Ice Fishing Architecture by stephanie calvet

(All photos below by Richard Johnson.) While the Canadian Maritimes are bracing themselves from Snowmaggedon 2015, we find someone who actively seeks out winter culture. Turning his attention from his usual commercial assignments, architectural photographer Richard Johnson travels coast to coast across Canada’s expansive landscape to photograph ice fishing huts.

For the last 8 years, Toronto-based Johnson has photographed 725 ice huts in 9 provinces. He shoots these wintry scenes on overcast days, so as to avoid shadows. When you factor in weather and time to scout out locales, he is left with only 2 weeks a year to capture these solitary figures.

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Each hut is photographed frontally, centred in a square format. The horizon line is a consistent strike across each image, represented by the distant shore or a row of faraway trees. This straightforward "objective" point of view recalls the architectural images or typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher who documented edifices like cooling towers and storage silos.


The minimalist approach of Johnson's photography invites viewers to compare and contrast the huts’ varying characteristics. Some enclosures are more engineered —a modified trailer tricked out with solar panels—while others are assembled ad hoc —a plastic tarp draped over a frame of two-by-fours. Though they generally adhere to the basic, archetypal house shape, regional idiosyncrasies emerge: 4’x8’ sheet plywood with little embellishment in Manitoba; popular sheet metal in Ontario; porch-fronted log cabins in Alberta.

Some of the quirkiest, most colourful huts can be found in the La Baie des Ha! Ha! region of Quebec. Eccentric decoration —faux wood panelling, sunflower decals, or camouflage— makes them stand out from the pack. Interiors typically contain wood burning stoves, a trough, and vents for cross-circulation. “It’s all about what you can reuse and repurpose,” says Johnson.

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There is a broader 'urban' angle here. Temporary settlements of hundreds of ice huts exist in northern Quebec and Manitoba. Johnson’s panoramic series Ice Villages shows the structures in their larger context and how they relate to one another: some are laid out in a haphazard way, others arranged in a systematic fashion. The seasonal communities that sprout up often include hockey rinks, small eateries, and the odd maple syrup kiosk. Fishermen stay for a month at a time, revelling in the camaraderie while they cast their lines in lakes and bays.   It is their getaway.

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This is an ongoing project. Richard Johnson has yet to visit British Columbia and the territories. In the meantime, Ice Villages is on display at the Bulthaup Toronto showroom through April 2015.

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Architecture on Film: Cathedrals of Culture by stephanie calvet

Architecture takes centre-stage in the 3D film Cathedrals of Culture, rather than its more usual background role. According to reviewers, this six-part documentary, directed by six acclaimed filmmakers, explores the cultural significance of six iconic and very different buildings from angles not seen before. Oslo Opera House

Spearheaded by German filmmaker Wim Wenders, the film asks the question: "If buildings could talk, what would they say about us?" Wenders builds on the 3D techniques he first employed in the documentary Pina. He is joined by Michael Madsen, Robert Redford, Michael Glawogger, Margreth Olin and Karim Aïnouz. Each lends a distinctive artistic approach to the project, exploring a day in the life of these “cultural machines” — the Berlin Philharmonic, the National Library of Russia, Halden Prison, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Oslo Opera House and the Centre Georges Pompidou. Narrated by the imagined voices of the buildings themselves, the film ambitiously aims to uncover “the soul of buildings.” While The Guardian’s Oliver Wainright says it presents a “limited and internalised view of architecture”, as a formal exercise its camerawork and visual mastery is captivating.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

The Berlin Philharmonic, an icon of modernity. Photo by Wim Wenders.

Centre Pompidou

The National Library of Russia, a kingdom of thoughts. Photo by Wolfgang Thaler

Halden Prison, the world's most humane prison. Photo by Heikki Färm.

Cathedrals of Culture premiered at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. Keep an eye out for its next screenings. In the meantime, see the official trailer:

Fleeting traces on our wintry landscape by stephanie calvet

Rabbit-Ears-Pass11-970x646 Artist Sonja Hinrichsen is not interested in creating lasting artworks, particularly not in nature. Instead, her ‘environmental interventions’ are temporary installations; swiftly documented and living on in photographs.

“I feel like this planet is so scarred already through human activity and I don't feel like I want to add more traces as an artist.”

The ongoing community arts project ‘Snow Drawings’ is Hinrichsen’s way of helping us regain a greater awareness of the natural world around us. Her walk patterns largely take the form of swirls and concentric circles, casting designs onto pristine snow surfaces. In a single unbroken line, they follow the contours of the landscape — whirling, meandering, accentuating — and create a visual texture across otherwise blank stretches. These sprawling drawings are short-lived, threatened by snowdrifts and melting.

