Lisa Johnson, AOCA, Painter and Propeller member since 2007
Most young artists launching their careers immediately face an endurance test of survival. The 1996 cohort of Ontario College of Art graduates were no exception. Facing an uncertain future, and with no galleries willing to exhibit their work, an enterprising group of OCA grads took matters into their own hands.
Pooling their resources, they rented a space on Spadina Avenue and organized a one-off group show. A wildly enthusiastic response from the visiting crowds convinced the artists to make their collective official. They called it the Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts founded on a simple vision; to empower artists to ‘propel’ fellow artists forward.
Today, it is known simply as Propeller Art Gallery and is now located in the West Queen West district in Toronto. After almost 25 years, Propeller continues to thrive and remains one of Toronto’s oldest surviving artist-run galleries. Ross Bonfanti, one of the founders shared, “I feel happy that something that I helped spark is still going and is in the hands of great people”.
Over the years, Propeller Art Gallery, has presented an impressive list of exhibitions: guest-curated shows by the likes of Olga Korper, David Kay, Gary Michael Dault and Moses Znaimer, alternating with countless artist-generated programs and exhibits. Propeller continues to offer a venue for hundreds of emerging, mid-career and established artists alike providing an artistic haven for a wide variety of voices.
Since March however, the bitter realities of the COVID 19 pandemic forced Propeller to close its doors temporarily, threatening the very survival of the gallery itself. No stranger to adversity, Propeller decided to embrace the challenge and dive head-first into the uncharted world of Virtual Art Exhibitions.
For their first venture, the gallery went full circle to its own past, and collaborated with the Ontario College of Art and Design University. With the cancellation of OCAD U’s famous, annual GradEx exhibition, Propeller offered to host a 2020 Drawing & Painting Virtual GradEx105. The small Propeller staff and volunteer members faced the daunting task of learning how to take what used to be hung on walls and bring it all to life online. But it was all worth it.
“After 4 years of study, these OCAD U students count on having GradEx as a way to launch their careers, so this opportunity was a big boost to them” said Tom Taylor, Gallery Director. “It was really rewarding to see all these young up and coming artists joining in the Zoom Opening, excited to be sharing their art.”
Helping these young artists launch their careers speaks to the heart of Propeller and why it is worth fighting for. But it also proved a point; that despite the current challenges, Propeller could continue to survive.
And now Propeller is about to launch another online show featuring its own artists, both past and present: PAG25 — Celebrating 25 years of Propeller Artists. The gallery reached out to the numerous artists who were ever a member of the collective and offered them a virtual showing of their current work. PAG25 will feature over 175 pieces and opens July 25th online at propellerartgallery.ca. PAG25 will also bring to life some fascinating stories from the gallery’s archival history that will evolve over the coming year. And, as many galleries must do these days, the show opening will be held online over Zoom, and should prove to be a fun gathering for the many artists who’ve shared in this important artistic venture. Propeller’s motto is “Artists Empowering Artists” and with the current situation facing the gallery, this is certainly needed more now than ever before. Amidst these uncertain times, Propeller continues to advance the ‘art of survival’.
If you'd like to meet some of the artists who have been a part of Propeller Art Gallery and hear them talk about their work, please register with Eventbrite and you will receive a Zoom link to their Opening Reception and Artist Talks, to be held Saturday, Aug. 1st, starting at 4:00 p.m.
Thought we'd share some photos, courtesy of Sharron Forrest of the fabulous opening reception for the Blue | Bleu Impulse show, last Saturday, Feb. 16th. At times we were packed to the gills ... in a sea of blue. (Sorry for the terrible puns!) The crowd was treated to 80 works of art all on the theme of "Blue Impulse".
This fabulous show took an army of volunteers to install, but it was worth it!
Don't miss it. On until March 3rd with an artist talk on Feb. 24th!
Our artist talks are always well-attended too, some come early for a seat. (Starts at 2 pm).
What was your favourite piece at Blue | Bleu Impulse? We'd love to hear from you!
Our Figure it Out Show -- now on until Feb. 10th, features 23 different artists and varied approaches to the human figure. We thought it would be nice to share a teaser of our artist's talk, with a few photos and info about some of the participating artists. Stay tuned for more to come! We'll start with two of our members, Dominique Prevost who has been a Propeller artist since 2007 and Jack Wayne who joined us just last year.
Dominique Prevost was born in Quebec City and now resides in Oakville. An award winning artist, she has shown extensively in the GTA and is collected in Canada and abroad. An Art Educator at Oakville Galleries, Past President of the Burlington Fine Arts Association, active member of OSA and Propeller Gallery. Her atmospheric and urban landscapes are inspired by the natural and constructed world.
