Category Archives: art

Wednesday Inspiration: Man Ray and Surrealism

Noire et Blanche, 1926This photograph by Man Ray encapsulates the inspiration of the time that pervaded the visual arts, literature, music and thought. In this photo, the use of the mask brought over from somewhere in the continent of Africa shows what stimulated the abstraction that would soon give way to Cubism.

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What’s new in design this week: TODO and IDS14 in Toronto

The DNA of this blog is composed of art, culture and design and it continues to be. Toronto is the hotbed of this trinity this week with the Interior Design Show and the Toronto Design Offsite Festival with various venues and points of focus. Designers, artists and their disciples will flock to Toronto’s cultural centre with installations and events all over Dundas West, Queen West, the Junction and other neighbourhoods.

Design and art aficionados will find their fix starting tonight with the launch party at Smash in the Junction starting at 8 p.m. Dear reader: if you are up for it, there’s a free (!) Letterpress Card-making Workshop at Graven Feather (906 Queen Street West) starting at 6 p.m.

The Junction will be the place to visit tonight with the above mentioned TODO Launch Party at Smash. My favourite art supplies shop, ARTiculations (2928 Dundas St West), will host an opening reception for the exhibit Accumulation by Christine Kim starting at 6 p.m. It’s all about investigating and experimenting with lines, light and shadow. Toronto’s beloved design shop Mjölk will host to Stockholm-based Italian industrial designer Luca Nichetto. If you’re a coffee fiend like I am, you might find a new toy that would enable your brewing vice with a new collection of accessories inspired by Italian coffee culture. The reception starts at 7 p.m.

Come Up To My Room at the Gladstone Hotel starts tomorrow, Thursday, January 23. Installations by A0 (ALSO Collective + Mason Studio) and EYES ON DESIGN are my top picks to see.

To finish the week off, Interior Design Show (IDS) will be open to the public this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The two talks I will be attending are on Saturday, January 25. The first one with Sami Ruotsalainen of Marimekko and Andrew Sardone from the Globe and Mail at 12 p.m. The second is with Rafael de Cardenas from New York-based firm Architecture at Large in conversation with the Globe and Mail’s Style Editor Amy Verner at 4 p.m.

So, how’s your design week looking? Just grab some water, cash, your iPhone and you’re good to go.

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The Passion of Frida & Diego

Detail of a photograph by Nickolas Muray

The Toronto exhibit featuring the work of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is heartwrenching, beautiful and inspiring. The months leading up to my first glimpse of any of either artist’s work were excruciating but being immersed in their realities as people and as storytellers made the experience more moving than thought possible.

The exhibit was curated with a mixture of photographs, videos, Mexican indigenous sculptures, canvases and one of Frida’s corsets with a hammer and sickle and an unborn fetus; both artists inspired each other and at certain points in the exhibit, canvases were paired and the styles were undistinguishable. It was an interesting experiment that would have an enthusiast scratching their heads only to find the subtle differences to be nagging. This experiment should be kept internally since such conversations in public end up being ‘scenes’ in public. Just sayin’.

Up to this moment, there are ideas that Frida and Diego ponder about on their canvases that are still relevant today: feminism, equality, oppression, post-colonialism and chauvinism, among others. It’s a thrilling feeling to have access to the thought process that goes behind the otherworldly images that Kahlo presents in what one can call mental ‘landscapes.’ It was thrilling.

With Google images being two clicks away, I am only including the one image for this post. Ideas after all live in the air around us. It is up to us to leave traces of thoughts. Frida and Diego accomplished this with their canvases and murals. It’s up to us now to do the same. Go ahead. Read. Contemplate.

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Finally Frida!

The Art Gallery of Toronto is bringing Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera to Canada for the first time in an exhibit called ‘Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting.’ This event has been on my iCalendar since it was announced so ‘anticipation’ would be the word that first comes to mind.

I will be at the Members’ Preview so please watch this space.

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Quirky and humourous: Dutch product design at its best

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Lamps by Moooi Amsterdam

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Chest of drawers by Tajo Remy

When I think of Dutch culture, I think of art and design.

On my last visit to the Netherlands, I had the chance to go beyond Amsterdam and to see the lovely little cities surrounding the capital. What unites the seven cities and towns I visited is the function that the architecture and design that is inherent in everyday living. Everything makes sense.

The porcelains of Delft, the houseboats on the canals and giant bay windows are indicative of the pursuit of purpose without sacrificing aesthetics. And why not? The stereotypical coldness associated with the geography is broken when you step back to realize the romance of the whole picture.

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We’re on Pinterest!

For those who are on Pinterest, Urban Peanut: A Gallery has a board! Come and check it out here.

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On cartography

Ork Map of Toronto

Christopher Columbus' Map of the New World from c.1490

Christopher Columbus_Map_New World_1490

By Mike Baldwin

Directions are either helpful or confusing, maps included. Visual cues are meant to minimize interference by by language and this is where design comes in. Conventions and cultural references are used to help in this experience but there are still shortcomings.
The visual that a map presents to its beholder is spatial; ingenious use of other elements like colours and texture gives the said beholder a space for personalizing the experience of wayfinding. One good example of this visual map is the ‘You Are Here’ map that can be found at any shopping centre. By using the beholder’s relative starting point, the hunt for the shoe sale is a little closer for someone shopping with daddy’s credit card which is a blessing (for the current teenager) and a curse (for the same teenager but ten years from and now also for the unknowing father).
Maps are documents of discovery. Without blazing trails, maps would not exist and without verifying accuracy, maps could very well be drawings mazes that can be filled with colour using wax crayons. Navigators commissioned by kings earned a living heading to the unknown seas brought back trophies as well as roughly plotted maps of their routes to get from one place to their destinations. Christopher Columbus had an estimated idea of how to get to the New World but confusion about where exactly his ship landed has born a huge influence on our present geographic references.
Recently, experimentation in cartography has come from graphic design. The maps are neither topographic, geographic or political; they have become typographic. Looking at the Ork maps of cities, including Toronto, the intention is to visually represent the different neighbourhoods and districts in urban centres through kerning and letting. They are useless if you are a tourist trying to navigate the streets but heck, they are beautiful.
Present-day collectible maps are great to serve as art and design pieces. Nothing else. They are visual references and approximations that could be slightly helpful. One can argue that this is a design failure; another can rebut by asking if we even need maps still. The analog/puritan in me would say ‘yes.’ The tech enthusiast in me asks, ‘don’t I have an app for that?’.

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