By West Annex News | After decades of struggle, the Bathurst Street strip south of Dupont is finally taking off. With the trauma of a major fire and the seemingly endless construction on Bathurst Street and the CPR underpass finally behind it, the revolving door of shops that have come and gone over the years has finally stopped spinning. A critical mass of interesting galleries, indie coffee houses, shops and restaurants have come and stayed. Suddenly signs of gentrification are everywhere on this once perennially scuzzy strip.
Bathurst from Vermont north to Dupont is now a worthy destination to plan to spend an entire morning or afternoon, enjoyably wandering from gallery to gallery and shop to shop, fortifying yourself during breaks at the various interesting cafes and coffee shops.
We’ll be writing more in coming weeks about some of these shops, galleries and cafes which have been garnering rave reviews from the media, like Madeleines, Cherry Pie and Ice Cream, Rapido, Burnett, Java Mama, Barbara Edwards Contemporary, Ewanika, and opening later this month, a new wine bar The Grape. All these have joined with neighbourhood stalwarts like Annapurna Vegetarian, La Parette Gallery and the unspoiled vintage diners Apollo 11 and Vesta Lunch to form a vibrant new neighbourhood in the upper West Annex.
Today we’re looking in particular at Ideasincorporated, a gallery at 1081 Bathurst Street and their current show, John Cadiz Life Stories, which features the exuberant paintings of Trinidadian expatriate and Seaton Village resident John Cadiz.
“I was born and raised in Trinidad” says Cadiz. “My French/Irish/Spanish ancestry, white skin with all its implied privileges, and a strict Catholic upbringing have perhaps afforded me a unique perspective. I emigrated to Canada in 1977 and worked as a graphic designer to support myself. During a rather stressful period about twenty years ago I started to paint. I am mainly self-taught and tend to use events in my past, religion, and Trinidad carnival as props or metaphors, some of which I put into paintings set in more recent times.”
Whether set in his Trinidadian past or in Canada, summoned from his memory or imagination, these painting layer sweetness, sadness, and the macabre together, using humour to leaven the mix.
The macabre is particularly strong in painting like Putting Down Sambo (2008) based on a true incident in which the artist’s father botched an attempt to euthanize a beloved pet, @#$% Gridlock (2004) where through the window of a TTC bus one sees an execution about to take place, but jaded commuters only complain about the gridlock, and Venus de Kaboom (2005) where a female suicide bomber detonates herself to a sexist commentary on her detached body parts from demons, who presumably urged her on to self-destruction.
Others, like The Family Reunion (2007) appears tranquil enough at first glance. The label beside this painting reads “I thought I’d have a fantasy reunion, a kind of snapshot with the picture taker trying to get everyone to take a bow at the same time with the usual fooling around. The family would be together one last time when we were all happy.”
Not mentioned are the three guest on the porch, looking on at the family’s merriment: an angel, a top-hatted grim reaper, and a character who is perhaps Jab Molassie–a devil masquerade character in Trinidad’s Carnival. While the angel is plainly a mortal–we see the band on the headdress holding up her halo–the devil is real: he breathes fire as he exclaims in patois. The reaper leans back contentedly; he’s found a home to settle into for a while.
Similarly, in the punning Fall (2006), a placid scene of traffic on a multi-lane highway returning to Toronto at the end of an autumn weekend is punctuated by a disintegrating aircraft falling from the sky overhead.
But not all the painting have a morbid twist. In Bettina’s garten (2000) we see a scene of urban Toronto bliss as Monica and her sister-in-law Poonam barbecue in the backyard of their Ossington home, surrounded by a garden planted by their German tenant Bettina.
And in Camping with the mon (1998), the artist’s tenderness and self-deprecating humour is evident in his autobiographic portrayal of a camping trip to Tobermory Provincial Park gone wrong. The loving couple both embrace and shield each other’s eyes as a powerful wind whips through their campsite, blowing campfire smoke into their faces.
There are many other paintings, equally engaging and absorbing. We’ve been to the show twice now, and plan to visit again before the show closes on February 2o, 2011.
Ideasincorporated began in 2007 when owner Oliver Heinrich bought 1081 Bathurst Street in 2007 and set to work renovating it into a live/work space with his family’s living quarters above and the gallery below. Heinrich’s first show was an installation of works made from materials he recycled from the building’s renovation.
Devoted to showcasing the work of local artists, Heinrich had just held his first two successful shows when disaster struck in October 2009: the Children’s Storefront housed in the building to his immediate south, burned to the ground in October of 2009. In fighting the fire, Heinrich’s gallery was drenched with water, the south wall destroyed and the recently renovated ceilings, floors, and electrical wiring ruined. A struggle with his insurer–still not resolved–meant Heinrich wasn’t able to complete the restoration of the interior of the property until late summer of 2010. The exterior still awaits final repairs, so the gallery can be easily missed from the street.
But the gallery is well worth a visit, as are the neighbouring shops and cafes in the amazing, gentrifying upper West Annex.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ For more on the ascendance of the upper West Annex at Bathurst and Dupont, read Karen van Hahn’s “Bathurst and Dupont is the newest style mecca” in thestar.com.