Contact festival expands to East End

This year’s Contact Photography Festival will be establishing ground in the East End, with shows set for the Great Escape Bookstore, Artisans At Work and Dylan Ellis Gallery on Danforth, and a large public installation at the Warden subway station.

John Davidson and Stephen Gilligan will put on The Landscape and Other Bodies of Work at The Great Escape, 957 Kingston Rd., from May 3 to 30 in a space converted from an empty garage to a gallery space behind the main shop. The space has already hosted a shorter exhibition, during a showing of antique typewriters last year.

Washington Square by Stephen Gilligan
Washington Square by Stephen Gilligan

Davidson and Gilligan met while both were teaching at Durham College, where Davidson still works. Davidson has been visiting the Beach regularly for years, and made a habit of stopping by the Great Escape, where he encountered the typewriter exhibit, that inspired the idea to do a Contact show there.

Davidson shoots “anything and everything,” but the Contact show will feature landscapes and possibly some figure studies (the “other bodies” of the show’s title). Beachers may recognize his name as the winner of the 2013 Jazz in Motion photo contest organized by the Beaches International Jazz Festival.

Gilligan doesn’t work full time as a photographer like Davidson, but his passion for the art is apparent in his landscape work. When Davidson suggested a shared exhibit as part of Contact, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I’d actually never done a Contact show before and I thought it was about time,” he said.

Great Escape owner Katya Nosko said she’s thrilled to host the show, and hopes it might be part of an expansion eastward of Toronto’s art scene.

“Leslieville is so fantastic, and there’s this hope that it will creep eastward,” she said.

Gibraltar Point by John Davidson
Gibraltar Point by John Davidson

“Toronto doesn’t end at Victoria Park, so this acts as a nice sort of bridge” to the gap between Scarborough and the art scene in the city’s core, said Nosko.

Davidson and Gilligan work independently, but share a passion for photographing landscapes in natural and built environments.

Elsewhere in the East End, students from Rosedale Heights School of the Arts will mount their show Framed at Artisans At Work, 2071 Danforth Ave., from May 1 to 31. An opening reception will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 1.

Contacting Toronto: Expanding Cities will be installed at the Warden subway station for the month of May.

Mexican artist Alejandro Cartagena and Kingston, Ontario video artists Julia Krolik and Owen Fernley will be featured at the station.

Carpoolers by Alejandro Cartagena
Carpoolers by Alejandro Cartagena

Photos from Cartagena’s Carpoolers and Suburbia Mexicana projects will be mounted on posters throughout the station, showing a bird’s-eye view of labourers travelling to work in the beds of pickup trucks, as well as proud new homeowners posing with their tiny houses in poor suburbs.

A video titled Intersection by Krolik and Fernley will show non-stop on five screens in the station, as well as elsewhere in the subway system. The video uses ever-changing aerial views of suburbs north of Toronto, blending images into a never-ending suburban landscape.

From Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan, by Rita Leistner
From Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan, by Rita Leistner

Rita Leistner’s Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan, one of the festival’s featured exhibitions, is on now until May 13 at Dylan Ellis Gallery, 1840 Danforth Ave.

Leistner’s show features images made on her iPhone while embedded as a journalist in Afghanistan. She is an artist, an independent photojournalist, war photographer, and documentarian. She used the technical limitations of her phone to the work’s advantage, focusing on still elements in a scene when making a photograph.

Leistner will hold an artist talk at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 30 at the gallery.

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