In the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at Montreal’s Papier art fair and moderating a discussion between four artists for Toronto’s Gallery 44 as part of its Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival programming. The topic of the first was, ostensibly, “Learn About Artists from Outside of Quebec”, and also included the lovely Rhiannon Vogl, a curatorial assistant at the National Gallery, and the skillful editor of Winnipeg-based Border Crossings magazine, Meeka Walsh. The second, a discussion about the “discursive possibilities of abstract photography”, included the eloquent and talented photo-based artists Jim Verberg and Laurie Kang of Toronto, Montreal’s Jérôme Nadeau and New York-based Sheree Hovsepian, none of whom approach their ‘photographic’ image-making in a conventional way.
In both talks, the question arose of whether there are any identifiable trends in the Canadian art scene right now. A tough question, seeing as how Canadian artists are as exposed to international trends as those based in New York, London or Paris. However, it seemed unanimous across the panels that we are currently seeing a “return to studio-based practice” in the work of Canadian artists. Perceiving traces of the hand of the artist in the work, and being able to identify how materials have been manipulated and transformed by human effort, seems to be informing the work of many artists. (And, an art fair like Papier, which focuses exclusively on paper-based work – collage, paintings, drawings, folded sculptures and more – was a good place to put such a theory to the test; scroll through the slide show above to see a small sampling of artworks that caught my eye while wandering Papier’s aisles.)
In one way or another, many of the artists mentioned in this issue are very hands-on in the production of their work. Romas Astrauskas, in his thoughts on a sculpture by the young American artist Brie Ruais in this issue’s Parting Shot, explains the magic that occurs when a material is acted upon by a body. Whether it’s sculptors like An Te Liu, Jennifer Rose Sciarrino or Iris Häussler (see Matthew Ryan Smith’s review in this issue) or several of the young painters who Dunlop Art Gallery director/curator Jennifer Matotek discusses with Bart Gazzola, engaging with materials and (often literally) getting their hands dirty appeals to many artists today.
Another trend we noticed was that of collage-based work. Perhaps, this is a response to the cut-and-paste, fleetingly consumed nature of image presentation in the Internet age. Collage, by it’s very nature, forces artists and viewers to slow down in their making and looking. We’ll be featuring several collage-based artists in the summer issue of Magenta.
In coming issues of Magenta, also look for special articles celebrating The Magenta Foundation’s 10th Anniversary this year (and the magazine’s fifth). Thank you to everyone who has supported the work of the Foundation so far, and for logging on to the magazine and reading. Enjoy the rest of the spring – we certainly earned it this year after that seemingly endless winter! — and we’ll see you again in August.
Bill Clarke was the Executive Editor of Magenta Magazine Online from its inception in September 2009 until May 2017. His writing has been published in Modern Painters, Art Review, Canadian Art, Artnews and several other publications. In January 2017, he assumed the position of associate director at Angell Gallery in Toronto.