Toronto-based artist Peter Harris is at it again with his latest solo show “Night Watch” kicking off this weekend at the Mira Godard Gallery (22 Hazelton Ave). The exhibition runs from Feb 21 – March 14th.
My recent paintings focus on the defining elements of a contemporary urban landscape that surround us all as city dwellers. I’ve chosen to paint these ubiquitous subjects at night, using the darkness like a stage curtain, creating spaces that highlight my subjects with almost reverential illumination while isolating them from the background. The objects of the urban landscape, the restaurants, gas stations, municipal buildings, streetcars, buses and parking lots that take centre stage in my paintings form a distilled and concentrated version of urbanity. The world I paint is cleaned up and pared down, a small oasis of solitude and order to contrast the realities of daily life in the city.
We’ve been watching Kanwer Singh aka “Humble The Poet” for a while now and recently got a chance to talk to the Toronto teacher and MC who is making it his mission to dissect deep motifs and connect with anyone willing to listen.
What is it about writing/poetry that resonates with you so deeply?
It’s not just poetry and writing. It’s just creativity in general. I love the concept of bringing ideas to life. I love the feeling of having a spark in my mind and then watching it come to life. The journey isn’t as enjoyable. If I write a verse on a beat, and it’s a painful process at times, once I release it and see the finished product and see it connect with people, it motivates me to start all over again.
How did Humble the poet come to be? Why Humble?
I was raised in a family of Sikh heritage and it’s a common theme that our egos are a big source of a lot of our misery so staying humble is something we can do to reduce that. Obviously we all got egos at different levels and in different situations; I’m not the exception to that rule. The idea of “poet” came from the evolution of literary art, to not simply be a rapper, to simply be an MC but taking it to another level, acknowledging the Shakespeares, Edgar Allen Poes.
Why do you think people from all over the world, truly connect with your words?
In the past couple of years I shifted the focus from social issues to the human condition. In my research, learning about what’s happening in the world and scratching beneath the surface and realizing the themes that are going on; a lot of it has to do with human nature. We’re all going through the same things, doesn’t matter where you are in the world. You deal with anxiety, regret. We’re haunted by our past; we get nervous about our future. We’ve been through heartbreak. Ideals like that, not only do they touch everybody around the world, they’re timeless as well. Having the ability to articulate that, nice and simply, especially when they’re heavy concepts, I think that’s why people gravitate towards what I do.
Tell us a little bit about your book Unlearn and why you thought it was important to publish.
What happened was I was working full-time as teacher with the Toronto district school board, grade three at the time. And I was doing slam poetry on the side. Slowly, I started writing more and putting stuff up online and when that transition came where this no longer was the side project and took my main attention. When I made that transition and left my job, or took time off the job specifically to focus on this, I realized I didn’t have to pick up a lot of new things, I really had to forget a lot of biases and idealisms that I had ‘cause they were holding me back from progressing. The idea of Unlearn came from there. I just started blogging, blogging on my Facebook page just to connect. And it was the support that was like, ‘you need to start collecting your work, and publish it as a book.’ I crowd sourced the book though indie go-go and raised over $26,000.
What is your objective; why is it important to you?
My objective is to bring ideas to life and I have grand scale ideas. Like, full length feature films that I want to bring to life. I realize I have to stay on my grind. Working in entertainment and working in the creative space for a number of years now, you understand how it really works so you have to keep your profile up there if you want those doors to open. In the beginning it was just you know, getting the attention of a couple girls (he says with a laugh) and doing something cool but I think now at this point, I realize that that this path in life is the first time I feel like I’m exploring my potential and I wanna realize my potential. Through that, I wanna connect with as many people as possible and make a contribution to society and this planet. It’s important to me because it gives me purpose, gets me outta bed. I think so many people in this life aren’t fortunate enough to have the time to discover their purpose, a purpose that excites them. My parents immigrated to Toronto, me having the freedom to take that risk; I feel that it’s my obligation now.
