Posted by: Issha Marie | March 29, 2009

A brief look at this year’s Toronto Art Expo

Art expos tire me out. It is like speed-gallery-hopping; you hop from booth to booth making quick sweeps with your peepers, in a vain and ambitious effort to see and absorb as much as you can until you decide that you’ve acquired the most out of your time (and admission fee). These are not my favourite art functions to attend, but I tend to go to at least two or three of them every year (so expect entries later on in the year from my visits to The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, The Queen West Art Crawl, and/or The Toronto International Art Festival). That said, the theme I gathered from this year’s Toronto Art Expo seemed to center around the über kitsch. The upper level of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was inundated with booths that displayed really bad art. Harsh? Perhaps. After all, art is subjective, and I am only one person against many who may passionately disagree with me. But to be blatantly honest, after two hours of weaving in and amongst aisles, I was hit with a horrible kitschOD-induced migraine. It was not a very pleasant feeling.

Negative impressions aside, I did come across some stunning work. I even got to chat it up with a few artists who were more than willing to share their advice and trade secrets with emerging artists like myself and my friend Alex (who happened to accompany me to the show). My lengthy conversations with these well-established artists certainly made me feel like my $8.00 student admission fee did not go to waste entirely. The show consisted of mostly painters; I did not come across many photographers. When I finally happened upon Stephen Cooper‘s booth, it was like taking in a breath of fresh air after having inhaled too much smoke. It is always so lovely to meet an established photographer who still works with traditional processes. His photographs are not only aesthetically pleasing; they also have depth. His masterful control of the Hasselblad is evident in his prints; you can feel the heat emanating from his Desert Ghosts series, for instance. His work is nothing short of mesmerizing.

He is extremely easy to approach as well; Alex and I spent quite a bit of time speaking with him at his booth. We talked cameras, we talked equipment, we talked techniques – it was a very pleasant conversation. One can definitely see just how passionate he is with his craft. Alex and I can certainly attest to the sense of kinship we felt towards Stephen – we are just as passionate as he is with our art-making process. He gave us invaluable advice on printing places we should check out, lenses we may or may not consider utilizing depending on the subjects we tend to photograph, and so much more. He even spoke of getting together a small photography collective centred on discovering and photographing unusual and off-the-beaten places. There was talk of a possible workshop too. Either would be amazing, and I will certainly be one of the first to sign up.

Stephen Cooper: Buick Eight (from the series, Desert Ghosts)

Stephen Cooper: Buick Eight (from the series, Desert Ghosts)

Stephen Cooper: Freemont Warrior (from the series, Canyonland Architects)

Stephen Cooper: Freemont Warrior (from the series, Canyonland Architects)

(c) Russel Brohier

(c) Russel Brohier

Russell Brohier was another personal favourite of mine. He takes hauntingly beautiful photographs of decaying places (his choice of subject matter happens to be what I love to explore as well). These decrepit monuments, once a testament to wealth and privilege, are now abandoned, marked with obvious and extreme neglect, or else, marked for possible demolition. What is (or was) left of these crumbling walls exude a kind of timeless elegance, further proof that there is beauty in the breakdown.

Incidentally, Russell Brohier is also one of the founding members of GalleryDK, a gallery located in the trendy Queen West area. I hope to be able to exhibit in this space one day, as the work they tend to showcase parallels what I explore in my own art-making practice.

(c) Russell Brohier

(c) Russell Brohier

(c) Russell Brohier

(c) Russell Brohier

And so it would seem that in spite of my strong distaste for kitsch, that Sunday turned out to be a pretty good Sunday for me. I am definitely going to keep a sharp lookout for these two artists for future features and articles.

Notes: Photographs are taken from the online galleries of Stephen Cooper ( and Russell Brohier ( These images are for exemplary and educational purposes only.

This article, though a week late, briefly relates my experience at the 2009 Toronto Art Expo, on Sunday, the 22nd of March.


  1. that theatre space is amazing. i saw photographs of it before from one of my contacts on flickr.

  2. I only wish I knew where it was taken! When I spoke to the artist, he did not specify where it was from…

  3. i think this is it.

    he has some more of that place.

  4. Amazing Alex! Thank you so much for that link!

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