Friday, December 23, 2011

The Nutcracker at the Four Seasons Centre

I went to see the National Ballet of Canada's Nutcracker recently, and it remains one of my favourite seasonal productions. I've seen several of the National Ballet's incarnations of the Nutcracker over the years and have been lucky to see Karen Kain, Xiao Nan Yu, Heather Ogden, Sonia Rodriguez and many of the company's great Prinicpal Dancers as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

James Kudelka's libretto is wondrous and his choreography gives the company a chance to showcase the company's depth. Santo Loquasto's set and costume design are a visual feast. And of course Tchaikovsky's music transcends time and transports me whenever I hear it.

The experience of seeing it at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts makes the evening a world-class ticket. Designed by architect Jack Diamond, the Four Seasons Centre is a grand home for the ballet and the Canadian Opera Company.

Here's a short video of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Bay's Christmas Display Windows: Welcome Santa

I have been posting videos based on the Christmas display windows at the Hudson's Bay Company in downtown Toronto. There are five videos in the series, and each video is short with a duration of thirty seconds. They were all shot, edited and shared on my iPhone. The first four videos are: Santa's Workshop, Wintry Street, Reindeer Sleigh, and 'Twas The Night Before Christmas.

I hope you enjoy this fifth and final video which is called Welcome Santa:

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Bay's Christmas Display Windows: 'Twas The Night Before Christmas

Here's the fourth in a series of videos I created based on the Christmas display windows at the Hudson's Bay Company in downtown Toronto. The previous videos are: Santa's Workshop, Wintry Street and Reindeer Sleigh. This one is 'Twas The Night Before Christmas:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Bay's Christmas Display Windows: Reindeer Sleigh

Every December, the Hudson's Bay Company in Toronto presents seasonal window display. To capture the artistry, I shot a series of five videos -- each video focusing on a window. The first video is called Santa's Workshop, and the second is Wintry Street.

Here's the third in the series. It's called Reindeer Sleigh:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Bay's Christmas Display Windows: Wintry Street

The Hudson's Bay Company in Toronto presents seasonal window displays every December. If you follow my blog, you'll know that I recently shot a series of five short thirty second videos on my iPhone. The first video was about Santa's Workshop.

Here's the second in the series, Wintry Street:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Bay's Christmas Display Windows: Santa's Workshop

In the tradition of New York City department stores like Macy's and Bloomingdales, the Hudson's Bay Company in Toronto presents seasonal window displays every December. I recently spent time admiring the displays and shot a series of five short thirty second videos. Each videos was shot, edited and shared on my iPhone.

Here's the first in the series, Santa's Workshop:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day 2011

On the eve of World AIDS Day, the Stephen Lewis Foundation presented an evening of art and performance to launch the organization's new Art Fund in support of grassroots HIV and AIDS initiatives in Africa.

Supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation, the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust in South Africa has many arts-initiatives like the Little Travellers HIV/AIDS Project. I created the short film Umhambi to share the story of the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust's Little Traveller dolls.

Located outside Durban, the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust has been the home for many grassroots arts projects for many years. The Little Travellers HIV/AIDS Project has been a way for those living with HIV and AIDS to share their story. They have also been a way or beadworkers to express their creativity, earn an income and gain self-esteem.

Since first creating Umhambi several years ago during my first visit to South Africa, it has screened in film festivals, art galleries and design shows around the world. It was an official selection at the Chicago International Film Festival last year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Inspired by Bill Cunningham: Jameson Avenue Bridge

I went for a bike ride along the lake the other day. I live in Toronto's west end, and my favourite route is along the Martin Goodman Trail from Strachan Avenue to the Humber Bridge and back to Parkdale. Riding along the water into the setting sun was sublime.

As I turned around for home with the sun at my back, rush hour was already under way. Several lanes of road separate the lake from the rest of the city so you need to to use a couple of bridges to get from the water to neighbouring Parkdale. White headlights and red taillights whizzing by below inspired me to capture a brief moment during one of Toronto's busiest traffic periods. From atop a couple of bridges, I shot some video. I didn't dismount my bicycle like in my recent Halloween project inspired by Bill Cunningham. Here is what you see when you're crossing Lakeshore Blvd. and the Gardiner Expressway on the bridges on Jameson Avenue.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Using Street-Level Space and the Grace Kelly Exhibition

Recently, I was passing by the TIFF Bell Lightbox, and was intrigued by its use of outdoor space. At the corner of King and Widmer Streets, the street-level display is dedicated to the exhibition Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess. It's a collage of enlarged newspaper clippings and two monitors looping black and white news footage. The clippings and footage focus on Grace and her marriage to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco.