Most rewarding part about teaching/poetry?
You get to see your words/ideas change shape based on the context of who’s listening to them. You see them connecting. You learn so much about yourself working with kids ‘cause you start to realize how much of what you think is in your second nature, how much you are wired to believe, wired to act is really just socialization. Kids are blank slate; they don’t have the same biases that we do, the same preconceived notions. So when you encounter a child and they don’t have that, it reminds you that at one point, you didn’t have that either. So that puts you in great position to unlearn.
What do you hope people take away from your work?
We turn on the radio coz we want life to feel a little bit better. We read a book ‘cause we want life to feel a little bit better; we consume art for that purpose. When dealing with emotions nowadays people are going towards medication. I’m really hoping at the bare minimum people are hearing what I have to say through the different types of art I create and realize they’re not alone. Once we connect with people, once we realize we’re not alone and the things you’re feeling or going through are normal, you feel a lot less isolated, letting people know they’re not the only ones with anxiety of what may happen tomorrow, letting people know they may not be the only people who regret their past and re-live it over and over and beat themselves up about it. Sometimes you gotta put on that a catchy beat, sometimes you gotta put it on the page, capture it in an image and put that on a sweat shirt. I just want to connect.
Last night we attended the Monogram Dinner by Design event in Toronto, founded by GE Monogram Appliances and Azure Magazine as a way to celebrate design talents and to raise funds for two incredible organizations: Casey House & The Design Exchange. The concept of the event provides a unique dinner and cocktail experience highlighting well-know interior designers, architects, decorators and influential members of the design community. We participated in the ‘Cocktail by Design’ portion of the evening and saw everything from minimalist design, class & sophistication, to some unique and extremely artsy settings. See some of our favourites below.
SPiN Toronto has become the hottest Ping-Pong social club in the city’s eclectic entertainment district on King Street West. Equipped with 12 high-quality Ping-Pong tables, Olympic-quality flooring, custom-designed lighting and two full service bars, it’s inevitably the go-to spot to fulfill a night of fun with a competitive edge. Building a community that consists of sportsmanship; SPiN Toronto has collaborated on four limited edition graphic tees, designed by Toronto-based artisans including: Doublenaut, Good Kids, Brianne Donut, and Fieldguided. Entitled, “White Dove and Paddles,” “SPiN Kombat,” “Funny Paddle Faces,” and “White Paddles,” each design is unique and available in both basic tees and raglans that are suitably themed for the sport at hand. The collection is exclusive as it’s limited to just 45 shirts per style. These shirts make for the ideal gift to represent your respective Ping-Pong teams. They are currently available for purchase at $38 a piece at 461 King St. West, Lower Level.
For those interested in joining, SPiN Toronto is open seven days a week between the hours of noon to 1AM from Sunday through Wednesday, and between noon to 2AM from Thursday through Saturday. All are welcome and membership packages are also available.
The beauty of film is that it can relay powerful stories and messages which can resonate with the viewer and change perspectives. When those films are coming straight out of your own neighbourhood and represent your voice, that’s power.
The Regent Park Film Festival does exactly that and we were lucky enough to check out the 2014 festival at Daniels Spectrum. Festival Manager, Amanda Pileggi, told us that the festival is not only accessible and open to all, it offers free admission and free child care! She says RPFF is a place where “everyone can connect to storytelling and film” and fosters a deep sense of community and connectivity.
We caught the screening for “Black Men Loving” directed by Ella Cooper, Intersections directed by Snap! A youth filmmaking workshop, and Hope Heights directed by Marc Magnusson in partnership with Manifesto.
Black Men Loving did a phenomenal job demolishing the stereotype of Black fathers by profiling some in Regent Park and across Toronto. Jason Creed, father of four, was one of the fathers profiled and recounted some moving truths of parenting young girls. We also got a real look at a homosexual relationship which, regardless of the endless stereotypes, provides a loving home to their son.