Here is what she has been able to do with a herd of 50 volunteers donning snowshoes and unleashed onto the open landscape:

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings at Catamount Lake, Colorado, 2013

Sonja Hinrichsen. We Are The Water -- Snow Drawing project, Colorado 2014

Inspiration to create the snow drawings stemmed from an artist residency in the Colorado Rockies in the winter of 2009. In the winters that have followed, she has created designs on sweeping ‘canvases’ – wide-open fields and frozen lakes – in northern New Mexico, NY, and Colorado.

You may want to compare and contrast this with fractals and crop circles and to consider what the impermanence of this work brings to your enjoyment of it.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009

Sonja Hinrichsen. Snow Drawings, Snowmass Village, Colorado 2009

I discovered the artist in a recent article about her snow studies in the Huffington Post. Below are some of Hinrichsen’s explorations at the other end of the scale: pen & ink drawings resembling microorganisms; and, embroidered words on the leaves of a fruit-bearing fig tree.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Wall-size drawing.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Wall-size drawing.

Sonja Hinrichsen. Paradise Tree, Southern Spain 2008

Sonja Hinrichsen. Paradise Tree, Southern Spain 2008. Documented on video and in print

Federico Babina’s illustrated series by stephanie calvet

CITY-01_905 Here’s a random injection of colour into your day from a guy who has unlimited material to draw from. Italian architect and graphic artist Federico Babina turns out dozens upon dozens of illustrations exploring the intersection of architecture and related design fields. His prolific collection of work straddles contemporary art, cinema, and music – even zoo animals. The roster in each series he produces reads like a kind of architectural Who’s Who: ‘starchitects’ like Jean Nouvel and Zaha Hadid feature prominently, as do modernists Oscar Niemeyer and Corb.

’A’ is shaped by the scooped profile of Alvar Aalto's Riola Parish Church roofline.

In the series entitled Archibet, Babina applies his interpretation of famous architects’ signature styles to lettering. He describes each letter as a “small surrealist building that becomes part of an imaginary city made up of different shapes and styles, all speaking the same language of architecture.” His illustrated alphabet is composed of these 26 individual works of art: ‘A’ is shaped by the scooped profile of Alvar Aalto’s Riola Parish Church roofline; ‘B’ is transformed by the deeply saturated spiritual spaces of Luis Barragán; and, Norman Foster’s technical prowess is captured in a monolithic, metallic ‘F’.

’B’ is transformed by the deeply saturated spiritual spaces of Luis Barragán.

The artist has honed a colourful illustration style that recalls vintage movie posters. To create his images he combines a collage of different techniques, from hand drawing to 3-D modelling and other visualization programs. For me, Babina’s whimsical studies summon up renowned American illustrator Charley Harper’s highly stylized wildlife illustrations, which capture the essence of his subjects with the fewest possible visual elements.


Babina continues his architecture-themed series with Archimusic, imagining architectural compositions inspired by famous musicians’ hit songs and styles. Here too, his selection of artists runs the gamut from classical music composers, to rock legends, to contemporary singer-songwriters. Among the twenty-something illustrations is a hot red electric guitar-shaped building in the characteristic style of Jimmy Hendrix and one that echoes the repetitive structures of Philip Glass’ music.

Babina draws structures inspired by musicians’ hit songs, style, and album art.

Babina is the Barcelona-based illustrator who produced Archicine, posters featuring iconic architecture from classic movies. His retro graphic style offers a fresh interpretation of the places where some of our favourite characters lived, such as the ultra-modern, ultra-unfriendly Villa Arpel in Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle, and the striking mid-century redwood abode in A Single Man.

Babina’s version of Villa Arpel, the ultra-modern geometric house in <em>Mon Oncle</em>

Everything gets even further distilled in the series Archipixel. Here, the artist pairs famous architects and their buildings and renders them as pixelated cartoons, like vintage video game characters. The idea of the project, according to Babina, is to “represent the complexity of the forms and personalities through the simplicity of the pixel."

In Archipixel, Babina pairs famous architects and their buildings and renders them as pixelated cartoons. Here, Le Corbusier and the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp are distilled down to the most basic technology, like vintage video game characters. According to Babina, the idea of the project is to “represent the complexity of the forms and personalities through the simplicity of the pixel.”