Her primary process involves papers, mixing techniques and materials that seek movement, rhythm, and marks until a depth of mood and place emerge.
Dominique: "...the papers I used for my figurative pieces were chosen for their skin tones, textures and weight. Each Washi paper is very receptive to marks and overlaying those made for a very tactile and lively encounter."
Jack Wayne's "The Swimmer with Heart" part of the current "Figure it Out" exhibition, illustrates a strong trend in contemporary photography. Objects in the photo are less likely to be that of strangers acting out a recognizable scene and more likely to be an introspective view by the artist. The Swimmer with Heart is a personal reflection about aging.
Jack reflects, "The human figure interacts with water in interesting ways, both poetic and visual. We plunge into life and reap or suffer the consequences. There are sixty years between child and the aging man in the exhibited image."
The figure in the photo sequence (below) is taking one of many plunges along the way.
We're proud to share the news that Propeller artist Tai Kim's “Jokjah” format painting of Peter Tosh entitled "Jah Guide" was presented to the Peter Tosh Family and has now joined the museum’s amazing art, music and memorabilia collection! The “Jokjah” format is a traditional East Asian frame painting frame style; as in all her work, Tai combines her deep knowledge of old traditional Asian formats with modern Western techniques.
In addition to being a multi-disciplinary Artist, Tai Kim has been collaborating and working with the rough and tough Toronto reggae band House of David Gang since 2009. She has been involved in art direction including producing the band’s album cover of their acclaimed “Reggae Warrior” album, custom merchandise and as a special guest performer. During the last few years Tai has been battling cancer. She has been able to overcome the disease and is treating her severe pain with the help of medical marijuana and believes she finds the courage to keep positive through reggae music and her visual art.
Toronto is home to Canada’s largest Jamaican community and has one of the most vibrant reggae scenes in all of Canada. Some of reggae’s finest lived in Toronto over the years. including Studio One’s Jackie Mittoo, Leroy Sibbles and Stranger Cole and some of the biggest worldwide reggae hits(such as Snow’s ‘Informer’ & ‘Come Around’ by Collie Buddz) were recorded in the city.
Collin “Jahlin” Edwards, a veteran drummer from the House of David Gang, was contacted by a member of reggae immortal Peter Tosh’s family who said she lived in Toronto. Peter Tosh’s granddaughter Akayda Tosh explained that she wanted to attend House of David Gang’s Tribute to her uncle the late Peter Tosh and meet the band. Jahlin wasn’t entirely surprised by the Tosh family’s Toronto connection, but was deeply honoured to meet her since Peter Tosh has been one of his music idols and because his band has been hosting a Peter Tosh Tribute in the city for over 20 years.
After the show held at Toronto’s Rivoli, the House of David Gang were pleased to meet Akayda who described to them all the good work she and the Peter Tosh Family Estate were doing to open a Peter Tosh Museum. Located in New Kingston, Jamaica off Trafalgar Rd. near Jimmy Cliff's recording studio, was the future home of the first museum for acclaimed reggae music artist which will display Peter's personal artifacts, such as his M16 gun guitars, unicycle, Grammy awards and platinum records.
Tai Kim along with her partner Jahlin Edwards had kept in touch with Akayda, and flew down to Jamaica in November 2017 to visit the new Peter Tosh Museum and to contribute her piece "Jah Guide", now a part of the museum's collection! Tai and Jahlin would like to thank The Peter Tosh Museum, Peter's grand daughter Ali Tosh and as well as Pulse Entertainment CEO Kingsley Cooper for the warm welcome. House of David Gang continues to highlight Peter Tosh's musical legacy in Toronto and their next tribute held annually on his birthday in October will represent the evening’s 25th Anniversary.
Tai's Facebook Art Page: https://www.facebook.com/jayutai8/
More information about Tai's Band "House of David Gang" at: House Of David Gang: I-fficial Web Site - Live Reggae ...
In April of 2017, Propeller member Gwen Tooth decided to organize a companion show to run concurrently with her solo show “Indian Ocean Variations”. She invited five other artists, Jacques Descoteaux, Bianka Guna, Michelle Letarte, Irina Litinsky and Shannon Moynagh to show with her in a curated exhibition “The Evolution of Abstraction”.
The opening, artists in attendance day and the informal artists’ talk about their work events were all well attended.
INDIAN OCEAN VARIATIONS:
Gwen Tooth is an expressionist who has completed several series of paintings revealing the various moods and energies of water – whirlpools, waterfalls, and tsunamis.