Intersections is project by the RPFF, funded by the Ontario Arts Council. “Professional artists Sheena D. Robertson and Richard Fung worked with youth from the Regent Park and Lawrence Heights communities, who wrote, produced, acted, and filmed all aspects of the production.” It takes the audience on the journey of one kid and shows us how we all connect, or intersect, without even noticing it. It sheds light on stereotypes the kids of Regent Park and Lawrence Heights face and the reality they have to survive in a very clever way.
Hope Heights is about a section of Toronto known as Lawrence Heights. Although the community has seen violence and tragedy, the point of the film explains that the media makes it worse than it actually is. We all rely on the news to tell us what’s happening in the world but sensationalism is compromising the facts. The community doesn’t deny terrible things have happened there but the good outweighs the bad; the people are respectable and the potential is infinite. The lesson we come away with is to seek out truth for yourself; if you didn’t see it with your own eyes, or hear it with your own ears, you don’t truly know.
The Remix Project was created in order to help level the playing field for young people from disadvantaged, marginalized and under served communities. Our programs and services serve youth who are trying to enter into the creative industries or further their formal education; The REMIX Project provides top-notch alternative, creative, educational programs, facilitators and facilities. Our mission is to help refine the raw talents of young people from across the GTA in order to help them find success as participants define it and on their own terms.
The Remix Project is now accepting applications for the following youth programs.
We met Marco Pecota, Owner and Creative Director of PEKOTA, a Toronto-based boutique design firm, at the “RISE UP” party by DX and were wowed by his stunning designs throughout the venue; fitting for a party that is dedicated to design excellence! We had to know more so we caught up with Marco to talk art and design.
1. You wear many different hats, from publishing to film; why venture into furniture, how did you start?
I have always loved design. Once I finished designing and rebuilding my home a few years back, I felt a craving for more design. The hobby of building my first chair quickly turned into a small side business and then into a full blown design company.
2. Describe your creative process.
I am inspired by the design of the early 20th century. Not just furniture but also automotive, aviation and architecture. Combining this passion with an industrial edge has led me to design what I like to call “Industrial Elegance.” Everything I design starts with pencil to paper. I sketch out the design which is then converted into technical drawings and finally into 3D renderings. From there it goes to steel fabrication via laser cutting and CNC forming. After that we craft the wood components in house and handle all of the finishing and packaging.
3. Made and designed in Canada; why is this important to you?
Being made in Canada is very important as it allows me to have greater quality control over our products. I am hands on throughout the entire process allowing for quick changes to perfect the piece. This also allows for quick customization for customers. It is also important for me to support our local suppliers because it fosters a manufacturing community.
4. What do you hope people experience through PEKOTA designs?
I hope that people find my pieces both beautiful and original. I think that any art form should aspire to achieve this. Our pieces should make people feel comfortable and inspired.
5. Favourite experiences via designing?
I enjoy the entire process: from researching inspirational designs, to capturing a new look, to the process of manufacturing. There is great satisfaction in seeing a fresh idea come to reality in the matter of a few weeks.
“The pitch contest challenged me on so many levels. I’ve had the opportunity to pitch for funding before, but I’ve never done a creative pitch with other people. Through the experience I learned how to be a better leader and how to deliver an entertaining pitch in front of a panel of judges. I was also able to meet new friends and establish connections that I didn’t have before. It was hands down one of the most exciting experiences of my life.” – Anthony Gebrehiwot, XVXY Photo
That’s just a glimpse into the gravity of the Youth Pitch Contest created by ArtReach and City of Toronto Arts & Culture. It created a platform for young artists and entrepreneurs to pitch ideas surrounding their craft to a panel of respected judges including our very own, Bryan Brock, in hopes of winning up to $5,000!