Switching gears entirely, Babina also imagines a new life for iconic buildings from the Catalan capital in his highly detailed Immaginario series. The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (Richard Meier), Torre Agbar (Jean Nouvel), and the once-controversial Forum Building (Herzog & de Meuron) are wholly (re)contextualized here...

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While architecture junkies can collect prints and posters of Babina’s work, the artist has plans to turn his illustrated architectural series into a book. Check out his extensive portfolio at

NOTE: If you need to brush up on your architecture ABCs, this lively animation by architect Andrea Stinga and graphic designer Federico Gonzalez may help. The video depicts the best-known buildings of 26 famous architects, one for each letter of the alphabet.


Vertigo – without ever leaving the ground by stephanie calvet

Photos by Tom Ryaboi. Rooftopping_1

this is not Toronto


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Not many of us yearn to experience the literal ‘life on the edge’. Toronto-based photographer Tom Ryaboi does. He stealthily climbs to the uppermost reach of skyscrapers to capture some pretty incredible cityscapes. His (mostly clandestine) ‘rooftopping’ exploits have taken him across the globe. His images present an entirely new perspective on urban photography.

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Shots from Toronto, Chicago, and Hong Kong – cities that know a thing or two about towers – are on display at the Canary District Presentation Gallery in Toronto. Paired with Tom's photography is another vertigo-inducing work named “Aletide”, as part of an exclusive art exhibit called Cities of the Future.

“Aletide”, an audiovisual interactive installation by Italian artists Fabio Giampietro, Ilaria Vergani Bassi, and Paolo Di Giacomo, comes to Toronto from Milan where it was first exhibited last year. The trio collaborated with composer Alessandro Branca to create a sensory artwork that recalls our first childhood experience on a park swing – but amped up. The swinging movement, surrounded by oscillating visuals and wind-like sounds, according to observers’ first comments, “feels like soaring over a concrete and glass canyon.”

Riding Aletide, an interactive swing with vertiginous qualities. Photo by Ilaria Vergani.

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Aletide - Interactive installation from Paolo Di Giacomo on Vimeo.

The photographs are on view from October 18th-30th at the Canary District Presentation Gallery at 398 Front Street East in Toronto. For more information see

Nuit Blanche: Toronto’s all-night exploration and celebration of art by stephanie calvet

Nuit Blanche_Toronto 2014 It is art, collaboration, dialogue, and discovery. For one night only this Saturday October 4th from sunset to sunrise, Toronto will once again become the hive of activity that is Nuit Blanche. City spaces and neighbourhoods will be transformed by temporary exhibitions, installations, design, film, performance, and live talks.

Nuit Blanche was conceived in Paris in 2002 in an attempt to make contemporary art more accessible and engage the audience to examine its impact on public space. Toronto was the first North American city to fully replicate the Paris model. The international success of the festival has expanded its reach to sleepless cities around the globe – from Riga to Melbourne, Kyoto to La Paz.

Now in its ninth edition, Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche showcases more than 120 projects created by over 400 local, national and international artists. Below is a small sampling of what you can discover…

Piece by Piece

Clare Twomey

Installation 'Piece by Piece' by leading ceramic artist Clare Twomey. Photo by Sylvain Deleu

Internationally renowned for her interactive interventions in prestigious British and American museums, Clare Twomey creates a spectacular commissioned performative installation about making and collecting, to honour the Gardiner Museum’s 30th anniversary. Piece by Piece features an army of over 2,000 ceramic figurines – inspired by the Gardiner’s rare Commedia dell’Arte Harlequin collection – that demonstrate the conflicting emotions of everyday life. During the exhibition, her Canadian premiere, an on-site artist/maker will create more statuettes to add to the ever-growing ghostly white world.

The Garden of Renova

Luigi Ferrara and The Institute without Boundaries

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-The Garden of Renova_3Renova’s coloured and scented toilet paper line is the raw material in a temple-like environment reminiscent of a garden of earthly delights. Using the bathroom tissue over substructures, the installation features a labyrinth, hedges, poppies, garden ornaments, and a 3D-printed fountain. Creator Luigi Ferrara, Dean of the Centre for Arts and Design at George Brown College, and his team at IwB invite the public to interact with the paradise surroundings.

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Multiple Artists

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-LandMarkCurated by Exhibit Change, LandMark is an interactive photographic installation focused on the dynamic nature of community engagement and city building. Large-scale photo essays showcased throughout St. James Park share stories of some of the city’s unsung heroes and reveal the many layers of Old Town Toronto’s history. The initiative seeks to strengthen community partnerships in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

Walk among Worlds

Máximo González

Walk among Worlds_2013-UCLAIn this immersive installation Argentine artist Máximo González explores the effects of light and lightness, while reflecting on the political divisions of the world. The piece is composed of 7,000 beach balls printed to resemble globes; each representing one million of the inhabitants of the planet. The globes, made of a petroleum derivative, require the introduction of human breath to give them their geoidal shape. They come in three different sizes, alluding to the concepts of “first” and “third world.”