I'm not certain the display would have drawn me in to see the exhibition, as I'd probably see it any way. But I was taken by the use of video in relation to the street. It certainly caught my attention as I spent a couple of minutes perusing the clippings and watching the old news footage.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Marijke van Warmerdam's Handstand

Artist Marijke van Warmderdam takes simple, alluring subjects and challenges viewer understanding by using cinematic techniques. Handstand (1992) is a film installation that questions perceptions of innocence. Here, an adolescent girl (or young woman) does a handstand. The artist slows and loops the footage. On the surface, it's a playful moment. But as the viewer continues to watch the experience shifts from enjoying a whimsical moment to spying voyeuristically.

The short video of Handstand below was shot in June at the Stedeljik Museum in Amsterdam. It was recently included in this post by Blend magazine in the Netherlands.

Museum Bojmans Van Beunigen is showing a retrospective of her work. The exhibition is curated by Jan Debbaut, former director of collections at Tate in London.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hockey Night in Canada

Owen Sound is a town on the southern tip of Georgian Bay. On a recent Saturday night, the 2011 OHL champions, the Owen Sound Attack, were playing a home game against the Oshawa Generals.

As with many towns in Canada, junior hockey is more than a pastime in Owen Sound. It fills the bars and renders streets deserted. I was there recently and shot video in four places: outside Shorty's Grill, inside Shorty's, outside the Bayshore Community Centre, J. D. MacArthur Arena, and outside on 3rd Avenue. The video is called: Hockey Night In Canada. (By the way, the footage of Don Cherry's Coach's Corner did not make my final cut.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Toronto Bike Ride

It's that time of year when it gets dark early. And that's before we set our clocks back an hour. Before the end of daylight savings time this weekend, I give you a short video tribute to the bicycle commute and the beauty of LED lights:

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Grange Prize at the Art Gallery of Ontario

The Grange Prize recognizes the best in Canadian and international contemporary photography. It was launched in 2008 and organizers work with an international partner every year to select a shortlist of four photographers -- two from Canada and two from the partner country. The artists live in the partner country and create new works, an incredible opportunity for both the artist and the country seen with a fresh sensibility. This year the partner country is India, and the artists are Gauri Gill, Elaine Stocki, Althea Thauberger and Nadini Valli.

Their images are on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and here a short video of some of their work:

You can visit the Grange Prize site for more information on voting and the individual artists. The exhibition runs until November 27, 2011.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Inspired by Bill Cunningham: Halloween in Toronto

While riding home on my bicycle yesterday, I shot a short video of various Halloween decorations en route. The idea was simple: I would shoot eye-catching decorations using my iPhone. I could stop, of course, but not dismount my bike.

This idea is inspired by the New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. I first saw the documentary Bill Cunningham New York in April. (Here's my review.) The film continues to resonate with me for many reasons. There's Cunningham's Schwinn bicyle, his old film camera, his blue smocks, his absolute love of fashion, his principles and his compassion.

Not unlike Cunningham who rode his bicycle around Manhattan to get him from location to location, I've had the idea to capture various city scenes with my phone while riding my own bicycle around Toronto. The project starts with this video essay on the Halloween decorations found around various homes in Toronto. The footage was taken in Parkdale, The Annex and Chaplin Estates.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Art Is Everywhere: The Red Dot Exhibit

On the night of Nuit Blanche several artists got together to present Art is Everywhere: The Red Dot Exhibit in Parkdale, Toronto. Artists including the folks at the jewelry design shop Made You Look were given the challenge of creating larger than life necklaces by using red dots. Here's a video of the project:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Nuit Blanche 2011: Everybody Deserves Love, Even You By Lynne Heller

I met artist Lynne Heller over a decade ago. Her exhibition Nine Sisters and 115 Unused Quilts was on view at the Rebecca Gallery in Toronto, and I produced a short documentary about her.

I re-introduced myself to Heller at Nuit Blanche on Saturday. She was showing her work Everybody Deserves Love, Even You, an installation that uses light, sound, rotating gobos and coloured gels. In it, the text from spam emails is projected onto stuffed white garbage bags. The installation speaks to the alluring power of spam email to interrupt our time spent online. You can read about Heller's work in her artist's statement.

