A veteran photojournalist on the arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.

EDITION #121 - WEEK OF FEBRUARY 6-12, 2017

Light Brite

Research and design group LAVA from Australia provides “Digital Origami Tigers” as the main highlight of the first Toronto Light Festival down at the Distillery District.

Toronto Light Festival

Venue: Various locations between Parliament and Cherry Streets, Distillery District

Dates/Times: Through March 12; Sundays-Wednesdays Sundown-10 p.m., Thursdays-Saturdays Sundown-11 p.m.

Admission/Information: FREE. Visit torontolightfestival.com or thedistillerydistrict.com.

Visual Arts Feature/Review

As the old saying goes, it is better to light one single candle than to curse the darkness. While some Canadians will gripe about the long, dark and dreary days of winter and others seek refuge by heading off to a sunny destination, the inaugural Toronto Light Festival offers a rather inexpensive choice in viewing twenty-one light sculptures and art pieces scattered in and around the Distillery District by artists from here and around the world that bring their own unique and luminous visions.

The concept of a visual arts festival on light-based artwork isn’t really new. Several cities worldwide from Singapore to Delhi to Prague have them held at different times of the year, but this year marks the very first one to be held in Toronto and using the historical Distillery District down near the Port Lands as envisioned by its creator and executive director Matthew Rosenblatt, who is also behind the area’s annual Toronto Christmas Market.

Left-right: Ryan Longo’s “Reactor”; “Bands of Friendship” from India’s Vikas Patil and Satosh Gujar and the freerunning-inspired “Run Beyond” by Italian artist Angelo Bonello make use of their spaces around the Distillery District’s first-ever Toronto Light Festival.

“Winter sucks, and we simply want to make winter not suck so much,” he stated succinctly into the reason for launching the festival. “We want to create something special and something that will lift the collective spirit of the city. We aspire to make ourselves proud and organize an event that is inspirational. In a world with so many dark and ominous messages, we want to create a positive, magical urban world that people of all ages and backgrounds will enjoy and look forward to. Simply put, we want to help transform a moment of consciousness, from the cold of the dark into the warmth of the light – even if it can reach minus-twenty degrees Celsius. Oh, and we really, really like pretty lights.

“During the dark, cold days of winter, our hope is that city residents will be drawn out of their traditional indoor habitats to experience Toronto in a way they never have before. The festival exhibits the creativity of local and international artists and is a winter experience designed to entertain and inspire [the public]. I love Toronto, and I really hope that this (festival) makes our great city just a little bit better.”

Of the several light sculptures around, some stand out like the tree-like “Reactor” by local artist Ryan Longo, who’s also a well-known underground electronic music whiz with multicoloured lights and objects adorning the piece reflecting on technology and nature in the Gristmill Lane alleyway, along with the twin oblong drop-shaped “Infinite Support” with this mini-light pattern from the interior mirrors giving off this 1970s-like science-fiction vibe, as created by the Netherlander collective LightForm about the true meaning of endless friendship.

From India comes “Bands of Friendship” by the architect duo Vikas Patil and Santosh Gujar that kind of look like lighted hula-hoops lined up in a row changing colour every few minutes has its fun angle, that carries itself upon entering the Trinity Street square compound where one will find the very self-explanatory “Angels of Freedom” from OGE Group of Israel to let viewer get interactive with the three pieces of wings and halos abound, in return for charity when posting the picture on social media tags Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram together with a promised good deed to perform (#MillStLights) and local brewers Mill Street Brewery will donate $1 to the Daily Food Bank.

Left-right: A section of “Our House” by Belgium’s Tom Dekyvere; Kelly Mark’s “Nothing Is So Important That It Needs To Be Made In Six-Foot Neon” and “Angels of Freedom” from OGE Group lights up between Trinity Street and Tank House Lane in the Distillery District.

Toronto photographer Kelly Mark has several works in the area starting with the video projection project at Trinity Street/Tank House Lane with subversively wicked statements on the satire on philosophy. And further down one will find the humour behind the art parody sign “Nothing Is So Important That It Needs To Be Made In Six-Foot Neon” at the window of optical store Spectacles (18 Rack House Mews) and cater-corner inside the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane) with a couple of wall hanging installations; as part of her agenda to look at absurdities and pathos of everyday life are some things to consider.

