Posted in Art
Contributed by Christopher Jones
01/27 2015

A Winter Lover and it Shows

For lots of us, a winter snowfall is a signal to plug in the kettle and put another log on the fire. Not so for Reginald Balanga, above. For the past few years, the photographer has greeted each new snow by reaching for his coat and camera and heading out to the nearby Don River to capture the beauty of winter in his adopted country.

Balanga, whose photos often grace the LiveWithCulture banner, is currently exhibiting 13 of his images in a show called Don River Winter at the Toronto Public Library’s Northern District Branch near Yonge and Eglinton.

“The Don is majestic in winter,” writes Balanga in his artist statement. “The bare trees open up views that were once hidden by the lush leaves of summer. Blankets of snow cover the landscape and reveal the ravines carved during the last ice age.”


Posted in Art
Contributed by Christopher Jones
01/22 2015

RIC Burns with Glamour

Nothing brings out the crowds like movie stars and glamour and Ryerson Image Centre was packed last night for the public opening of Burn With Desire: Photography and Glamour. Curated by GaĆ«lle Morel, this blockbuster show bursts with star power from Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the 1920s, to Hollywood’s current crop of paparazzi bait; in between there are stunning and surprising images of Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball, Sopia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich, Paul Newman, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, the list goes on and on and on.

Marilyn Monroe by Manfred Linus Kreiner from the Black Star Collection, date and location unknown

Culled from a variety of public and private sources including the RIC’s own Black Star Collection, Burn with Desire considers photography’s role in stoking the star-maker machinery. The historical photos are balanced by more contemporary video and still images from Richard Avedon, Nan Goldin, Alex Prager and Mickalene Thomas, among others.

Further counterpoint is provided by Morel in the adjacent show, Anti-Glamour: Portraits of Women featuring works by Jo Spence, Rebecca Belmore, Gunilla Josephson, Katherine Lannin and others. Combined, the two exhibitions represent a not-to-be-missed opportunity to revel in portrait photography’s power to reveal and conceal, to capture and lend meaning to moments that would otherwise have slipped into history’s maw.

WHERE/WHEN: Burn With Desire at Ryerson Image Centre (33 Gould Street, 416.979.5164) until April 5, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 11 am – 6 pm, Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm, Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm, Monday closed; free.

Posted in Art
Contributed by Christopher Jones
01/19 2015

Xiaojing Yan’s Dazzling Cloud Cell

On Friday I popped into Red Head Gallery for the opening reception of Xiaojing Yan‘s Cloud Cell, an extraordinary work made with 13,000 freshwater pearls suspended on hundreds of aluminum threads.

The ethereal piece has a distinctly watery feel suggesting the coalescence of H2O vapour during cloud formation. As part of her process, Yan constructed a digital model utilizing 26,000 pearls, but when she began assembling the piece she discovered it was too dense and too difficult to manipulate, so she scaled back her ambition.

“The reality of building it was very different from the computer model,” she told me Friday. “So what you see is only half as many strands as I had planned but the finished product is very close to my imagination.”

Yan’s work nearly always relates to her cultural heritage, and China often plays a starring role either conceptually or, in this case, materially.

“China produces 92 per cent of the world’s freshwater pearls,” Yan notes.

The artist purchased her pearls in China, buying them wholesale, which made the work relatively affordable. Still, it was a big investment and she’d love to see a buyer for the magnificent piece: “It would give me money to make more work,” she says.

WHERE/WHEN: Cloud Cell at Red Head Gallery (401 Richmond Street West, 416.504.5654) until January 31 (Wednesday – Saturday, 12 – 5 pm); free.

Contributed by Christopher Jones
12/9 2014

Solstice Party Lights Up the Night

The Kensington Market Festival of Lights marks its 25th anniversary December 21 with a dazzling celebration of the winter solstice. Residents and spectators join forces to light up the longest night of the year with a firey procession through Kensington Market. Organized by Red Pepper Spectacle Arts, the Festival of Lights is a highly participatory event where everyone is encouraged to dress up, make some noise and help light up the night.

In preparation for the event, Red Pepper holds a community craft workshop Saturday (December 13, 12 – 8 pm) at Steelworkers Hall (25 Cecil Street), where residents are invited to make lanterns that will be paraded through the market a week from Sunday ($10 recommended donation).

Festival photo by Solomon King