Here's a video of artist Lynne Heller's Everybody Deserves Love, Even You:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Nuit Blanche 2011: Chromatic Hi-Five! By Amanda Browder

Amanda Browder's Chromatic Hi-Five! is part of Leitmotif, Nuit Blanche 2011. In her art project, she transforms into a standard cube van by covering it with a fabric sculpture. Here's my shot video:

Nuit Blanche 2011: Toronto International Adhesive Arts Expo

The Batishop Gallery in Parkdale is opening its doors for Nuit Blanche with the 2011 Toronto International Adhesive Arts Expo. Here's my short video:

Nuit Blanche 2011: Funhouse at the Drake Hotel

Here's a short video of the Drake Hotel's Funhouse installation for Nuit Blanche 2011 in Toronto:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Imminent Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche is one of the best cultural events in Toronto. From 6:59 pm until sunrise, the city is transformed by artists in this celebration of contemporary art. Over the past few years, my favourite art projects have included Jon Sasaki's mascots in Promise It Will Always Be This Way at Lamport Stadium in 2008. Sasaki's work, like his recent installation Pine at the Art Gallery of Ontario, continues to intrigue me.

In the meantime, here are two videos I created last year capturing two installations in Parkdale:

The Night Watch by Kristi Malakoff of Nelson, Canada

Fire and Flux by Toronto artist Christine Irving and Site3

Here's my blog post from last year. Visit the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto site to check out the artists and plan your night.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

TIFF 2011, Part 5: TIFF Bell Lightbox

It's the final day of the Toronto International Film Festival. One of my favourite times of year, I spent days dashing around the city on my bicycle, visiting the box office, waiting in lines, drinking coffee, tweeting, and screening films by iconic directors and avant-garde filmmakers in programs like Future Projections. It's always about the movies. But it's also about Toronto and it's spaces.

Here's a short video of the action in the atrium of the KPMB designed TIFF Bell Lightbox during TIFF11:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

TIFF 2011, Part 4: Ben Rivers and His Experimental Cinema

London-based filmmaker Ben Rivers has two films at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. TIFF's excellent Wavelengths programmer AndrĂ©a Picard curated the two experimental films.

Slow Action (2010) is a selection in the festival's Future Projections programme, which presents moving-image projects throughout Toronto. (Here's my post about another project in the Future Projections programme.)

In Slow Action, Rivers visits four locations around the world: Lanzarote, Gunkanjima, Tuvalu and Somerset. Shooting on 16 mm film using an anamorphic lens, he transforms real places into imagined communities imbued with mystery. An accompanying soundtrack pipes through headphones, telling the evolution story of each community. While the locations are different, they share a strange, somewhat otherworldly feel.

Slow Action is on view at Gallery TPW from September 8 - October 1, 2011. The gallery setting -- with its beanbag chairs, headphones and 16 mm projector -- is an immersive, meditative space. The short video embedded above has some edited footage from the Tuvalu part of the film. The sound is from the 16 mm film projector and not the audio from the headphones.

Still image from Sack Barrow (2011) by Ben Rivers

Sack Barrow (2011) is a selection in Wavelengths, TIFF's avant-garde programme,which screened at the Art Gallery of Ontario's Jackman Hall cinema. The film is a portrait of a London-suburb plating factory. Rivers captures the factory's gritty surfaces blending nostalgia and unflinching reality. With footage of pin-up girls, the film is playful with moments of humour.  

Rivers' two films at TIFF are immersive experiences challenging constructs of story, time and place. The films are engrossing, playful portraits that resonate with mystery and strangeness. The places are real yet unfamiliar and, ultimately, transformed in the films.

Monday, September 12, 2011

TIFF 2011, Part 3: Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola was at the Toronto International Film Festival for the World Premier of his film Twixt.

I interviewed Coppola several years ago in Toronto. He was a generous interview, and when the cameras stopped rolling, he graciously asked me some questions about my life and passions in what was a highlight of my career as a journalist. Alas, dear reader, that is a story for another time.

Here's Coppola introducing his film Twixt at the Princess of Wales Theatre:

Friday, September 9, 2011

TIFF 2011, Part 2: Future Projections

The Future Projections programme at the Toronto International Film Festival is a collection of moving-image projects throughout the city.

