I can't believe it is November 2016. My obsession with the Canadian conscious has taken me many places this year; Whistler, Vancouver, Yellowknife, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and our capital city of Ottawa. At the end of October I packed up my camera and contacts list and set out for Toronto to meet up with a few colleagues and celebrate Canadian art at the Art Toronto 2016, International art fair. We then boarded a train for some art and cuisine in Montreal, and then another train to Ottawa, Ontario for a couple photography exhibitions at the National Gallery of Canada, and a stroll down Confederation Avenue to Parliament Hill. Six days, four planes, a few cabs, two trains, a metro, and a few miles on foot. My daily weblog of this whirlwind eastern Canadian art trip!
ART AND THE CITY: Day 1 Art Toronto International Art Fair 2016
Three hours ahead of my Island on the west coast had me sleepy eyed this morning. A coffee in the sunshine and a brisk walk through the concrete jungle to the convention centre found us in the midst of the biggest players in the Canadian contemporary art world as well as a few progressive international galleries. Hyperrealistic portraiture, Optical illusion art, video art, pop inspired, and historical superstars of Canadian Art history; you get a little slice of every style. From Damien Hirst to Andrew Valko, the Group of Seven to Carol Waino; a day at the fair had us art drunk and flying sky high. Seeking a reprieve from the high heels and wine, our rumbling hunger set us striding in the direction of 99 Blue Jays Way, the home of all things Gretzky, including wine and food. A museum of the legendary hockey star, we honoured the great one through wine and food. More art, lime laced sparkling water, and the first International art book fair led me to a white beacon. Floating across the floor in my Sgt. Pepper style red wool coat, it seemed fitting to land in the midst of 100 White Albums. For 10 years artist Rutherford Chang has been acquiring first pressings of The Beatles White Album. Each cover from the first pressing features a serial number stamped on the front. Chang then digitally layered tracks from all 100 albums into one track and is selling a copy of this unique digital inspiration. A clever homage to an experimental and iconic group of musical artists. We got loose for dinner at the Loose Moose, complete with antlers, hockey skates, and nude paintings on the walls. Ready for day two! Until tomorrow...
ART AND THE CITY DAY 2: A Moose Factory, some jazz and a town crier. I'm here on a Via Rail train car travelling through a landscape painted with golds and crimson from Toronto to Montreal. Yesterday was sensory overload. We began the day with a brisk walk to meet with iconic Canadian painter Charles Pachter at his studio on Grange Street. Four floors and a rooftop view of the city. A studio filled with Canadian iconography and figurative paintings inspired by Canada. Our visit came with a recommendation and an escorted walk to Chinatown for some Dim Sum. A walk down Queens Street west and we were back at the art fair and joined Andrew Valko on the floor with Mayberry fine art for some art talk and laughs. Our night was filled with mellifluous jazz notes, led by our evening host, and joined by friends. A jazz bar, a meal at Queen Mothers, and a beer with a Town Crier; and we were bursting at the belt buckle full of good food, drink, aural and visual pleasures. We bid the city goodnight under the rainbow glow of the Toronto sign. Another great day on this journey across the Canadian art landscape. Back to the view of my train window. See you in Montreal!
ART AND THE CITY: Day 3
A train with tricks and La Belle Province
Five hours on a Via Rail train. Five hours clacking over tracks watching fall colours, farmers fields and graffiti laden trains whiz by my window. I'm now on the second leg of this trip, and I have found myself in Canada's closest connection to European living, culture and appreciation for the arts. With only a few hours to explore downtown before dusk, the gold and burnt orange trees on the hillside of Mont Royal beckoned. Halloween is in full regalia and I can't tell the Canadiens fans from the costumed. Two churches and a Bell Centre later and we were hungry. The destination for dinner; Old Montreal. With its cobblestone streets, thick cracked sidewalks and quaint architecture; you feel as if you have landed in Paris. If you can't make it to Paris, come here! This city has culture, heart, art, and flavours all its own. Scallops, oysters, smoked salmon tartar, and caviar made us instant fans of Garde Manger, celebrity chef Chuck Hughes restaurant that is currently booking reservations a month in advance, but if you show up and are willing to wait you could score seats at the bar, which we did tonight. On our walk through the streets of Old Montreal we came upon ghostly projections of people past in unexpected locations around the city. Cite Memoire is a large scale art installation project covering walls of Old Montreal. A project created by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon invoking Montreal history as part of 375th celebrations coming next year to Montreal. Another full day, another day for ideas. Until tomorrow...