Strung out like green neon spider webbing, Belgian artist Tom Dekyvere has “Our House” above the Tank House Lane/Cherry Street corridor that consistently change patterns on how nature can manipulate its surrounds like this work does, as well as show about connections with technology and nature and like-wise goes for Angelo Bonello placing his “Run Beyond” atop adjacent buildings of Trinity Street of an animated neon pattern of what looks like a parkour artiste jumping from one roof to another about freedom that only the Rome-based artist allows the viewer to decide on how to interpret freedom, are dazzling visual works.

Light-right: The avocado-shaped “Infinite Support” from the Netherlander collective LightForm; Michael Christian redoes his “IT” sculpture into a nod to H.G. Wells’ War of The Worlds to Venividimultiplex’s “The Uniting Lightstar” to give off a retro-science-fiction vibe to the Toronto Light Festival at the Distillery District.

American artist Michael Christian has two works, the first being the already-commissioned permanent sculptures “Flowers” making good use of the purplish tint they take on just off Trinity Square and the Louise Bourgeois-inspired sculpture in the Gristmill Lane corridor for the War of The Worlds -inspired “IT” has that eerie air about it to make it look like it could come alive at any minute.

But the pièce de résistance goes to “Digital Origami Tigers” by the Australian-based LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture), which started out life at a Lunar New Year event in Sydney in 2010 to being adopted by the World Wide Fund to bring attention to their campaign of the endangered species. Their balanced ease of their structure and composition of geometrical design and red glow – the traditional Chinese colour for luck – makes it a winning highlight of the festival.

The only problem the festival has that, perhaps for the lack of – or maybe too much of – space that it tends to hide a few works around the area that could get overlooked, even with the guide maps handed out by the fest volunteers. Three good examples are Studio Toer’s interactive “Social Sparkles” using motion sensors to activate these electronic “fireflies” above whenever you pass under them like a chain reaction (and unfortunately the festival’s weakest piece, due to being unable to capture that much attention) and Venividimultiplex’s futuristic cool dodecahedron “The Uniting Lightstar” that lights up nicely, which the first two are from the Netherlands and ironically enough, the fest executive director’s own “Love Lock Benches” of light peeking through welded locks are funky but too well tucked away into some seasonal bar space area, yet worth looking at.

Given that this is its first year of operation, the festival organizers can know what works and what doesn’t and the Toronto Light Festival gives a pretty good excuse to go outside to see some light sculptures to chase away some of the post-holiday blues when one craves to see seasonal lighting to make things bright other than our nightly skyline.

Casa Loma makes a home for a Beast(ly) exhibit

Costume and set pieces from the forthcoming live-action version of Disney’s Beauty and The Beast make their way to Toronto’s Casa Loma for the Family Day long weekend

Gallery Feature

Since its official trailer release went viral worldwide last fall, the anticipation for the live-action remake of Walt Disney’s Beauty and The Beast has built its momentum for its upcoming release next month now culminates into an appetite-whetter when its temporary touring exhibit makes a visit to the locally-esteemed landmark of Casa Loma (1 Austin Terrace), which seems almost as fitting a place as any to hold there for its Canadian exclusive showing; for the Family Day long weekend of February 17th to the 20th.

Walt Disney Studios Canada invites fans of the tale as old as time to be their guest at Casa Loma for a very special opportunity to see nine costumes from the film, as well as participate in themed activities and view special performances over the course over the weekend. The fun-filled interactive experience and exhibit hits Toronto in advance of the March 17th release of the live-action adaptation of the 1991 animated classic. The film brings to life one of the most beloved tales ever told as directed by Bill Condon (Chicago; Dreamgirls) with an extraordinary ensemble cast that includes Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra McDonald, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.

Casa Loma will be the only location in Canada where fans can see the costumes, many of which were used in the production of the film and include Belle, Gaston, LeFou and many more, which all were designed by the Academy Award-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran. Guests will also see a replica of the iconic rose and bell jar, among the other activities being offered are arts and crafts, face painting and storytellers about, plus performances by ballroom dancers and a circus aerialist.

Access to the costume exhibit and participation in the activities is free with the price of admission to Casa Loma, which will be offered at a special discounted rate only for the Family Day weekend will also have special extended hours for the exhibit until 9 p.m. each night and guests using the promo code “Be Our Guest” at the box office will receive a 20% discount on their ticket purchase.

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Beauty and The Beast opens for wide release in cinemas on March 17. For tickets and information for the Beauty and The Beast Casa Loma exhibit, call 416-923-1171 or visit casaloma.ca.