Racism, social inequality themes at Toronto’s annual Artist Project

Published On February 20, 2020 | By Aishwarya Dudha | Arts
Art lovers had the chance to get up close and personal with paintings, photographs and other pieces at Art Project, a contemporary art fair at Better Livign Centre on Feb. 20. (Aishwarya Dudha)
Aishwarya Dudha

More than 300 contemporary artists gathered at the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place from Feb. 18 to Feb. 21 for the 14th annual Artist Project.

The contemporary art fair, which features works from artists, collectors, gallerists, designers and others, offers attendees the chance to connect with the minds behind each piece while exploring different techniques, themes and mediums.

Gordon Shadrack, a Brampton native, was one of the artists in attendance.

His said his paintings, which depict Black figures and are displayed in patinaed antique frames, challenge stereotypes that are often projected on Black men.

Artist Project participant Gordon Shadrack said his paintings challenge stereotypes that are typically associated with Black men. (Aishwarya Dudha)

“You would not see black people in traditional portraiture from the Western, Victorian or Edwardian eras,” he said.

Shadrack, who believes Black folks are underrepresented in art, showcases his work in ornate gold frames that typically encase paintings of white royalty or esteemed white figures in history.

The artist sources these frames from antique shops around town, taking care to maintain their vintage quality.

“Often I find frames that are beaten up, worn out and there is dirt on them. So I repair them but I still want them to feel old,” Shadrack said.

Miles Ingrassia’s paintings, which were on display at the Artist Project fair in Toronto from Feb. 18 to Feb. 21, reflect his working-class upbringing in Hamilton. (Aishwarya Dudha)

Toronto-based artist Miles Ingrassia, meanwhile, presented works at Artist Project that were heavily influenced by his experience growing up in Hamilton.

Ingrassia’s vivid paintings, which depict images like a mother and daughter curled up on a couch and a pair of sneakers individually wrapped in grocery bags, reflect his working-class, single-parent upbringing in the city.

“We would have one pair of shoes for two or three years. When we went to party, we covered them with yellow bags so that they don’t get dirty,” he said, referring to the plastic-protected shoes.

Artist Project featured art battles, talks, tours and an emerging artists competition.

In addition to paintings, collage, mixed-media and other works, the four-day event also showcased a series of multi-media and VR installations from local and international artists.

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