Good News

Antoni Muntadas

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014_Antoni MuntadasBarcelona-based Antoni Muntadas is considered one of the pioneers of media art and conceptual art in Spain. This installation examines the duality of media as a source of information and an instrument of manipulation. The piece displays a wide range of headlines in order to incite the viewer into rethinking the meaning of the messages, creating a defiance in the uniformly constructed "media flow". A stream of information engineered by advertisers is to be consumed as a whole.

Melting Point

LeuWebb Projects

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Melting PointIn the sound and light installation Melting Point, Fort York's two south-facing cannons are stocked with "an artillery of glowing good feelings", pouring forth "sparkling tributaries of light". The work reflects on the drivers, both cultural and natural, that have shaped the historic site – a preserved battlefield surrounded on all sides by condominium towers, raised freeways and train lines. Accompanied by the immersive sounds of rolling waves and trilling harps, LeuWebb's project lays a defense against the swirling market forces beyond, countering hard with soft and dark with light.

Solar Dehydrator

José Andrés Mora

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Solar DehydratorToronto Hydro searched for artists to submit proposals for a contest to repurpose an old fridge, in support of their Fridge & Freezer Pickup program. Mora’s winning design, inspired by the appliance’s already existing insulation and components, transforms the refrigerator into a solar dehydrator.

Project REACH

Student artists from the Toronto Catholic District School Board

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Project ReachProject Reach is a collaborative installation authored by students from 201 TCDSB schools across the GTA celebrating the value of charity and how it transforms lives. Visitors are greeted with hundreds of human hands – symbol of our ability to reach out and change the world. They beckon us to come closer to discover what these students want to communicate through personal messages, imagery, and found objects.

Implied Geometries

Valerie Arthur

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014-Implied GeometriesIn Implied Geometries, Valerie Arthur seeks to uncover the otherwise invisible characteristics of a place. By simultaneously recreating all of the flight paths in a series of tennis games it will reveal the space within the court as much more than an empty void. The court will become a web of movement and speed, exposing the underlying forces that truly define it and inviting the audience to experience moving through the courts in a new way.

Wisdom of the North: Moose Cree and Attawapiskat

Johan Hallberg-Campbell

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Johan Hallberg-CampbellThis exhibition presents a photo essay documenting the time artist Johan Hallberg-Campbell spent alongside the Canadian Red Cross, photographing volunteers working in the communities of Moose Cree and Attawapiskat. These images include engaging large portraits, vast landscapes and touching personal moments captured by one of Canada's leading photographers.

Global Rainbow

Yvette Mattern

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Global RainbowThe high specification laser light projection Global Rainbow will blaze through Toronto’s night sky. From Chinatown to the CN Tower, it will cast beams of colours up to 60 kilometres. Created by New York- and Berlin-based artist Yvette Mattern, it has been displayed in cities around the world since 2009. It literally "paints the sky" with seven simple but distinctly powerful lines of colour representing the rainbow spectrum to create an artwork that is performative, sculptural, painterly, and minimalist in form. As a powerful and luminescent symbol of peace and hope, it embraces geographical and social diversity.

June Callwood Park


Ure-tech surfaces colour much of June Callwood Park. Photo by gh3.

Amongst Nuit Blanche’s one-night-only discoveries is the opening of a new permanent space in the city, the June Callwood Park. The gH3-designed park slots trees in amongst pavers, garden strips, and high-tech cushioned pink surfaces all laid out in the waveform of journalist and activist June Callwood speaking the words "I believe in kindness." Montreal artists Steve Bates and Douglas Moffat created the accompanying sonic public art installation, OKTA, transmitted by speakers arrayed throughout the grove.

This year, organizers have expanded the event into new neighbourhoods, including Chinatown, Fort York and Roundhouse Park. The festivities kick off at 6:53pm. For the full schedule of events, see

Niki Koulouris, Poet. by stephanie calvet

A dear friend of mine, Niki Koulouris, is riding high these days. At the Housing Works Bookstore Café in New York City last night, Koulouris was joined by fellow writers Betsy Andrews and Jen Coleman for a reading entitled Oceans of Poets. Each read from their new book of poetry about the sea. And it did not go unmentioned in The New Yorker's Above and Beyond section...