Gwen’s current installation project, “Indian Ocean Variations”, is a series of abstract acrylic paintings inspired by the vibrant colours, visual sights, sounds, and scents of India. Gwen experienced these in depth during four visits to the Indian subcontinent. Enhancing this process, she studied basic Hindi, Indian cuisine and immersed herself in the deep history, architecture and culture of India. The colours used in Gwen’s expressionistic paintings are reminiscent of spice markets, silk factories, richly ornamented temples, beautiful saris, exquisite jewellery and the paintings evoke the churning energy of the Indian Ocean. www.zhibit.org/gwentooth
THE EVOLUTION OF ABSTRACTION:
THE EVOLUTION OF ABSTRACTION:
Six journeys of abstraction as curated by Gwen Tooth.
Jacques Descoteaux, Bianka Guna, Michelle Letarte, Irina Litinsky, Shannon Moynagh, Gwen Tooth – each artist presents a unique approach.
JACQUES DESCOTEAUX - abstract essence landscapes “beyond the landscape” in oil. Jacques has been playing with adding streaks – sometimes on the side, sometimes at the bottom; at times very bold, at times more subtle, and at times, they’re not there. By adding this element, the image becomes something else. It is a landscape, and yet it isn’t. He is taking the image from landscape to “beyond landscape”. www.jdcoto.com
BIANKA GUNA – Bianka is an abstract expressionist artist who explores universal themes and symbols of humanity. Her work draws the viewer in through its strong, vivid colours and highly textured surface. The imagery is whimsical, serene, ethereal, and delicate, yet bold and direct. She believes in unity, diversity, proportions, contrast, balance and the unexpected. She has recently been working extensively with incorporating complex acrylic skins into her paintings. www.biankaguna.com
MICHELLE LETARTE – Michelle travels the world extensively and develops a new series of paintings from each unique experience. She often uses various textures to elaborate her artistic statement. In her Anatolia series, she reflects images that witnessed history but are eroded by time and earthquakes and are now integrated into natural fresh landscapes. She uses pumice and sand to create the texture of these large surfaces. Her palette reflects the colours of Anatolia and its ancient sea. www.michelleletarte.ca
IRINA LITINSKY –Irina paints her natural emotional response to the world and people around her. Her reaction to what she sees is a fascination with the inner world of human beings and their aesthetic external beauty. Combining pencil drawing sensitivity with the energy of fluid acrylic paint strokes results in colours, shapes and lines that generate a unified image that is also ambiguous and open-ended. She often engages the use of abstracted figures in her work. www.irinalitinsky.com
SHANNON MOYNAGH - Shannon explores various themes in nature through her work, including biology and evolution. For the acrylic series ‘Organics’ she combines her study of microscopic organisms with experimental use of viscosity differences in acrylic. Shannon states: “My artistic goal is to create living, breathing microcosms of paint, artworks that borrow forms wondrous and varied from the natural world. Executed by a combination of systematic and improvisational methods, and utilizing the behaviour of the paint itself, the finished painting is like a fossilization of the paint in motion, a relic of those precious viscous moments of the paint’s ‘life’ frozen in time.”
Shannon's art: https://www.facebook.com/shannonsproudpapa/
GWEN TOOTH - Gwen is an expressionist painter. Her most recent series “Red Series: Gentle Waterfalls”, was an exhibition of acrylic paintings interpreting gentle waterfalls on red backgrounds. Nature was full of joy once more. Works from this show are a transition to her “Indian Ocean Variations” exhibit. www.zhibit.org/gwentooth
"Fifteen years ago I started taking photographs of the pond near our home,
while standing in the same place every day — an activity that I have since
applied to other locations as well. Along with these day-to-day photos, I
began taking rapid sequence photographs as I moved through various
landscapes, such as the route of the Toronto Subway and the Gardiner
Expressway in Toronto. I then used each photo collection to create a
composite image made up of individual multi-layered transparencies. The end
result is always a slow surprise, evoking a dreamlike memory and the spirit
of each unique location.
This most recent series has a common theme of Generative Art. This work is
photo based from hundreds to thousands of photographs taken daily from the
same location or moving through space that are algorithmically processed to
create an average. Like much of my work it deals with objective decision
making processes." -- Art Lucs
A few spaces left in Propeller's Art Grant Workshop
If you ever considered trying to get an arts grant and felt overwhelmed by the prospect, we have a workshop to help guide you through the process and improve your chances of success. Just a few more spaces left for this 2 hour workshop on Sunday, May 8th, from 2 - 4 p.m.
One of Toronto's original artist-run galleries. Since 1996.