On May 24th 2012, Springhill Suites provided Norman Felix and the McMichael Volunteer Committee with an opportunity to co-curate a vibrantly eclectic show for the hotel’s first annual ArtNight. Each year, 250 of the Marriott’s hotels across North America host an ArtNight with the intention of stimulating interest in local talent.
A wide range of artists at various stages of notoriety were showcased. Emerging talent shone just as brightly as established professionals at the peak of their careers. Norman Felix’s own Tongson Chen, an OCAD student who is making waves in the art community, exhibited his stylistically sophisticated yet grungy mixed-media depictions of broken-down urban settings.
One of McMichael Gallery’s stars, Doris Pontieri, is soon to show at the Louvre in France as one of twelve hand-picked Canadian artists. She was a treat to meet in person, and delivered some lovely eye candy to boot.
Although three hours was hardly enough time to absorb the beauty and diversity on display, we definitely came away from ArtNight with lasting impressions. We especially loved the masterful and unique landscape renderings by Michael Zarowsky and Jeremy Browne, whose work resonated with depth and meaning.
Zarowky’s watercolor work is a vibrant, hyper-saturated blend of realism and impressionism. He has mastered contrast and tonality, rendering light and shadow so convincingly that the viewer feels transported into the scene. You can almost sense the time of day, and the invigorating taste of the winter air.
Jeremy Browne explores the relationship between light and landscape with photo-realistic scenes of solitary farm houses set in immense, desolate landscapes. His work is peaceful and melancholy, communicating a respect for the wilderness of the North country, but also capturing the comfort of home with at least one lit window in each of his farmhouses.
Doris Pontieri’s innovative use of charcoal on canvas mixed with acrylic and watercolour paints elevates the landscape subject matter to a level where the medium speaks to the message of the artwork. Pontieri’s Northern Birch Trees paintings allude to a personal story of resilience in the face of struggle. She had to invent her own methodology for using charcoal on canvas to create these pieces, as charcoal rubs off easily and is difficult to keep intact long enough to render a drawing. We were so enchanted by her work that we’re currently writing a separate post just about Doris!
Many of our Norman Felix artists travelled to Vaughan from downtown Toronto and beyond in order to attend the reception. Bryan Belanger, Pete Kasprzak, Abigail Bedwell, Johanna Meharg, Jeff Turner, Saira de Goede, Dave Rheaume, and Melanie Day made it out for the event. Tongson Chen couldn’t stay for the opening, however he spent the entire day assisting with the curation and set-up for the event.
The night featured some of Norman Felix Gallery‘s newest work, including several mixed media-based paintings by Saira de Goede, who produces large-scale figurative pieces depicting beautiful but sinister women. Her striking art attracted a lot of interest with its juxtaposition of beauty and violence.
Bryan Belanger wowed viewers with the debut of his formidably-scaled paintings. Whitsundays feels like a walk on the beach to look upon with its thick and glossy layers of aquamarine paint, while The Balance of Mount Olympus explores female relationships in a style that is part myth, part free association, and part calculated madness.
Melanie Day’s soothing, subdued paintings of abstracted stormy island shores were a peaceful escape from reality. On a scorching hot day, just looking at them was enough to feel awash with relief from the blazing sun!
The new works by Pete Kasprzak (as seen in our CONTACT 2012 show), turned photography on its head with the use of an experimental and unique approach to photography involving black-on-black, with carved latex prints mounted on board.
Jeff Turner, another of our photographers, delivered some small and striking resin-coated prints on panel just in time for the show. The provocative image of a woman in an illuminated bathtub was a major conversation piece, especially as it differs so much from his usual travel photography.
Two very different aesthetics seamlessly blended together at ArtNight. The highly detailed, realistic, and traditional work selected by the McMichael Volunteer Committee provided the perfect counterbalance to Norman Felix’s urban-meets-contemporary aesthetic. This thematic divide was a reminder that there is no single correct approach to creating art. A successful piece is one that can enchant its audience, regardless of how varied their life experiences and perspectives may be.