Koulouris' first collection, The sea with no one in it, takes her readers on a journey that weaves the distant ocean with both the abstract and familiar of our urban lives. The Canadian-Australian poet's work is poignantly visual, which is why I'm so drawn to it. I hope you also find much to discover in her work.

The sea with no one in it, by Niki Koulouris. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Her next reading, at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event in Toronto, takes place at the Black Swan Tavern on Saturday, September 27th at 7:00-11:00pm.

Below are two poems from her book:

Today of all days 
this is the sea with no one in it 
is this all it will be
unable to dye all it touches 
in primitive ink 
what could you give the sea 
but your stripes,
since you ask,
your war paint, your blindfolds 
your appetite for westerns
in exchange for waves
as wide as trains
from the next frontier.
(for Cézanne) 
If anything
he must have kept his onions
in a safe
but I think of Cézanne’s apples, 
peaches, pears
turning like
in a house full of
restless fruit 
tuned at high noon
by the grocer's scales
oranges on togas 
on tables, 
still-blooded, spared. 

Searching the Skies for Inspiration by stephanie calvet

Thomas Lamadieu clearly sees something others don’t. Eyes drawn upwards, the French artist seeks out shapes in the sky framed by courtyard buildings and takes aim with his camera. That negative space has been the inspiration for many photographers. But Lamadieu takes it a step further: combining photography and drawing, he constructs artworks by filling the negative space with playful, 'painted' illustrations.




For this series, entitled SkyArt, Lamadieu has amassed images from travels through Germany, France, Belgium and Canada. There is a kind of vertigo in his pieces; he captures the images with a fish-eye lens. The courtyards' geometries are the only limits for his unbounded imagination.

Lamadieu has a gift for drawing out meaning in the urban architecture around him. I don't know the story behind the bearded fellow who figures so prominently in his work, though I could take a guess... Nevertheless, I really like these magical doodles and I hope you do too.













Vintage Canada Contrasted With Demise of Traditional Photography by stephanie calvet

(this is an article I wrote for UrbanToronto) The Ryerson Image Centre celebrates the opening of four new photography exhibitions tonight, and for those with a love for vintage photos of Toronto and other locations and events throughout Canada, there is a real reason to smile. For the first time in its history, every image from the renowned Black Star Collection that was filed under the heading 'Canada' will be on public view.


The more than a quarter of a million photographs in the Black Star Collection describe the personalities, events and conflicts of the twentieth century. This invaluable historical archive and visual record was gifted to Ryerson University in 2005. In Black Star Subject: Canada, a collaboration between interdisciplinary artist Pierre Tremblay and curator Don Snyder, every one of the 1,853 photographs filed under the subject heading 'Canada' is animated and displayed on the Salah J. Bachir New Media Wall at the entrance to the gallery. It features images of all major cities, agriculture, mining and industry of every province; images of prime ministers from Mackenzie King to John Turner; and, images of a nation undergoing unprecedented growth.

The historic Black Star images form a visual counterpoint to the exhibits of contemporary Canadian photographers Robert Burley and Phil Bergerson to be found within the Diamond Schmitt Architects-designed walls.


Since 2005, photographer Robert Burley has documented the demise of film manufacturing facilities and industrial darkrooms in Canada, USA, and Europe. With the decline of traditional photographic materials and methods, companies like Kodak and Polaroid, among the most innovative and profitable corporations of their time, have become victims of a digital age.

The large-format colour prints that make up The Disappearance of Darkness address the swift breakdown of a century-old industry and its resulting economic impact. Burley’s photographs explore the large, windowless factories of Kodak, Polaroid, Agfa, and Ilford as well as little known places where, for the past century, rolls of film were churned out on a massive scale. A series of photos chronicles the end of the 23-hectare Kodak Canada plant in Toronto’s Mount Dennis neighbourhood before its closure and demolition in 2005. Building 9 is the only remaining structure—one which will soon find itself integrated in with a station and yard for the Crosstown LRT.

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Over the course of dozens of road trips, photographer Phil Bergerson slowly worked his way through hundreds of towns and cities across the United States. He photographed street scenes and everyday objects in the social landscape tradition akin to that of predecessors Robert Frank and Nathan Lyons.

Though entirely absent of people, the photographs he brought back form a portrait of the country at the time and a nod to its past. Emblems and Remnants of the American Dream is a collection of documentary style images with recurring themes of religion, commercial fantasies, violence and patriotism that he discovered in street art, crudely made signs, and modest store displays.


