Toronto artist Ben Johnston uses thought-provoking phrases in latest exhibition, Wordplay

Ben Johnston at an opening event for his Wordplay exhibition at Taglialatella Galleries on Mar. 21, 2023. (Courtesy: Ryan Emberley )


A Toronto-based artist known for his signature street murals is unveiling his latest art exhibition which resembles a clever word search that will keep viewers on their toes. 

Ben Johnston’s Wordplay opens Thursday evening at Taglialatella Galleries Toronto and runs until Apr. 10. 

Tonight’s free opening public reception will be held at the venue (99 Yorkville Ave.) from 6 to 8 p.m. 

Johnston is an award-winning artist and designer who is internationally recognized for his signature style of three dimensional word art. Wordplay marks Johnston’s third solo show with the gallery. 

His new exhibition extends the unique style of his street art practice and highlights the power of typography. 

“Basically (it’s) all been about having fun with words and experimenting, and seeing how far I can kind of take the abstraction, while still keeping some legibility,” Johnston said to Now Toronto.

“And also at the same time using some ambiguous language along the way, which I think is interesting because when people come in, while they’re trying to figure out what it says, they’re also figuring out what it means to them,” he added. 

His show includes six innovative sculptures of thought-provoking phrases and 10 canvas paintings of single words. 

The various art pieces are vibrant, colourful and visually appealing to the eye. Each piece also requires viewers to take some time to observe them to truly decode which word is hidden in the art, providing an interactive experience for guests. 

Johnston said the idea for Wordplay simply “popped into his mind” while spending countless hours in his studio creating his masterpieces. 

He said the exhibition took about two and a half months to complete, at about three to four days for each piece. 

Wordplay is the first time Johnston explored the world of sculptures, as much of his previous work was created in the streets or on murals.

“It was interesting because I was working with some people in China. So it’s just a little bit of a language barrier and whatnot. But, I mean I’m really happy with the way they came out. And I taught myself how to design and kind of produce all the 3D files over the last year or two, it’s been a nice process,” he said. 

As for what’s next, Johnston says he “doesn’t want to close any boxes.” He plans on building more sculptures and also returning to his roots of painting murals across the city. 

“I am open to people getting in touch with nice walls or basketball courts or whatever. But yeah, there’s definitely something happening at Stanley Park. There’s a new court coming there soon, and yeah, I’m open to walls and opportunities, and I mean anything.”

Taglialatella Galleries is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and by appointment. 



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