Monday, April 30, 2012

Art Battle Toronto

Every time we pass by The Great Hall at 1087 Queen St West, we remark on what a beautiful building this would have been in its prime, with its red brick, huge windows and gorgeous round turret. Now rather run down, I wish the money could be found to restore this building to its former glory.  This is currently one of the major locations for Toronto's version of  Art Battle (the Gladstone Hotel being another).

 Imagine all the elements of a bar scene including alcohol, music, mingling and social interaction.  Add in a set of talented artists speed-painting to produce works of art within 20 minutes while spectators traverse from easel to easel monitoring their progress.  At the end of each battle round, the audience votes on their favourite painting.  The top two vote-getters move onto the final battle where an overall winner is declared.  At the end of the night, all the art work is auctioned off.   The artists pre-selected for the battle had to send in a portfolio of their work in order to be chosen so these were not amateurs drawing stick figures.

Usually the artists paint as individuals but the week I attended, they featured the first doubles battle.  Pairs of painters worked on their creations in tandem while retro music like Blondie's Heart of Glass was played by a DJ spinning vinyl records.  The crowd moved in a circular counter-clockwise pattern to view each team at work.  It was fascinating to see the various painting styles and to watch each painting further evolve each time you passed by again.  Some teams sketched outlines of the final image and then filled in more details, tones and textures.  Others started with a colour base and then layered on more and more paint so that it took a while to recognize what their final image would be.

Art Battle is held on a Tuesday evening, so being a work night, I was only able to stay for the initial two battle rounds.  Overall I was really impressed by the artists and what they could accomplish in such a short period of time, with the pressure of a crowd of people surrounding them and literally breathing down their necks.  In the first round, one team tried to creatively make their painting three dimensional by punching a hole through the canvas.  I'm not sure how successful their result was judged to be, but it was amusing watching them go through the process.  They seemed to be in a real "battle" with the canvas itself.

On the second round, there were only 5 registered teams so two volunteers were randomly picked from the crowd to form a sixth team.   I thought this was extremely brave of the impromptu pair and that their result was actually a respectable effort.

This was a really fun night and a unique experience.   The next week, they were promoting an event called a "cage match" where the artists try to paint in an enclosed arena while also sabotaging each others works by knocking them down or painting over them.  Watching a video clip of the cage match  on their website, I don't think this is for me.  It seems more of a spectacle than an artistic endeavour and I prefer just to watch the artists paint.

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