The Art Gallery of Ontario showcases Black artists

Feb 10, 2023 | Arts

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) hosted an artist talk on Feb. 4 to celebrate Black History Month.

This was the second event of the “Black Futures Month” program at the gallery, according to the AGO Insider.

The program kicked off with singing performances from RISE Edutainment artists on Friday, Feb. 3.

Saturday’s talk was organized by the gallery’s department of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora (AFGAD), which is managed by curator Julie Crooks. The department gives voice to Black Atlantic histories and incorporates both past and present works, according to the AGO Insider.

“Now in its second year, going into its third, it’s the AGO’s newest department or collecting department so it represents a strategic collection building focus,” Crooks said.

Nine artists took the stage at the event and spoke to the crowd about their featured works associated with the department. Artists include Paul Anthony Smith, Jorian Charlton, Emmanuel Osahor, Isabel Okoro, Bidemi Oloyede, Sandra Brewster, Jan Wade, Preston Pavlis and Moridja Kitenge-Banza.

Emmanuel Osahor, the Toronto-based artist behind the oil paintings titled “I Have Been Thinking of my Father’s Garden” and “I Have Been Thinking of my Mother’s Garden” spoke about his inspirations for the two artworks.

When living in Nigeria, Osahor said his dad always talked about starting their own garden in their home, but it never ended up happening.

“It was always something we would talk about, like when I have time or when I have enough money, we’ll dig up the ground and put in some compost and it’ll be great but it just never happened because there was never enough time,” he said.

Osahor’s two paintings are currently on display for the public on the fourth floor of the AGO.

A common theme among the artists who attended was their art as a symbol of their cultural and historical identity.

Sandra Brewster said she uses gel transfer images in her art to express her connection to her roots and her family’s stories from back home.

“I have always had this connection with this other place, Guyana, although I was born here,” Brewster said. “And so whenever I see these old photographs, they’re not just a simple picture but they’re related with all of these stories and this history and this past, whether good or bad,”

She said her goal is to let viewers immerse themselves in her art.

“You want people to experience what you’re experiencing,” Brewster said.

Brewster’s large-scale artwork, “Untitled (blur)”, can be found on the gallery’s second level.

The AGO will continue their Black History programs throughout the month with the next event featuring a performance from Canadian singer-songwriter Molly Johnson on Friday, Feb 10.

More information on the program’s schedule can be found under the programs and events calendar on the gallery’s website.