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board by collaborative artists Nicholas and Sheila Pye is a four-screen HD video projection. The title refers to the levitation game played at children's slumber parties. Indeed each tableau is infused with the supernatural. In one, artist Sheila Pye's ghostlike bride twists in space. In another, artist Nicholas Pye looks sadly past a tiny bird which is trying to reach him but is tied to a rock. Exquisitely photographed, the exhibition blends the characteristics of still photographs and moving images.

The Pyes' work is presented in collaboration with Birch Lbralato in Toronto. It's free to the public and runs between September 8 - October 15, 2011.

Friday, September 2, 2011

TIFF 2011, Part 1

Let the TIFF fun begin! Whether you purchase your package online, over the phone or in person, the festival experience for fans involves plenty of line ups no matter what.

This year, the Toronto International Film Festival's box office is in Metro Centre (225 King Street West) on the concourse level. Here's a view of the action around the Box Office at approximately 8:00 am.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I just returned from BMO Field in Toronto where Toronto FC was playing FC Dallas. It was a relatively unremarkable match except for the weather. And as I type, thunder continues to rumble around me.

There was a 30 minute stop part-way through the first half because of weather. After the break, officials resumed play with 10-15 minutes remaining in the half. Rain started to fall in thick, heavy drops and lightning began to strike in the far distance. At halftime, fans were asked to leave their seats and find safety below the grandstand because a storm was fast approaching.

Here's a video of the storm from where I stood:

Officials eventually postponed the match until further notice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cottage Project 2011: Part III

I have recently been posting short videos I created for my series: "Cottage Project 2011". My intention was to collect video of various iconic imagery from around a cottage and present them in short videos.

Here's one called "Lake", and another called "Lake Fireworks". You can also check out last year's collection of pictures called "Cottage Project 2010".

To close the series, here's a short video called "Camp Fire":

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cottage Project 2011: Part II

Fireworks. At the cottage. Here's a short video I made as part of "Cottage Projects 2011". It's called "Lake Fireworks".

You can see my the first part of Cottage Projects and my post on last year's project.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cottage Project 2011: Part I

I recently returned from my family's annual cottage vacation. There's a span of a couple of weeks when the weather is glorious providing a wonderful opportunity to capture images. I'll be posting short videos I created that are part of series called "Cottage Project 2011" until the end of August. (You can also check out my blog post with the still pictures from "Cottage Project 2010".)

Here's the first called "Lake".

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Intersections: Toronto and Amsterdam

Toronto and Amsterdam are world-class cities with different approaches on how to handle pedestrian and traffic flow.

In Toronto, the intersection at Yonge and Dundas Streets is one of the busiest intersections in the city, and a pedestrian scramble was installed in 2009. Also known as ‘X’ Crossing, a scramble stops all vehicular traffic and allows pedestrians to cross the intersection in every direction at the same time.

By contrast, the way Amsterdam handles the bicycle, pedestrian and trams at busy intersections reflects how the city encourages bicycle-riding. (Yes, there are cars, though not in the video above.) While it may appear chaotic, there is a beautiful flow and order, as I have mentioned in a previous blog post.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rothko at the Abstract Expressionist New York Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario

In the Art Gallery of Ontario's Abstract Expressionist New York exhibition, the Rothko room has a dramatic display of the artist’s works. The lighting is dimmer than in other rooms, and there are floodlights highlighting each of Rothko's paintings.

Rothko said: "A painting is not about an experience. It is an experience." From this we can take that Rotko's aim was not to make representational paintings, but rather to transport viewers to an experience marked by an emotional response.

I'd recommend this exhibition as a stellar overview of the Abstract Expressionist movement. I'd also urge visitors to spend plenty of time in the Rotko room gazing at his paintings.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer Solstice in Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, bicycle-riding can be magical after dark. Red lights blink. Street-lights show the way along canals, over bridges. Sturdy Dutch bikes clank over cobblestones.

I shot this 30 second video the night of the Summer Solstice on Prinsengracht, one of the four main canals in Amsterdam, in the Jordaan district.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Amsterdam: Bikes, Trams and Scooters

Bicycles rule the streets in Amsterdam. It's the most common mode of transportation. The city's flat, there are bike paths everywhere, and bicycles have the right of way. Trams and scooters are also a big part of transportation equation. (Cars are, yes, also part of the math.) It's somewhat dizzying to behold a busy Amsterdam street. On another level, it's a thing of beauty.

I shot this short video at the intersection of Heiligeweg and Singel.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Innocence and the Nude: Two works at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam houses a collection of modern and contemporary art and design. For those in Toronto, I'd liken the collection to the Power Plant or the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art.

