20 artists to check out at the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair 2018

More than 350 vendors are taking over Nathan Philips Square for the city's rebranded art event


TORONTO OUTDOOR ART FAIR at Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen West), Friday to Saturday (July 6-7), 10 am-7 pm, Sunday (July 8), 10 am-5 pm. Free. torontooutdoor.art.


Founded in 1961, the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair is the city’s longest-running outdoor art fair, allowing visitors to meet and buy directly from emerging and established artists working in painting, sculpture, photography, textiles, ceramics, metal, wood and more. Over 350 vendors take part, including students from OCAD U and U of T Scarborough and Magenta’s Flash Forward program for high school photographers. The Partial Lounge provides a comfy relaxation space and venue for panel discussions, and on Saturday and Sunday the beer garden hosts performances of Calibrate, a contemporary dance piece by Karen Kaeja of Kaeja d’Dance.

Here are 10 booths to hit at the fair.

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Andrew Watch

Booth D287

Toronto-based illustrator/designer Watch is drawn to simplified forms and flat graphic lines and shapes. His colourful acrylic-paint images of interiors rendered in flattened perspective are filled with assemblages of quirky objects that create lively, all-over patterns. He cites artists who mine popular culture – including KAWS, Hiroshi Nakamura and Margaret Kilgallen – as influences. Viewers don’t need to get all of his cultural references, he says, to “enjoy the amount of care and detail that goes into each piece.”

Diana Rosa

Booth C211

A Cuban-born and -educated artist now based in Brampton, Rosa paints figures and animals in her preferred medium of acrylics, often using a humorous, kinda folk art or cartoony style. Drawing on her Caribbean heritage, she crafts images that explore human interaction with nature on land and sea. Favourite artists include “Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington and Henri Rousseau, because,” she says, “their work is questioning, disquieting and complex.”

Elycia SFA

Booth A123

A recent OCAD grad, Elycia SFA reinterprets paper items – snapshots, postcards, notebook paper, envelopes – in woven textiles, lending humour and pathos to everyday objects. Before learning to weave, her practice was rooted in drawing, and she describes her current art as “drawing with thread.” She says the work “explores personal narrative and the de/reconstruction of memory, nostalgia and loss.” She admires Toronto artists Dorie Millerson and Amanda McCavour, who also work with thread.

Erika Shrestha

Booth E332

Shrestha’s trippy, surreal heads are heavily encrusted with beads and textiles recycled from abandoned craft projects found at thrift stores and yard sales. “These objects have a history of their own,” she says, “and ignite in me feelings of reverence and nostalgia, propelling me to weave together elements that otherwise may never have met.” She names Chicago textile artist Ebony G. Patterson and Mexico-born New York bead sculptor Raúl de Nieves as kindred spirits.

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Eunshin Grace Kim

Booth A79

Toronto-based, Seoul-born oil painter Kim says her images – which recall classical portraiture or antique photos and often depict sad or wistful figures holding mysterious props – emerge intuitively during the painting process. She is learning from Renaissance old masters, who she says “were more patient and paid keen attention to how colour, tone, level of transparency and opacity of paint interact on the canvas.” She hopes viewers will forge their own intuitive connection with her work.

Francesca Chan

Booth A24

Currently studying illustration at OCAD, Chan picked up a love of printmaking from children’s books. Her colourful 2D images, which use flattened perspective and shapes with tonal texturing, tell stories about our interaction with nature in the past, present or future. Artists from the Bauhaus like László Moholy-Nagy inspired her to combine graphic design with lithography and to adapt lithographic effects for the computer. She says her work appeals to “individuals who are aware of today’s societal problems.”

Fuzzy Mall

Booth C181

Mall, who won TOAF’s best 2D artist award last year, branched out into quilted portraiture after making hoodies. Often working from photographs, he captures his subjects’ character in remarkable graphic images enhanced by the layered texture of fabrics. His #facesofhamilton project depicts Hamiltonians he met on the street, who then pointed him to other subjects. Inspirations include Iznik ceramics, Panamanian molas, Uzbek embroidery and sewn portraits by Cayce Zavaglia, and he loves when commissioned works become treasured heirlooms.

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Getachew Fantu

Booth B176

In Fantu’s semi-abstract mixed-media paintings, a horizontal line often divides a darker “ground” from a “wall” on which shimmers of light reveal colour and raised hieroglyphic-like markings. The Ethiopian-born artist studied in Canada and Europe and cites Modernists Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee and Ethiopian artists Gebre Kristos Desta and Eskinder Bogosian as influences. He sees his work, which hangs in the collections of The Weeknd and other celebs, as bringing “joy and vibrancy to the spaces it occupies.”

Helen Liene Dreifelds

Booth A50

Currently an artist-in-residence at Harbourfront’s Craft and Design Studios, Dreifelds makes textiles with diaphanous or opaque weaves that interact with textures of the urban and natural environment in sculptures and installations. “I am drawn to the poetic potential of textile-based experiences,” she says, “that create space for psychological and physical connection.” Her work is about change and playfulness, allowing “interpersonal connection rooted in building empathy.” Inspirations include Eva Hesse, El Anatsui, Sarah Sze and Olafur Eliasson.

