Art & Art, High & Low

17 April 2017 – I’m not too sure about that “high & low” distinction, but I stand by “art & art.”

And every molecule of it breathes Toronto.

Henry Moore’s Two Forms, for example, an icon of the Art Gallery of Ontario, long resident at the AGO’s N/E corner (and due to be relocated to Grange Park).

Fine art, “high art,” that inside the Gallery would be guarded & untouchable.

Out here on the street corner, it is beloved by all, stroked by all, sat upon & slid through by many, and never vandalized — except by all that love. “It’s worn through to the rivets,” a conservator once told me ruefully. “One of these days, we’ll have to have it repatinated.”

Inside the AGO, I revisit one of my favourite rooms, a quiet little room tucked away in a corner of the 2nd floor, housing only two works by Inuk artist Jacoposie Oopakak.

I love the simplicity of the caribou skull, title Family, its antlers delicately carved with images of people, a family tree.

I love, too, the painted line of caribou slanting down the wall, refracted by the case to dance with the skull as they walk and keep it company.

I’m back outside again, dog-leg into an alley just N/W of McCaul & Dundas — and look at this!

Street art featuring a high-minded quote by a brand-name thinker.

(Ignore her. She is not contemplating the art. She’s on her cell with her boyfriend, comparing their respective holiday weekends.)

I am impressed. I look up the Voltaire quote later on, back home. Many sources agree, it’s by our man Voltaire all right. One disagrees. Nah: Pierre de Beaumarchais said this in 1775, while working on the 2nd scene, 1st act, of Le Barbier de Séville. (Well, strictly speaking, no. What he said was: “Aujourd’hui ce qui ne vaut pas la peine d’être dit, on le chante.”

Really? I have no idea. Click here & decide for yourself.

Or ignore all that, and instead contemplate this next bit of alley-art philosophy, cheek-by-jowl with M. Voltaire/deBeaumarchais. No authorship dispute here: it’s the work of Blaze Wiradharma.

We are spoiled for choice. We can say something, sing something … or just spray it instead.



29 November 2015 – Not many kilometres on the boots this week, for various reasons, but I did make it to St. James Cathedral. More precisely, to the parking lot opposite.

Attracted not by the cars, but by what I could see as I angled through the Cathedral grounds.


A great big mural, on the wall facing all those parked cars. Closer, it looks like this:


I first saw this in hurried passing a week ago, vowed to return, and now, as I really focus on it, I realize it is surely Inuit-inspired.

And it is.

I read the plaque, learn it is Piliriqatigiingniq (“a pillar of Inuit traditional knowledge, to work together toward a common goal”), a July 2015 joint project by the Embassy of Imagination, Mural Routes, and Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association.

Those great soaring top figures of course catch the eye. The bird to the right …


and the caribou to the left.


But I am most struck by two other elements of the work.

First, by the way a modern snowmobile is central to the mural, slid  in between the kamik-booted, parka-clad figure below and the fantastic creature above, both of them saturated in traditional imagery.


It reminds me of the work of one of my favourite artists, Pudlo Pudlat (1916-1992), who made modern northern technology part of his iconography. I have one of his prints, a perfect example:


See? Fish soaring into the sky, pulling traditional komatik (wooden sleds), on which are lashed airplanes, which, with snowmobiles, are now routine means of transportation.

Second, I am struck by the interwoven bands of images that compose the main body of the creature.

Version 2

The Inuit have a great sense of one-ness, you see it expressed in many ways. Sometimes in row upon row of faces, as in this wall hanging of mine, the work of Rita Aviliavuk Oosuaq.


In the Church Street mural, the concept is expressed in bands of fish, animals and human heads …


and hands and birds.


I re-read the plaque …


and thank everyone involved.


    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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