The Stedeljik is undergoing renovations so curators are presenting a selection of highlights called:  temporary stedelijik 2. There are a couple of works that I found appealing for their respective explorations of the nude female figure in art.

Marijke van Warmerdam's Handstand (1992) is a video installation that questions viewer perceptions of innocence. Here, an adolescent girl or a young woman does a handstand. The artist slows and loops the footage. On the surface, it's a playful moment. But as the viewer continues to watch the video loop the experience shifts from enjoying a whimsical moment to spying voyeuristically.

Helen Verhoeven's Thingly Character V (2010) was painted recently, and fits into the tradition of placing nude female figures amid dressed male figures in a salon/bar setting. Think Edouard Manet's Petit-dejeuner sur l'herbe. Thingly Character V is a large canvas and is intriguing for the several tableaus within the painting which explore and question the place of the nude figure in a seemingly out-of-context setting. This is interesting because Verhoeven, who was born in 1974, takes a artistic conceit and looks at it through the lens of a contemporary context.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Potato Eaters and Wheatfield with Crows at the Van Gogh Museum

Infused with natural light, the Van Gogh Musuem (VGM) has a jaw-dropping collection on view. I was reminded of the MoMA (home of The Starry Night and several other masterpieces by Van Gogh), and was impressed by the breadth of the VGM's collection and the lightness of its gallery space. In this post, I'll look at two paintings that can be found on the second floor. But of course there are many more that deserve our attention and admiration.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Potato Eaters (1885)
The Potato Eaters (1885) marked one of the first times Van Gogh attempted a masterpiece. As an undergraduate student, I wrote an Art History paper on it. I can only imagine I was drawn to the artist's documentary approach in terms of depicting the lives of peasants. Here, five peasants sit at a table eating a modest meal. Their lumpy hands and faces indicate the labour of their work. Van Gogh says he chose a dark colour palate that resembles the dusty, brown earth from which they gather their potatoes. Ultimately, he was successful in creating an uneasy, apprehensive mood in this scene.

Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows (1890)
Wheatfield with Crows (1890) is often regarded as Van Gogh's last painting. But I should note that this is not documented. In the painting, Van Gogh depicts a golden wheat field with three paths going in different directions while menacing black crows fly overhead. The sky is an eye-catching blue but looks threatening. It's often said this painting shows the artist's troubled state of mind. I was struck by Van Gogh's use of vivid yellows and blues applied with expressive thick brush strokes. And indeed the pure black crows are a foreboding presence, as I can almost hear them cawing and flapping their wings. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum De Meesterwrken is currently undergoing an extensive renovation until 2013. With an unrivaled collection of works from the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age, the museum has selected highlights to display.

My respective encounters with two masterworks marked my visit: Jan Vermeer's The Kitchen Maid (1658) and Rembrandt's The Night Watch (1642).

Rembrandt, The Night Watch (1642)

The Night Watch (less popularly known as The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch) is stunning. Rembrandt was commissioned to paint a towering group portrait of an Amsterdam militia company. Amidst the throngs of visitors to the Rijksmuseum, I was dwarfed by the painting and was gobsmacked as I admired both Rembrandt's use of light and the virtuosic way he created a sense of movement in the scene.

Jan Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid (1658)
By contrast, Vermeer's The Kitchen Maid is a much smaller painting in size and subject. It's a simple scene: Daylight streams through the window as a maid pours milk from a jug into a bowl. But Vermeer's use of naturalistic light to infuse life into this domestic moment is masterful. I have seen both works reproduced in books or slides, but nothing compares to visiting the works and seeing them in person.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Amsterdam Airport Transfer

When I arrived in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport this morning, I had no plans to take a taxi or airport limo to my destination in town. That's Toronto behaviour.

In Amsterdam, do as the Amsterdamers do. I took the train from Schiphol to Centraal Station and made my way to my final destination. It was dead easy to purchase a train ticket, find the platform, board the train and enjoy the view.

Cost? 4.20 Euros for a second class fare. I understand there's little value in purchasing a first class ticket. Time? 15-20 minutes from Schiphol to Centraal Station.

In Toronto, we like to complain about this missing piece of the puzzle -- a viable public transit option connecting Pearson International Airport with the city. Sure, we have public transit (TTC), a shuttle that takes users to the downtown core, taxis and limousines. The cost varies between 2.50 - 70 CAD. But convenience also varies depending on your mode of transportation.

