One weekend, two Art Battle events, and the paint went flying.
Queen West Art Crawlers got a free mini-taste of the staple monthly AB event with two one on one paint-offs at The Gladstone Ballroom on Friday where Keita Morimoto walked away victorious, having stunned the crowd with his unique, dark style.
Saturday was the big show with the first ever Art Battle: Cage Matches, a (wo)mano-a-(wo)mano caged event in the basement of Parts & Labour. Contestants were given the same 20 minute window to create the best painting possible as with other Art Battles, except this time they were allowed to mess with their opponents work for the first 17.
Arriving late, I was worried I had missed it all, but Bryan Belanger and Julie Gladstone made sure not to disappoint. Bryan came out sporting a Mexican Wrestler mask and homemade cape, while Julie decided to funk up a standard crossing guard’s vest. What came next was totally unexpected. As the match commenced, both painters got to work immediately. In an apparent homage to Adam West’s Batman, Belanger quickly layered out the word “POW!” on his canvass, picked it off his stand, walked over to Gladstone and whacked her with it. He retreated back to his post and started working again. Julie’s guard (who she smuggled in under her cloak), sporting a quazi-futuristic silver dress and large cardboard sword wrapped in tinfoil stepped up between the two, warning Belanger to play nicer. The masked artist responded by chucking a handful of paint at her. This type of manoeuvre continued throughout the match between the two or three contestants, escalating to a point where an Art Battle helper entered the ring to add to the fray. The last several minutes involved the four inside stumbling around the cage, knocking over anything in their path (including each other) and covering everything in paint.
The night truly put the “Battle” into “Art Battle”.
After the match, I ended up in a conversation with a few people outside having a smoke. This was their first Art Battle event and they arrived around the same time I did. One of them, let’s call her Not-Rachel, asked a critical question that caught me off guard – “Do you think this event is moving art forward in any way?”
Despite my surprise at her cynicism, the answer was a near immediate “Yes.” We live in a world rife with self-imposed and media induced A.D.D.. Art Battle matches not only satisfy our communal lack of ability to pay attention, but also expose us to art and artists that we may never hear about otherwise. While this particular event may have been more battle than art, it was a lot of fun. “Have you ever seen anything like that before?” Progress in the creative world can only come by trying new things and keeping people interested. In the world of visual arts in Toronto, Art Battle is certainly leading the way.
Not-Rachel thought that was a good answer.
Visit artbattleto.com for more details.