Posted in Art, Downtown
01/28 2011

Design Surrenders to Art

Contributed by Christopher Jones


Architect/artists Alan Webb and Christine LeuThere’s always something to get excited about at the Gladstone Hotel‘s annual Come Up to My Room exhibition but I have to say I left yesterday’s press preview feeling particularly high. Some of the art and several of the artists really fired my imagination with their passion and perception.

The thrill started before I even ascended the staircase to the second floor where each room and much of the hall space has been given over to contemporary art installations. In the Gladstone Ballroom I was transfixed by an eerie red glow emanating from a “cloud” of balloons, which pulsed in time to throbbing electronica.

The brainchild of architects Christine Leu and Alan Webb, the cloud is composed of 64 balloons, including some extra large weather balloons, impregnated with red LED lights. The balloons are linked by 1,500 feet of telephone cable, which conducts the electricity and pulse signals. The effect is mesmerizing and I predict this year’s CUTMR Love Design Party on Saturday night (January 29) will be one for the ages. DJs Denise Benson and Joe Blow will be planted in the centre of the room with the action unfolding around and above them.

What I love most about CUTMR is that the artists are on hand for much of the weekend to discuss their process, inspiration and anything else visitors care to inquire about. My most revealing conversation yesterday was with artist/realtor Mark McLean, above, who is exhibiting for the first time ever. As he installed his work this week McLean said he felt like he was being stripped naked for the world to see and judge. He is in effect, “coming out” as an artist with this show, revealing a side of himself that only his closest friends and family have seen before.

McLean’s three pieces are all wildly different yet connected by their source materials, all of which were procured at dollar stores. The shaggy black and white wall urchins above are made from discarded electric fan covers strung with ordinary zip ties. The peace sign below is composed of thousands of tiny toy soldiers, a blunt concept, perhaps, but a riveting result.

Mark McLean's peace sign with toy soldiers
Another piece I found captivating was Xiaojing Yan‘s Face to Face in Room 210. The artist has constructed shallow acrylic drums stretched with raw silk upon which she has painted translucent portraits of Chinese immigrants like herself, the images taken from photographs, one shot in China before emigrating and another taken in Toronto after the move across the globe.

Artist Xiaojing Yan
“As immigrants,” said Yan, “we are all suspended between cultures, our earlier selves are present underneath or behind who we have become in this new country.”

Amanda McCavour
In Room 201 I was utterly taken by Amanda McCavour and her piece, above, which is composed of “thread drawings” sewn into fabric that is then dissolved in water leaving just the ethereal thread images which hang in space. McCavour, a serial mover, chose to replicate images of her own furniture which moves with her from place to place, the only constants in her otherwise transient life.

Dennis LinIn Room 214 I encountered the glowing detritus of sculpture/designer Dennis Lin‘s workshop, an amalgamation of maquettes, leftovers and abandoned projects assembled into a kind of kaleidoscope of artistic inspiration. Lin trained at OCAD to be an industrial designer but “I was a terrible student,” he told me. “I never wanted to follow the instructions, insisting on following my own impulses instead. Ultimately, I discovered that I’m a sculptor much more than I am a designer.”

In the decade since leaving school Lin has established himself as an internationally recognized artist whose works are in corporate and public collections in Dublin, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Moscow and Toronto.

I had other fascinating chats with artist/designer Rob Southcott (Room 212),  with Lubo Brezina and Scott Eunson (Room 207) and with Steph Mansolf (Room 206). CUTMR rarely disappoints and if you have some time this weekend, my advice is don’t miss it!

WHERE/WHEN: Come Up To My Room at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West, 416.531.4635), Friday 12 – 8 pm, Saturday 12 – 10 pm and Sunday 12 – 5 pm; tickets $10. Opening reception Saturday from 7 – 10 pm.

Social bookmarks

delicious digg reddit technorati facebook twitter google yahoo spurl 



  1. Scroll to the Form to leave a comment.

    Currently there are no comments related to article "Design Surrenders to Art".