Emerging artist Elisa Julia Gilmour produces analog photographic and cinematic work that captures fleeting moments in the human experience. The recent graduate's installation Something in Someone’s Eye features a series of four cinematic portraits that alternate between small movements and photographic stillness. Using the now-discontinued colour reversal Kodak Ektachrome film, the work brings life to a material that will completely disappear in time.

The opening reception is tonight, from 6-8pm. Exhibitions of the work of Robert Burley, Phil Bergerson and Pierre Tremblay run from January 22nd until April 13th at the Ryerson Image Centre at 33 Gould Street. Elisa Julia Gilmour’s work is on view in the Student Gallery from January 22nd until March 2nd. Entrance is free. For more information, see 

Firá (Santorini) by stephanie calvet

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Firá covers Santorini island’s volcanic edge with layer upon layer of hotels, cave apartments, infinity pools and swish restaurants, all backed by a warren of narrow streets lined with bars and shops. It is a vision of dramatic cliffs and low-lying cubical buildings made of whitewashed local stone.*

The town’s small scale doesn’t deter the cruise ships from all over the Mediterranean and Aegean seas that descend upon the Old Port. Its central location makes it a good base to access many other parts of the island. Fortunately, in the early evening the multitude of passengers return to their vessels and the local restos and cafés taken on a more relaxed atmosphere.



Built on the edge of a 400m high caldera on the crescent-shaped island’s western side, Firá is accessed from sea level by a cable car, donkey ride, or by foot (587 steps) along a meandering rocky path (trafficked by donkeys).



Christoforos Asimis is regarded as one of the island’s most significant artists. For seven years he created luminous religious paintings that fill the interior of Firá’s Cathedral after it was rebuilt following the area's major earthquake of 1956.

The newly established AK Asimis Kolaitou Art Foundation (pictured below) brings together the work of the revered Santorinian artist as well as that of his partner, Eleni Kolaitou (sculpture & jewellery).

Located on the main road from Firá to Pyrgos, the gallery opened its doors early this summer. Designed by son Katonas, who also exhibits his paintings on site, the building features the artists’ residence, studio, and indoor exhibition spaces as well as outdoor venues for music, drama or various performance art events. I had the unique opportunity to interview the family of artists. Here is a video showcasing some of their work.





Christoforos Asimis’ paintings (above) explore the magnificently changing light and landscape of the artist’s home town. It is not difficult to find a lifetime's worth of inspiration here. Island bliss.



*or limewashed with various volcanic ashes used as colours

DRAWN T.O., The Toronto Urban Sketch Blog by stephanie calvet

Eugene Zhilinsky_Toronto-1

Jerry Waese_Toronto-1 With the bleak weather lately, I’ve needed all the inspiration I can find. Lo and behold, I discovered it in the visual dispatches of Urban Sketchers (USK), a blog site showcasing sketches of artist correspondents around the world.

USK is a nonprofit whose mission is “to raise the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing” and so from Lisbon to San Fran to Tokyo, sketchers employ varying media to record the visual experiences of where they live and travel, and use the site as an online outlet to share their observations. Some like pencil and ink to express themselves, while others get down ‘n dirty with conté or pastel. Whatever your means, drawing is good for you.

Eugene Zhilinsky_Toronto-1

There’s a fellow in Toronto who too is struck with the drawing bug and pairs ballpoint pen sketches and writings in-situ. He has organized Drawn T.O., a regional urban sketch blog (essentially the Toronto chapter of Urban Sketchers), encouraging Torontonians with a passion to draw to get out there and capture their city on paper. A frigid -9˚C temperature might not lend itself to a detailed streetscape scene but a furtive gesture drawing of the city’s soaring structures. If you’re so inclined, send your sketches to Richard at


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Images courtesy of Toronto sketchers: Jerry Waese, Eugene Zhilinksky, Richard Johnson and Mauricio Munoz.

For anyone interested in participating on a global scale, the 4th International Urban Sketching Symposium will take place in Barcelona this July. Instructors (including architects, illustrators, artists, and educators) from four different continents will lead workshops aimed at helping participants frame compositions from complex urban scenes, develop their personal style, master painterly effects, and create drawings rich in narrative.

4th International Urban Sketching Symposium

Urban Sketchers Manifesto: 1. We draw on location, indoors or out; 2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings; 3. Our drawings are a record of time and place; 4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness; 5. We use any kind of media; 6. We support each other and draw together; 7. We share our drawings online; 8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

 See site for inspiration, information and worldwide sketch crawls near you.