“The arts are a powerful and motivating way that youth are involved in their communities. Whether it’s in someone’s basement, or through a community program – young people are creating art all over this city.” – ArtReach
Asia hoped the prize money would help her with funding to attend a Jewelry Arts Academy for Goldsmithing in Trinidad and Tobago as well as to hire an assistant to help with existing demand, two key pieces she felt she was missing. In her pitch, used a combination of audio/visual projection and live models. The four key element of her speech were, “Future, Heritage, Create, Magic”.
“Preparing for the pitch contest was a challenge because I really wanted to win but was made nervous by my amazing competitors – I was already aware of and inspired by their work” says Asia, “I have connected with some of the other finalists and even made plans to collaborate on future work which is dope! I’m looking forward to that.”
It’s always a thrill to witness the scope of creativity in Toronto. The Youth Pitch Contest is another reminder that one proactive step towards your goals, is a giant leap towards your dreams.
Toronto-based sock wear brand Huely transformed their latest Street Art Collection (Series 02) with the help of co-founder and lead curator Nate Kogan. Nate selected eight of Toronto’s top street artists including SPUD, Uber5000, Anser, Darryl Graham, Lazerhorse, Paul Byron, Justin Pape, and Poser. Each artist designed their own Huely sock, drawing on inspiration from their respective styles.
Remember when getting a pair of socks at Christmas was the worst gift ever? There’s a good chance most of the men out there would welcome a pair of Huely’s this holiday season!
Ryan Emond does it again! Toronto Skyline Porn is exactly what its title implies – a full frontal visual journey through Toronto’s growing skyline. The scenes were shot over the past few years from different heights and in different seasons. Enjoy… #1LOVETO
Last year @1LOVETO decided to host our 1st Annual Photo Walk with our official photographer @SoTeeOh. We spent over 3 hours hiking through Evergreen Brickworks, capturing shots and taking breaks to learn some helpful tips from @SoTeeOh. This year we’ve decided to switch up the scenery and meet at City Hall where we’ll be walking to the Financial District and eventually The Distillery District.
What happens when you pair an author and an artist? Brilliance.
The Braille Project, brainchild of Faye Harnest and Devon E. Sioui, highlights the beauty of braille and the art of communication. Faye was writing poetry with braille and using it as art. Devon’s artistic technique and textures caught her attention and before they knew it, they were collaborating.
Faye: It’s most important that our works are fun to experience. I love concrete poetry—poetry that messes around with letters and words and makes you pay attention to every shape and pattern… We don’t think of our project as political—it’s a creative endeavor—but we would like it if The Braille Project made a few people excited about learning braille. By showing how cool braille is—and, of course, it is cool; it is reading and writing, two of the most important and enjoyable things in life.
Together, they developed a series called, PLEASE DO TOUCH! It’s a series of 40 paintings that play with wild coloured paints and expressive braille poetry inspired by those who have their own connection to braille.
Devon: We wanted the audience to explore the paintings with their hands, interacting with them in ways you normally wouldn’t. Touching paintings at a gallery is usually frowned upon, so actually being encouraged to touch them is really fun.
Faye: Yes! In the same way that we’re interested in stripping away some of the rules of how we’re supposed to interact with language, we want to strip away some of the rules about how we’re supposed to interact with paintings…The narratives told by the braille poems are cohesive in that they have a very “Let’s go! Let’s run away together!” attitude that encourages everyone to come along on this adventure.
The duo is embarking on a new adventure with a documentary in the works and hopefully, a cross-Canada tour of PLEASE DO TOUCH!
Devon: We are shooting a documentary of the Project with Director Jay Lidstone, and we’re also beginning to work on large sculptures and installations incorporating braille and the theme of touch.
Faye: We’re planning to exhibit all of the paintings in the Please Do Touch series together, in Toronto, and afterwards, we would love for some pieces to travel throughout Canada, so that as many people can touch them as possible. How great would it be to have a travelling exhibit—oh! a painting mobile, like a book mobile, but with paintings, driving up your street! Alas, that’s only a dream.