Ivanna Hreshchuk

Booth D301

In The Vietnam Story series, the Toronto designer and Southeast Asia traveller pays tribute to villagers she met during a homestay. For these unusual pieces, she hangs layers of landscape photographs printed on translucent organza from frames of bamboo, “the basis of all structures and homes nested in the mountains,” she says. Influences include 19th-century landscape painters Percy Gray and Thomas Cole. Socially conscious collectors should appreciate these works “ethically made for the people of Sapa, Vietnam.”

James Paterson

Booth C250/251

Paterson makes playful, poetically titled wirework sculptures that include realistic elements – faces, bicycle wheels – and shapes filled in with colour. He began as a painter, but says he “wanted something more immediate that allowed the lines to come right from my hands.” He cites a range of Modernist influences, but Joan Miró is the one that comes through most clearly, and Williams Blake and Kurelek inform the work’s spiritual underpinnings. (A series is called Prayer Machines.)

Jane Tarini

Booth D295 (East)

Drawing is the medium of choice for Hamilton-based artist Tarini, whose meticulously done, velvety black-and-white renderings of female portrait heads reinterpret classical painting and old photographs. “Tonal images are beautiful and very evocative,” she says, “and I love the slow process of uncovering the endless values in an image.” Her work reflects an interest in women’s history and the #MeToo movement. Her heroes include 19th-century artists like academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau and portraitist John Singer Sargent.

Kelly Kirkham

Booth A53

Puppet-maker Kirkham lives in Port Hope and also draws and paints. Her hand puppets, which she describes as “unusual and familiar all at once,” winningly combine pathos with sweetness, roughness with elaborate beaded ornamentation. Their lively personalities mark them as works of a master puppet-maker, and they’ll appeal to anyone who loves humour and play in art. She admires the playfulness of Klee and Calder, as well as contemporaries like Grayson Perry, Nick Cage and Kiki Smith.

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Marianne Chenard

Booth A47

Montreal artist Chenard started as a sculptor but was drawn to the elemental and hard-to-control nature of ceramics. She enhances clay forms with imagery applied using printmaking techniques. Her non-functional wall and floor pieces explore her Canadian/Quebecoise identity, our wintery Nordic landscape and clichés of its depiction, and reference her research into the history of ceramics in Canada.  Contemporary greats like Olafur Eliasson and Rachel Whiteread are among her inspirations. Her work brings a depth of meaning to the ceramic medium.

Michele Crockett

Booth E322

For the American-born OCAD grad’s Endless Summer photography series, she overlays a screen of multicoloured dots or geometric shapes onto blurry, faded beach-side images made with expired Polaroid or Fuji instant film. These altered holiday snaps provide a graphic representation of images changed by time, allowing the viewer “to wander through memories and dreams of long summer days.” Crockett is inspired by the traditions of experimental and portrait photography and admires Brazilian multimedia artist Vik Muniz.

Shahrzad Amin

Booth A77

Small figures, solo or in groups, stare out at us in Amin’s sculpture series Witnesses. Hairless and genderless, their bodies are simplified to focus on their faces, which can express “pain, sorrow, hope, joy, loss [or] vulnerability.” The Tehran-born and -educated artist says they comment on “democracy, human rights, capitalism, migration and the plurality of society, conveying the feeling that we are all together in this wondrous life.” She cites Käthe Kollwitz and Mesopotamian art as influences.

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Stephanie Avery

Booth E348

Even before she started making these colour photographs, which capture the romance of mouldering, abandoned architecture, the Toronto-based adventurer loved ruined buildings for their “combination of beauty, serenity and exhilaration. They possess a calm chaos,” she says, “that transforms the familiar into the surreal.” She describes her work as at once “peaceful, introspective, nostalgic, unexpected and cathartic,” and cites Edward Burtynsky and Art Spin curators Layne Hinton and Rui Pimenta as artists she admires.

Stephen Brûlé

Booth A58

Creating tintypes and ambrotypes with 19th-century techniques is a slow process, says Brûlé, that “brings a certain romanticism back to making photographs. You must pre-visualize the final image and make your technical and creative decisions often before looking through the camera.” The results are dreamlike, ghostly black-and-white landscapes and cityscapes, each one unique because only one image can be made per plate. The Toronto-based photographer is drawn to artists who work with light: Caravaggio, Edward Hopper, Gregory Crewdson.

Tania Love

Booth C234

Using plant-based dyes (she says she’s amazed by their nuance and tonal range), Toronto artist Love makes scarves and other textiles printed with delicate patterns inspired by nature. Her art practice also involves drawing, painting and installation with natural and salvaged materials. Eva Hesse, Sonia Delaunay and Ed Pien are some of the artists she admires. She says her work will appeal to “those who have an appreciation of materials, tactility, technique and thoughtfulness.”

Vanessa Neily

Booth D285

This Ottawa-based NSCAD grad achieves a difficult-to-pull-off harmony of hard and soft media (metal and textiles). In her jewellery and wall pieces, delicately patterned enamelled ovals frame wool centrepieces made using Maritimes-style rug-hooking techniques. As well as contemporaries like printmaker Angie Lewin and painter Raphael Balme, she appreciates Bloomsbury Group duo Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis. Her work will resonate with anyone who appreciates fine craftsmanship.

frans@nowtoronto.com | @FranSchechter

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