Wouldn't it be grand to have an accessible, inexpensive airport transfer in Toronto? Dare to dream, eh.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Jackson Pollock: Abstract Expressionist New York at the AGO

The Abstract Expressionist New York exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is a stellar collection of works by some of the better known artists of the art movement.

Jackson Pollock, Number 1A, 1948
Of course there's nothing to replicate a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York to experience the paintings in their home. But the AGO's exhibition provides viewers with an an excellent look at Abstract Expressionism.

The Jackson Pollock works will surely be an attraction because he's such a famous painter synonymous with the drip technique as seen in Number 1A, 1948. The technique gave Pollock a way to create and interact with the canvas and paints by dripping, pouring and splattering in dance-like movement. Look for the Pollock's hand-print autograph in the top right corner of Number 1A, 1948. 

The Pollock works were wonderful to see. But don't miss the works by Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning, Clifford Still, and Mark Rothko. Watch for my blog post on Rothko coming soon.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Parasomnia by Viviane Sassen

For the 2011 Contact Photography Festival, the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art exhibited a series of images by Viviane Sassen called "Parasomnia".

Sassen is a fashion photographer in Holland, and as a child lived in Kenya where her father, a doctor, ran a medical clinic. Her return visits to Africa began in 2002. he images were captured in Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania.

What I found striking in her work was its non-documentary feel. By that, I mean Sassen's pictures don't appear to "capture" daily goings-on of their subjects. Instead, they're alluring for their use of bold colour yet remain distant as subjects pose to avoid the gaze of the viewer. These images are thoughtful constructions by an artist with a point of view that is informed by multiple perspectives.

Sassen's pieces was part of an exhibition called "Dynamic Landscape" which also included works by Olga Chagaoutdinova, Scarlett Hooft Graffland and Dayanita Singh.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Walker Court at the Art Gallery of Ontario

I haven't lingered in the Art Gallery of Ontario's Walker Court since the AGO re-opned after Frank Gehry's redesign over two years ago. Of course Gehry's wonderful sculptural staircase is the grand feature in the space as it links the Walker Court with other spaces in the AGO. But on a recent visit, I was particularly struck by the marvelous natural light streaming through the windows and glass roof. It lightens the space and is a them throughout the entire gallery.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jon Sasaki's Pine at the Art Gallery of Ontario

I recently visited the Art Gallery of Ontario where Toronto artist Jon Sasaki is showing his installation: Pine. At times, it's funny; and at other times, it's sublime. But it's mostly an accessible nod to image-making and recontextualizing iconic landscapes captured in paintings.

For Pine, Sasaki visited Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park where Tom Thompson created some of Canada's most recognizable paintings. Instead of an easel and paintbox, Sasaki used tools used by some contemporary artists: a video camera and an eight-foot crane. The video itself captures bumps and crashes as the camera operator attempts to rotate a camera and crane 360 degrees through the folliage.

Sasaki's installation demonstrates the folly in attempting to capture pristine beauty in nature as the camera-work in the shot is mostly imperfect. But the video achieves moments of sublime elegance as the camera soars above the trees to provide a breathtaking view of the lake.

It's not Tom Thomson, of course. But it's a smart re-imagining of the landscape. The installation includes a lightbox image of the crane and camera in an image reminiscient of Thomsson's oil on canvas paintings, such as "Jack Pine" (1916-17).

I have always enjoyed Sasaki's work -- as with his previous works at Nuit Blance 2008, I Promise It Will Always Be This Way. Do you remember the mascots at Lamport Stadium? I've blogged about the works at Nuit Blanche before, and it's where I first encountered Sasaki's work. I'm looking forward to Sasaki's next project.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Dr. Seni Myeni Foundation's First Student

To commemorate the death of her twin sister, Sbu Myeni created the Dr. Seni Myeni Foundation of Hope. The foundation's goal is to help orphaned girls in the village of KwaNyuswa in the Valley of 1,000 Hills in South Africa where the Myeni sisters grew up. KwaNyuswa is  a semi-rural village outside Durban. Although they lived during the apartheid regime and were surrounded by poverty and HIV and AIDS, the sisters excelled.

For more on the backstory of starting the foundation, here's a short documentary I made:

The foundation has found its first two students:  Nqobile Nzama and Ntokozo Gcwensa.

I recently interviewed Sbu Myeni about the girls. Here's the story of Nqobile Nzama.

