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Artist Highlight: THE ART OF COLLAGE

Written by Astrid Superstar


Visual art has been a staple of Fashion Art Toronto’s showcases since the organization’s beginning. Over the years, there have been numerous interactive exhibits to delight and entertain patrons before, after, or between shows. Always wanting to challenge societal norms, the exhibitions range from the subdues to the strange, but always with an underlying edge. 


Over the years, there has been everything from massive paintings and illustrations, textile based sculptures of every fabric under the sun, films projected on various screens, and even live actors mingling with guests in character. This season, The Fashion Playground event space environment will feature 7 local artists whose specialties range from photography, illustration, painting, and textile. 


Installations at the Fashion Playground, Fashion Art Toronto Spring 2023. Featuring work from L’uomo Strano, Maya Skarzenski, Chason Yeboah-Brown, and Stephanie Avery. Photography by Daniel Cha.


We will be taking a closer look at two artists who work through the medium of collage, Kal Honey and Agata Rek, who’s work will be displayed at the Fashion Playground from November 16th-19th this year. 


THE ART OF COLLAGE

In terms of artistic medium, the possibilities of transformation and metamorphosis are truly endless through the art of collage. The artist uses found and pre-existing images to create something completely new, utilising their innate interpretations to express innumerate innovations. Kal Honey and Agata Rek, two Toronto artists who will be showcasing installations at Fashion Art Toronto this fall, are a delightful dichotomy of the creative method when in juxtaposition with each other.


Both stemming from different backgrounds in design (Honey spending 20 years in graphic design, and Rek with education in architecture - both citing them heavily when discussing their primary inspiration), the pair manages to encapsulate the broad, rich spectrum of possibilities when employing the collage technique.



Left: “Doja Purity”, Kal Honey, 2023, collage. 

Right: “Departure”, Agata Rek, 2022, mixed-media analog collage on canvas.



KAL HONEY


Upon first glance, award-winning OCADU graduate Kal Honey’s work is playful and abstract - one cannot help but draw comparisons to Pablo Picasso, renowned Cubist (the art genre which is the natural predecessor to collage). In his newest work, bright colour fills negative space and creates an ominous lack of dimension in what was once an ordinary photograph. Digging further into his archives, we see a disjointed harmony of texture, shade and form masterfully blended with skilled precision.


“Sequincer”, Kal Honey, 2023, collage.


His pairing with Fashion Art Toronto comes at a serendipitous time, as Honey’s latest creative musings have been mostly centered around the complex world of women’s fashion. “In my recent collage work, I have been remixing contemporary mainstream fashion imagery to investigate notions of identity, beauty, and evolving social norms,” Honey says on his website’s Artist Statement. “How do we present ourselves to the world? How do outside pressures alter our self-expression? What feels safe? Dangerous? Beautiful? These nascent themes connect to and expand upon my previous works that attempt to support our personal growth, creativity and humanity by subverting authority and offering resistance to our limiting beliefs.”


Honey’s background in graphic design lends itself to his process. It “strongly informs everything” he does, citing specifically “impact and nuance, text and typography, structure and serendipity — and with luck — some wit, beauty and insight.” In his technique, Honey works with the physical medium, preferring to work with his hands instead of on a computer. “Given the size of the magazines, books, papers and ink jet prints I work with, my original collages are modestly scaled,” he says. “To give these works increased drama, I have been enlarging them: amplifying the printing dots and imperfections, paper textures, tears and cuts.” 


“Towards a Definitive Statement on the Coming Trends in Women’s Office Wear and Accessories”, Kal Honey, 2023, collage. The name of this piece, which will be exhibited at Fashion Art Toronto next month, is a nod to one of Honey’s greatest inspirations, renowned pop artist Richard Hamilton.


“I find fashion full of fascinating contradictions and enigmas,” he explains. “It's fascinating, absurd, wonderful, beautiful, inspiring, complex, frustrating, problematic... I am definitely an outsider looking in -- equally smitten and skeptical. I love the ways it allows for personal expression and empowerment as much as I abhor the flipsides that are exclusive, demand conformity and amplify insecurities.”


“In my collage work, I strive to harness what's great about fashion imagery while still feeling free to cut, tear, edit, re-structure, recontextualize. A mix of reverence and irreverence,” Honey elaborates. “Picasso said some people keep diaries; artists keep sketchbooks. Perhaps these collages are how I explore my thoughts and feelings about fashion, gender and society... On a more basic level, though -- I find making them utterly compelling -- that's all the affirmation I need.”


“At the Corner of Cool and Hot”, designed by Kal Honey and executed by Fuse Neon.

On display at The Gladstone House hotel.


Honey has had his work displayed all over the city, presenting works at multiple festivals and galleries, including multi-time FAT collaborator The Artist Project earlier this year. A permanent neon installation of his design, “At the Corner of Cool and Hot”, permanently resides in the illustrious art hub The Gladstone House hotel. 


