Recently I found myself in an artist’s studio. It was in this little diverse funky village off of Bloor street in Toronto called Mirvish Village. It’s an eclectic mix of antique, artsy stores with small art galleries that cater to a select group of collectors.
I had long wanted to visit the area for some unique perspective on the Toronto art scene.
We went up to the first gallery …it looked so quaint…the door wouldn’t open. Open Wednesday-Sunday the sign read. I was disappointed. As we walked to the next gallery out came the artist, Gabor, a charmingly unassuming older gentleman who invited us in to his art studio where he was working.
In the "front room" of the historic house a small table was set up facing the bay window with a view of the street. This was his studio area. The table was covered in small pieces of paper…some of it watercolor paper. These were scattered all over the table each in varying states of progress, some laying on top of each other. Some of the pieces had been painted with blotches of color, others had sketches in corners of the piece, all looked like there were created by a child of 3.
I noticed there were several insects and rocks strewn on the table that were also being applied to the paper pieces. Pieces of glass and wrappers. It could have been garbage…but it was his collection of items to play with. There were full banker’s boxes on the floor each marked with dates and places of sketches, drawings and articles that had been picked up or created. They dated back 40 years.
The room itself was tiny, we had to squeeze past the table to access the artwork on the other side. The walls were covered with multimedia collage pieces that had been finished by the artist incorporating paint, tree branches, buttons, fabric and anything else the artist could get his hands on. Most seemed primitive. None seemed like they had been created by a celebrated "artist". While we looked through the art Gabor started to explain his work or rather his "play" as he described it. He said he understood that most people upon viewing his most recent pieces were disappointed as they were expecting something more traditional.
He guided us to the back gallery where we were shown these more typical pieces…many street scenes that had been finished some 20 or 30 years prior. Gabor expressed his dislike for his previous works, how they somehow felt incomplete. He showed us how he had added to several of the pieces over the years, sometimes painting an entire new image on top of the original canvas leaving areas showing of the original piece. They were as he said, "somewhat disturbing" to him. He couldn’t look at them with any satisfaction without thinking there was something he would like to change. He had grown so much over the years they felt inadequate. He repeated this quote from Leonardo Davinci "Art is never finished, only abandoned".
Gabor then spoke of his most recent works, the child-like collages and his quest to "live in the moment". He explained he was no longer trying to think about the finished product…what it looked like in the end, he didn’t care. He wanted to go back to when he was a child…playing with paint and pieces of whatever he could find in his yard because it was fun. To create for creation’s sake. He struggled to forget all of the training and art education that he had over the years,"paint what you see, draw what is there". He wanted to lose himself in the creative joy of putting paint to paper…placing something onto the paper and liking it. No Rhyme nor reason, just because he can. There is no hidden meaning in the collages, they simply are.
This truly resonated with me. I had long given up on creating art just "because". That is called a hobby. My "art" is my job, it had become work. I used to love sketching and drawing as a kid. You can create such depth in shading with a pencil. Forget about the eraser, it’s a pain to use. Each line it there because that is where I put it. Pencil to ordinary paper is freeing your mind to transpose your energy onto a visual surface. There are no mistakes.
Recently I picked up a piece of paper and a pencil and let them take over. Two hours later it felt like 5 minutes had gone by. A drawing had emerged from somewhere inside me that felt the freshness and hope that Spring holds. No eraser…no computer. Just me and my pencil. What a refreshing experience to play again. I’m happy with the image. Will it make it into my next lines I’m working on? Who cares? That’s not why I made it. I made it because I was playing just like when I was a kid. It was fun.