8 Canadian Artists to Check Out This Fall
Canada has a rich creative history and boasts some of the most exciting artists in the world today.
by : Robb Jamieson- Sep 26th, 2023
SELF PORTRAIT WITH JEWELRY (2023) BY HANGAMA AMIRI; COURTESY OF AGA KHAN MUSEUM
An Afghan-Canadian artist who works mainly in mixed-media textiles, Hangama Amiri layers fabric, carefully sews all the details and uses acrylic paint and inkjet printed chiffon to create pictorial scenes. Amiri’s attraction to these materials is thanks to members of her own family—her mother taught her how to sew, and her uncle is a tailor. These textile works can appear on the wall with raw edges or as 3-D sculptures, the materials referencing her youth in Kabul like a mental quilt. She depicts women’s lives across interior, commercial, public and advertisement spaces. Hands are up close in intimate situations, carefully holding another person or in the process of sharing food or being painted with henna. Amiri’s complex colourful pieces are labour-intensive and reveal more details the longer you look at them.
Now working throughout Europe, Vanessa Brown grew up in Richmond, B.C., and built a practice working in steel sculpture and installation, recently adding metal casting, stained glass, fabric and video. Brown’s colour palette—whether in her beautifully painted large-scale sculptures or her stained glasses—is always sophisticated and harmonious. In her work, the human body lurks: Gigantic earrings allow us to appreciate the hooked curve of the metal ear loops at such a scale that they are a little terrifying. Flower shapes are rendered in steel, and real flowers are cast in metal. Symbolic depictions of wineglasses, keyholes, teardrops, eyes, rings, claws and moons bring us back to the charm bracelets and cereal bowls of our youth but with more adult image choices.
Montreal-based German-Canadian artist Marlon Kroll has shown widely in the past few years at galleries including Montreal’s PHI Centre, Afternoon Projects in Vancouver and Galleria Acappella in Naples, Italy. Using coloured pencils and acrylic on muslin over wood panels, Kroll creates paintings that range from the figurative to the more abstract. These colourful works reach out into the visual world of spirituality and the spectral and are paired with found objects and skeletal wooden sculptures, which often echo shapes seen in the paintings. His sculptures work to surprise with hidden elements in their corners and nooks. Sound is also of interest to Kroll, who has used speakers, horns and record players as ways of connecting to the unseen and amplifying the spirit world.
A transdisciplinary artist of Canadian and Anishinaabe heritage, Maria Hupfield is now based in Toronto after having lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., for many years. She has exhibited across North America in major art spaces, including the Brooklyn Museum and the National Gallery of Canada, and operates at the fluid intersection of performance, sculpture and design. Her wearable sculptures—which can include noisemakers and flowing fabric—are activated and personalized by her performer’s body movements. (When not being worn, they’re displayed on wooden structures alongside videos of the performances.) Hupfield often uses industrial grey felt as her main construction material and also recreates everyday objects, like headphones and winter boots. The grey felt reminds the viewer of its historic use in blankets and boot linings and of the work of German performance artist Joseph Beuys. Hupfield is very interested in instigating thoughts of community and Indigenous feminism and disrupting colonial spaces. She co-owns Native Art Department International—a collaborative long-term project that organizes exhibitions, screenings and collective-art-making—with her husband, artist Jason Lujan.
Based in Kinngait, Nunavut, Shuvinai Ashoona comes from an extensive family of artists, most notably her grandmother Pitseolak Ashoona and her cousin Annie Pootoogook. Shuvinai has shown extensively in Canada and internationally and most recently was included in the 2022 Venice Biennale’s Milk of Dreams group exhibition. Her unique pencil and ink drawings, which are often very large, captivate the viewer with intricate textures and colours. Some of her pictorial spaces depict contemporary Arctic life, and with some of her work, she transports us into a dreamlike outer space where humans, real and mythical beasts and hybrids of the two frolic with and twist into one another. Tentacles wrap, connect and capture, and planet earth is often used as a character’s head. These depictions are so playful that you’ll want to jump in, but they still have ominous undertones.
LOTUS LAURIE KANG
Toronto-based Lotus Laurie Kang has garnered wide acclaim for her site-sensitive installation work, in which she places large-scale photo paper on the floor or hangs it from industrial metal studs. The photo paper changes as it is exposed to the environment of each space it is exhibited in. Time, light, humidity and even the viewers’ bodies are recorded in the abstract surfaces of the light-sensitive materials, in much the same way that our own skin reacts to environmental change. Kang often displays sculptural elements like aluminum-cast cabbage leaves, sardines, lotus roots and Asian pears, making permanent food that neither is consumed nor rots away. While experiencing these installations, one can’t help but think about how everything is in flux, including our own bodies. Kang recently had a show at Toronto’s Franz Kaka gallery (which currently represents the artist), and her latest installation, Molt, is currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago through February 11, 2024.
Oreka James’ paintings focus largely on mark-making and carefully outlined depictions of the body. The borders of her paintings are often decorated with repeated sharp shapes, which are reflected in starburst-like sculptural work. The Toronto-based artist, who’s had recent shows at Montreal’s Pangée and Toronto’s Cooper Cole, pivots between nailing unstretched canvas directly to the wall and creating custom frames that converse with the paintings instead of fencing them in. The natural world is important to James and appears in earth-tone pigments, actual earth placed on the ground around sculptural pieces and the sandlike cardboard papier mâché used in her custom frames and sculptures. Themes of Afro-Caribbean folklore and storytelling intertwine with what it means to search for spirituality and identity, while painted hands reach out to grasp at sunbursts of bright, pure energy—the electrical charge within us all.
JASON DE HAAN
Alberta-based artist Jason de Haan specializes in sculptural installations, video and collage. Objects that result from forces of nature—like meteors, minerals and fossils —are central to his interests. These by-products, created hundreds of thousands of years ago, highlight the briefness of our human timelines. An avid digger of fossils, de Haan places the ones he finds on top of humidifiers so they slowly disintegrate over time, and he likes to create work in nature by, for example, placing gold rings on saplings so they’re eventually overtaken by the trees as they grow or making a pavilion-like sculpture to feed migratory hummingbirds. De Haan also finds meaning by incorporating personal items that belonged to family members into his work, amplifying the idea of human connection and how objects can be used to express the poetry of existence
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