ART AND THE CITY: Day 4
Climb every mountain, that is the way I look at these trips of discovery, filling my brain and my heart up with all things art and Canada. Every day is full from dawn to the early hours of the morning, this is why I am writing this recollection of yesterday, right now, on a train bound for Ottawa. Yesterday I felt as if I had landed in another country somewhere in Europe. The brick and cobblestone streets of old Montreal keep one's attention focused on the steps. Deep veins and cracks fill sidewalks, street maintenance is an ongoing and laborious affair. Boutiques, galleries, restaurants and museums fill the landscape. Our destination, the grand Notre Dame Basilica. A basilica in the historic district of Old Montreal, the church is located next to the Saint-Sulpice Seminary and faces the Place d'Armes square. The church's Gothic Revival architecture is among the most dramatic in the world; its interior is grand and colourful, its ceiling is coloured deep blue and decorated with golden stars, and the rest of the sanctuaryis a polychrome of blues, azures, reds, purples, silver, and gold. It is filled with hundreds of intricate wooden carvings and several religious statues.
We then strolled along the causeway down at Port Montreal and onto the Seaway canal and locks connecting the Great Lakes waterways of Canada. A tuna melt on baguette, a cab ride, and a mountain climb later found us on the summit of Mount Royal at the chalet and lookout point. A grand view of the entire city of Montreal framed by trees of gold, burnt orange and Crimson hues. A hike down the mountain, a metro and a walk through the bustling neighborhood of Mont Royal and it was time to get our poutine on, in true Montreal fashion. The squeakiest cheese curds, salty gravy like sauce and tender fries were the solution to an appetite built during the day. I got my first taste of Montreal, and it will flow across my taste-buds for years to come. Back to this train ride, next stop Ottawa!
ART AND THE CITY: Day 5
A train, a gallery, and a capital city. On this trip i have fallen in love with train travel. It's civilized, it's comfortable and it carries the charm of the service era. Montreal to Ottawa was swift and colorful. Views of farm fields, fall colours and quaint towns flew by my window. Arriving in Ottawa we were met with a winters nip in the air. With limited time for my first visit to the capital, we fled quickly to the National Gallery. With a Canadian Art wing closed for Canada 150 preparations our focus became European art and two photography exhibitions. Keeping with the Canadian theme, i found myself drawn to the Globe and Mail photo exhibit marrying text, large format video compilations and original photos marked by the designers and press for final printing. With a view of Parliament Hill, appearing like a European castle on the horizon, i felt a little bit patriotic and proud to have finally made it to our nation's capital. Ottawa has beauty and class and feelings of an era gone by, a day of nostalgia. Our evening finished with a toast at the Fairmont Château Laurier, an historic railway hotel where heads of state, celebrities and even artists lived. For eighteen years this was the home of the iconic portrait photographer, Yousuf Karsh, and his richly toned black and white portraits still remain throughout the lobby today. A romantic and reminiscent day. Until tomorrow.
ART AND THE CITY: Day 6, the castle on the hill
My final day on this six day journey in eastern Canada. This trip by far was the busiest with four planes, two trains, a few cabs, a metro and many miles on the soles of our feet. Today it was like summer in Ottawa; the fall colours and sunshine calling us out to play on the hills lining the Ontario River and Rideau Canal. Beginning at Major's Hill Park where Champlain stands tall over the city, we walked the Ontario River to the Rideau canal locks below Parliament Hill. Wellington Street was our next walk, a major street in Ottawa, notable for being one of the first two streets laid out in this area of town in 1826, and known for it's government and parliament buildings. Starting with Canada's Library and archives, we passed the Supreme Court, Bank of Canada, and many other notable and iconic landmarks including the war memorial. Ottawa is currently under construction from the National Gallery to Parliament Hill. Repairing, cleaning, building, cranes litter the skyline and fences keep visitors out of most areas as the city rushes to finish preparations for Canada's Sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017. Ottawa has an old world British charm not unlike my hometown of Victoria. It's been a whirlwind trip, capping a year of connection and exploration in Canada. Thankful to all my hosts and to all those who have helped extend my connections across the country. I have breathed Canada in, let it ruminate and then flow out, through words and brush on canvas. There is much to process and many preparations in the works for Canada 2017. I'm almost there and looking forward to presenting my work to you all, next year. Exciting times ahead!