Art + Science in ‘Chasing Ice’ by stephanie calvet

Toronto, a city whose cultural calendar packs in close to 70 film festivals a year, wrapped up the 13th annual Planet in Focus with a screening of ‘Chasing Ice,’ a stunning environmental documentary of a fearless photojournalist tracking the Arctic’s alarming rate of glacial recession as part of a global outreach campaign.

At the event’s Closing Night gala, international Eco Hero and National Geographic photographer James Balog shared the story of ‘Chasing Ice,’ a long-term photography project aimed at educating the public about the dramatic effects of global warming. And nowhere are they more visibly astounding than in mountains of ice in motion.

Accompanied by his Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) team, Balog leads expeditions to Greenland, Iceland, northern Canada and the USA to photograph glaciers and install permanent time-lapse cameras on-site in some of the Earth’s harshest conditions. To date, there are 40+ cameras dotting the globe shooting every half hour of daylight, year-round. After months at a time, the EIS crew returns to retrieve the images and assembles them into time-compressed video animations that illustrate a rapidly shifting landscape – a disappearing world forever caught on film. This scientific evidence is irrefutable proof of drastic climate change. The documentary features breathtaking stills that leave viewers agape and spellbinding sequences that garnered it Excellence in Cinematography at Sundance.

Armed with a background in Geomorphology and a fondness for the wild, Balog switched early on from a career in academic science to nature photojournalism, a craft he honed on his own. Assignments and personal projects have taken him to document endangered animals, old-growth forests and the aftermath of tsunamis. But he now claims to have found his mission in life:  polar ice.

Balog’s passion and need for ‘getting the shot’ override all sense of caution and that has led him to undergo knee surgery four times to-date. Adventurous to the bone, he physically positions himself in any which way to best capture the image: a close-up of an ice sheet or an aerial of crevasses. Throughout the film, Balog perilously wades through ice-cold water, or, donning crampons and a harness, he hangs off the edge of a precipice, or descends into a ‘moulin’, a shaft created by the force of cascading meltwater – in essence, an abyss.

‘Chasing Ice’ is a call to action. It inspires social change. And by marrying art and science, Balog has found what he’s truly meant to do.

Photos courtesy of James Balog. ‘Chasing Ice’ is coming in November to a theatre near you… See the trailer here.

London's Street Art by stephanie calvet

London is front and centre right now. With the Olympics underway, the world will get a chance to see results of the extensive regeneration this top-notch city’s East end underwent in order to host the Games. That area has long been known for being gritty, rough around the edges, and for its proliferation of artists and graffiti. Like anywhere, the future of much of its diversity and creativity is perhaps uncertain, as ‘gentrification’ is often synonymous with ‘regeneration.’ Time will tell how successful the developing areas will become.

Richard Griffin knows East London’s street art scene inside out and he, or one of his disciples, regularly conducts jam-packed 4hr walking tours through the Shoreditch neighbourhood. ‘Griff’ leads the troops along lanes and back alleys, identifying all sorts of graffiti types (tags, characters, big walls) by introducing visitors to the works of over 40 local and international artists. Some figure prominently in areas of high visibility while others are so obscure they need to be pointed out.

Unless specifically commissioned, elusive artists work in complete anonymity and often late at night. After all, graffiti is illegal. “It is a premeditated, and sometimes highly organized, form of vandalism with a very well-developed sub-culture behind it.”* Sometimes this form of free expression is used to draw attention to decaying or neglected spaces. Oftentimes it is motivated by a desire for fame, be it statement-making (think Banksy’s satirical public works) or gallery promo. [Side note: street artist Ben Wilson has cleverly evaded prosecution with a very bizarre and unique approach. If you’re lucky you’ll spot him sprawled on the sidewalk, painting flattened gobs of chewing gum. It’s all good though – he’s merely transforming existing rubbish into thousands of miniature paintings.] More ‘typical’ graffiti styles you’re likely to see include: Bubble, Fat Cat, Splash, Block, and Wildstyle.

Some pieces are very involved while others are quick and dirty. Some cover an entire wall while others are just small markings lurking low in corners or high on walls (think pixel characters by Invader) that, in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “if you blink you could miss it.” Many artists have instantly recognizable styles: Dutchman Roa’s black and white ordinary animals with their focal gaze occupy abandoned lots; New York-based Swoon’s paste-ups created from wood cuts are realistic in style; and, Catalonian Pez’s hyper fish and other characters charm with their infectious smiles. And again there’s Banksy. Works by this protected artist who capitalized on getting really good images up fast by using stencils (considered ‘cheating’ by some) are preserved behind Plexiglas because of their popularity and consequent boosting of property value.

There are various kinds of graffiti artists. There are the widely known ones, there are those who make a good living off their work, and then there are unknown artists, who are neither bothered by money or ambition or are just starting out. Common now are commercial artists that want to work on the street and alternatively, street artists that want to get into galleries. Biggies like Stik –who paints simple stick figures (read: fast) that convey great emotion – are lucky to be living the dream: to travel the world doing one’s art. But more than shoptalk, Griff also shares some of the seedy goings on in the street artists’ worlds: the liaisons, the affairs, and most interestingly, the feuds. Work is vulnerable to being taken out by rival teams or ‘barnacled’ by others in an attempt to siphon off attention. It’s a colourful tour, in more ways than one.

London’s street art scene is constantly changing and Griff knows where the latest and greatest is to be found. Whether it’s from trolling the streets in search of goodies or hits from artists posting their new pieces on Twitter or Facebook, Griff keeps his list updated regularly. Works still hanging around after 2 months are considered ‘old’ here and are “gone over by other artists or buffed away by the Council.”

If you didn’t ‘get’ the world of street art before, you will after this tour because the artwork is the kind of thing that’s best experienced in person. You’ll know your ‘throw-ups’ from your ‘bombs’, a Stik from a Swoon, etc. It now has me looking high and low to scout out and interpret new ones in my own city, Toronto. There’s nothing like being greeted by a giant painted toaster on your way to work.

Tours are available Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Contact Street Art London to book at

*Richard Tawton occasionally gives graffiti tours in Toronto

Glass Masters by stephanie calvet

The glass master forms the shape by swinging an amorphous ball of glowing matter through the air, transforming it into a swirl of colour ultimately bound for the annealing kiln. Working demonstrations provide visitors with a glimpse of new manufacturing practices as well as ancient techniques used throughout Murano’s long glass-making history.

Visitors are quick to scoop up jewellery and tableware, and the occasional chandelier or mirror. But don’t be fooled – if it doesn’t say Vetro Artistico ®Murano, it’s not legit. Shopkeepers here are quick to point out that theirs are local products, not from China. (Imitation is rampant, particularly in Venice.) They display genuine goods bearing the original trademark, following stringent controls set forth by the Consorzio Promovetro whose intent is to “conserve and safeguard the island’s thousand-year-old artistic glasswork tradition, while promoting its marketing throughout the world.”

Beautiful examples of traditional, miniature, and contemporary glassware come from prestigious companies like Venini who feature the work of numerous Italian and international artists, and from studios and artisan factories of independent designers such as Carlo Moretti and Cesare Toffolo.

Murano is the largest of the islands in the Venetian Lagoon. The town plan is partly based on the unique morphology of Venice itself – it has nine islets joined by a long canal that weaves through.  And just a vaporetto ride north is the tiny island of Burano, strung with brightly painted façades. Colour takes on a collective importance here. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

Architects and Illustrators by stephanie calvet

London’s newly established Anise Gallery just wrapped up its first illustration exhibition – a collection of art works by 25 members of the esteemed Society of Architectural Illustration (SAI).

The SAI is the world’s oldest organization of its kind, and represents a community of professional illustrators, animators, model makers and photographers who contribute to architecture through a wide range of disciplines. The gallery showcased a variety of these techniques, from traditional methods such as watercolour and pencil to the latest in computer-generated technology, photo-real imagery and animation.

Located on the historic riverside street Shad Thames, the gallery shares a converted warehouse space with design studio AVR London, a collective of artists and architects who create visionary 3D renderings for architects and developers to be used in the promotion and marketing of their work. Anise Gallery – as a literal and figurative extension of the firm’s workspace and its creative process – is dedicated to fostering and celebrating illustrative talents in multi media.

Architectural renderings frequently start out as freehand sketches – the most immediate method of communicating and visualizing ideas while still leaving plenty of room for interpretation. They hint at the direction a design may take and are then further finessed and formalized. Subsequently, with 3D software those ideas can be converted into realistic shapes that will eventually result in physical structures.

The compilation of works on display included lively travel sketches (carnets de voyage); perspectives laboriously detailed with the finest of pencil markings; and photorealistic digital images that, while based upon accuracy, still maintain a looseness and painterly effect. A series of captivating renderings featured the London skyline and highlighted the city’s latest addition, the glass-robed Shard, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, which is set to open in June.

Anise Gallery is located at 13a Shad Thames, London.