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June 3, 2013

Florence has been on my mind. As the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art draws to a close (June 16), I’ve enjoyed revisiting my days living in this great Tuscan city and its profound influences. Last week, I presented a repeat performance of my illustrated talk on art and cinema. During this presentation I delve into artists who are influenced by cinema. I reminisce about a special place in downtown Firenze called the Apollo Theatre (pictured at night and with Google Streetview). This abandoned film theatre was located next door to the Ontario College of Art studios in downtown at the corner of Via Nazionale and Via Fiume. Through a roof-latch, we’d sneak into the derelict film house. We’d feel the rush and exhilaration of urban explorers–and we had the place to ourselves! The theatre was a sacred palace dedicated to the art of cinema. The projection room still had old 35mm projectors (pictured) and metal canisters of vintage films. This fifty-year-old celluloid became the inspiration for many drawings years after their discovery.

Boarded Apollo Theatre

Boarded Apollo Theatre

Apollo at Night

It comes as a surprise to many that these mid-century artefacts were simply abandoned, let alone the shell of this majestic building built during the 1930s. I try to put it in the perspective of Florentine eyes; after all this is the centre of the Renaissance with a thousand year old cultural legacy. Quattrocentro masterpieces adorn the city’s every turn. For locals, the Apollo and all its contents are probably seen as disposable mass-culture of the twentieth century. For me, the Apollo was a rich repository of contents and stories that continue to inspire my art and life.

Apollo Projection Booth

Apollo Projection Booth

December 7, 2012

Whitby’s connection to the international Dada movement became very palpable today. Dada was an international avant-guard art and cultural movement formed during and following the First World War. One of its practitioners, Willy Fick, was born in Germany in the late nineteenth century and was an instrumental figure of the Cologne Dada scene of the inter-war period. Fick spent his latter years in Whitby, and died here in Canada’s centennial year.

Willy Fick and Me

Willy and Me

Thanks to the guidance and insights of Angie Littlefield (writer, curator, educator), I had a rare glimpse into Fick’s world and the works of his contemporaries this morning. This splendid collection of the Cologne Dada artists was gifted to the Art Gallery of Ontario by Littlefield and her brother. The rare works are kept in the prints and drawings section of the AGO’s permanent collection. The solander boxes house copious vintage archives, pen and ink drawings, mixed media works, source material, etc. It was like peering into another world, through another’s eyes. A project is currently underway to bring Willy’s worldview to the public eye. Stay tuned–the best is yet to come…

Death in the Kitchen

One of my faves–“Death in the Kitchen”, ink on paper

October 25, 2009

Peter Kolisnyk's: Ground Outline.

Peter Kolisnyk's: Ground Outline.

On Friday October 23, 2009 one of Peter Kolisnyk’s large sculptures, Ground Outline, was picked up for renovation. The piece left the gallery loading dock a day after the Canadian art community mourns the passing of this prominent minimalist artist. I didn’t know Peter well, but I get such strong impressions of his legacy from speaking with those who knew him, in many cases, as a mentor. Peter was born in Toronto in 1934.

Artist, Instructor and Mentor, the late Peter Kolisnyk.

He developed his distinctly pure style following his training at Western Technical School. The artist was the recipient of several awards, including Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council grants. His impressive exhibition record includes exhibitions throughout North America. The Art Gallery of Ontario circulated a solo travelling show in 1980. Peter had been actively involved with Station Gallery over many decades as a generous donor, exhibiting artist and a very popular experimental painting instructor. I am reminded here of the words of his student and friend, Joan Attersley, when she referred to Peter as “a national treasure under the guise of a very modest man.” Another of his former students, Tony Romano (an internationally-known artist scheduled to present his work at the Gallery in 2010) has cited Peter as a deep influence during his formative years. He had a profound impact on many individuals through the years and will be greatly missed.