Nqobile Nzama
Nqobile Nzama's mother died in 2006. Nqobile is now 13 years old and is in grade seven. Her gogo (or grandmother) is raising her along with two cousins who are also orphaned. Their corrugated iron shack leaked every time it rained. Neighbours intervened and with the help of the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust, they gathered enough building material to build a two-room shelter.

In June 2010, Nqobile was the best student in her class with a grade average of 83.9%. She attended what was considered to be the worst school in her community where there is a low-graduation rate and limited options for its students. Nqobile's grandmother couldn't afford the R260 South African Rand (or $39.10 USD) for the annual tuition for a better school.
Nqobile's Family Dwelling in KwaNyuswa
The Dr Seni Myeni Foundation of Hope enrolled Nqobile at Inkamana High School, a private Catholic boarding school in Vryheid. It's one of the best schools in South Africa with a 100% Matric pass. The fees are approximately$2500 US per year and the fee includes tuition, board, meals, uniform, school supplies and transport.

"This has been a life changing experience for Nqobile," says Sbu Myeni. "Her teacher told us that getting an opportunity to attend such a prestigious school changed Nqobile's outlook altogether and boosted her confident significantly. She has made many friends and is focused on being the best student amongst her peers at her new school."

Inkamana High School is where Seni Myeni, the namesake of the Dr. Seni Myeni Foundation, attended school.

Nqobile aspires to become a teacher one day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Umhambi at the One Minutes Belgian Open Film Festival

My short film Umhambi is an official selection at the One Minutes Belgian Open Film Festival and Competition which takes place in Ghent, Belgium between April 27-May 1, 2011.

Umhambi has been nominated to compete in the Documentary and Portrait category. There are 20 films in the category and the juried screening takes place on April 30 at Cinema Sphinx in Ghent at 7:30 pm.

It's an honour to be included in the category as the only North American selection. Films come from all around the globe representing Indonesia, Germany, Poland, Belgium, France, Poland, the Netherlands, Romanian, and the Republic of Benin.

I made Umhambi while living in South Africa. It's based on the Little Traveller dolls created for Woza Moya, the income generation program at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust outside Durban.

The selection into the One Minutes Belgian Open Film Festival means Umhambi continues to travel the globe. Most recently, it was an official selection at the Chicago International Film Festival in October 2010.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bill Cunningham New York and My Tweet Review

I've been tweeting film reviews for some time, and I've always wanted to document them in a post.

Here's a slight re-write of my tweet review of Bill Cunningham's New York which I posted yesterday. I used the hashtag: #BillCunninghamNY. A screengrab of my tweets is below.

Bill Cunningham New York a film about a kind man who is passionate about photographing/documenting fashion -- especially fashion on the streets.

Cunningham's an original. A passionate journalist with a distinct eye for fashion, he's also v. principled & kind-natured. The documentary offers a glimpse into New York's fashion world and the people in it.

I was delighted to see NY street fashion documented through the decades thru his lens. BTW, he shoots on film, not digital.

There are details about his personal life that were addressed. But these questions seemed functional, a bit Barbara Walters.

What makes this a v good doc is its look into the way a photojournalist works & its look into the NY fashion world. B+/A-

Thursday, April 14, 2011

David Beckham in Toronto

I usually reserve this space for my creative projects. But I'll digress now so that I can post about English footballer David Beckham.

Beckham was in Toronto last night with his current club LA Galaxy to play against TFC in what was a scoreless tie at BMO field. 

I wanted to share a short video clip of his deft touch off the boot. I'm not a soccer expert but my pal and I were lucky to have great seats to capture his skill in an iPhone video. Sure, LA didn't score in this one sequence, but it was entertaining.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shosholoza Hits the Big Screen in Toronto

Shosholoza, my short film about a community of women living with HIV in South Africa, is an official selection at the One Minute Film and Video Festival. It screens on March 31, 2011 at 7 pm at the Toronto Underground Cinema.

Shosholoza features the women who live in impoverished rural villages in the Valley of 1,000 Hills outside Durban. They create Little Traveller dolls at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust for sale around the world.

It's great news for "Shosholoza" which is a follow up to "Umhambi", another short film I made in 2007 that has been an official selection in festivals internationally with screenings in South Africa, the United States, Croatia, Sqitzerland and Canada.

I'll be posting Shosholoza soon. In the meantime, here's Umhambi: