jan, in the middle, and Mark, in the grey scarf, with their friends — and their friend Douglas Coupland’s art as backdrop. The mood at Daniel Faria Gallery was as upbeat as the art.

Gallery TPW, next door, was a quieter space, appropriate for Sharon Lockhart‘s film installation Rudzienko (named for a town near Warsaw, Poland), presented in collaboration with TIFF. A tribute to free expression, it features Lockhart’s Polish friend Milena Slowinska in conversation with other young women from a home for girls there. It is a thoughtful, contemplative piece.

In the same block, I visited the Clint Roenisch Gallery, where I spoke with Roenisch’s partner Leila Courey. The gallery is their live/work space, and the live part is a cabin-like retreat that Roenisch created.

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Their rustic accommodation in the middle of the gallery stands in contrast to the stark white walls surrounding it, more urban backdrop. The juxtaposition continued with the show of Kristan Horton‘s pieces, resembling patchwork quilts, and David Armstrong Six’s abstract sculptures.

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Hidden down an alley behind the St. Helens Avenue galleries is the Scrap Metal Gallery, and a mysterious installation: The Sophie La Rosière Project. Real-life artist Iris Häussler has created a fictional Parisian artist of the past, Sophie La Rosière, whose art must be hidden during the Second World War. It is revealed by X-rays.

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By pure luck, walking along Lansdowne on the way to Dundas West, I discovered an artist in action. Illustrator Emily May Rose was painting over an ugly condo sign. Her friend and fellow artist Oriah Scott had already finished on the other side.

Last stop on my adventure: M6G127 gallery, displaying Monica Tap‘s show Green Thumb.

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Monica Tap with a work inspired by the response to the terrorist attacks in France — bouquets of flowers against grey skies.

I left just as the gallery was closing, into the night, illuminated by the people I had met, their ideas and their work. Not so dark after all.

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