AGATA REK


On the other end of the visual spectrum, Agata Rek’s moody, darkly intriguing portraits harken to the Dadaism era of the early 20th century. Working primarily in a monochromatic greyscale, with the occasional pop of a blood red or sky blue, Rek seamlessly creates striking imagery through her work with analog collage - à la John Stezaker and other Surrealism greats. Rek has achieved a significant amount of success during her career, working with esteemed clients such as Vogue magazine, Macy’s, and Ted Baker London. 


Born in Poland but currently residing in the United States, she maintains a profound connection to both countries, fostering a deep sense of belonging in her dual homelands, with strong cultural, familial, and emotional ties to each. She has showcased her work in galleries in both countries, and this will be her debut exhibition in Canada.


Advertisement concepts from The Laundromat project, 2022, mixed-media analog collage. “Reinterpretation, and conceptualization of imagery for advertisement and fashion campaigns.” 

Left: “Prada”. Right: “Alexander McQueen”.


“Drawing upon her architectural education and experience in the fashion industry, Agata brings a unique blend of clean, sharp, and sculptural forms and meticulous attention to composition to her art,” her website explains. “Her ability to think outside the box and employ metaphors is one of her greatest strengths. Rooted in observation and intuition, her art presents a unique, contemporary perspective, combining poetic, graphic, and organic shapes with textures, vibrant splashes of colour, and layered paint. Agata's aim is to capture something intriguing, intersecting, and contradicting in her mainly figurative monochromatic imagery.” 


Capture intrigue she does. A true master of her craft, her pieces are hauntingly complex and often bleak, evoking a general sense of unease in the casual viewer. Rek is well-spoken and confident when expressing her love of collage. “Exploring the unpredictable nature of assembling pre-existing imagery fascinates me,” she muses on her website. “I find immense satisfaction in transforming something disposable into something permanent [...] My work tends to exhibit contrasting directions, clean forms, shapes, and compositions, directing attention toward symbolism and clarity in relation to the chosen objects.” 


Left: “Brainstorm”, Agata Rek, 2020, analog collage.

Right: “Sex Appeal”, Agata Rek, 2020, digital collage.


At Fashion Art Toronto, Rek will be debuting her illustrative project “Stitching Narratives: Threads of Thought in Art & Fashion'', comprising 14 works crafted using mixed media collage techniques on paper. With original sizes being 11x14 and 14x17, they have been resized and printed onto a 24x36 vinyl surface. In Rek’s own words, the collection promises to “intricately intertwine textures, colours, and imagery, seamlessly weaving the relationship between art and fashion.” 


“Each piece beckons viewers to explore profound connections between self-expression, style, and storytelling, igniting contemplation and engaging the senses,” Rek continues. “These visual narratives celebrate the harmonious blend of creativity and craftsmanship, offering a thought-provoking perspective on the threads binding aesthetic and emotional experiences.”


FURTHER EXHIBITIONS 


Fashion Art Toronto attendees will be able to further admire the creations of a multitude of other artists throughout the 4-day festival. 



Installations at the Fashion Playground, Fashion Art Toronto Spring 2023. Featuring work from Betsey Elias and Josh Hy the Dezinr. Photography by Daniel Cha.


Finding inspiration in matters of heritage, Métis installation artist Tracey-Mae Chambers is bringing her project #hopeandhealingcanada to the FAT audience. Chambers has been creating site-specific installations Canada-wide since July 2021, during a particularly sombering time of turmoil and strife for the Indigenous Community. “The goal of this project is to broach the subject of decolonization with viewers and staff of spaces [...] who may be in the midst of this difficult process,” Chambers notes. Using red yarn, the 150+ weather-proof installations are handmade and assembled from large, pre-made crochet pieces, having been featured at residential school sites, cultural centers, museums, art galleries, and other public spaces across the country. 


Self-described portrait artist Sabrine S. Hakam is bringing her photography exhibition “Power in Portraits” to the festival as well. She began the project in 2022, creating “symbolism-infused portraits” which “focus on matters of identity, representation, and power.”She describes the collection as “a creative project that uses portraiture to explore different facets of BIPOC, postcolonial, and Third Culture identities”. Her work is directly influenced by her storied academic history - Hakam holds a PhD in Geography (Arts) from King’s College London, as well as various degrees relating to economics, urbanization and development from institutions in England and New York. She says that her “artistic influences and academic expertise converge on the use of portraiture as a segue into discussions on visibility, empowerment, and social change.”



“The Birth of Modernization”, Sabrine S. Hakam, 2022.


Guests can expect to see some virtual fashion collections on display as well. Nova Chiu may be a familiar name to any Fashion Art Toronto denizens, having shown numerous runway collections over the years. Chiu and Jeff Archer are at the helm of the brand, known for their avant-garde experimentation with silhouette and textile. Their upcoming digital fashion presentation, “TEMPLE TANTRUM”, will include digital avatars modeling their creations - the real-life counterparts of which will be displayed on mannequins next to the screen. Inspiration for the collection struck the duo after a recent trip to China, specifically the Yuantong Temple in Kunming, Yunnan.


In a similar vein, up-and-coming AI artist Tami Gupta’s virtual fashion collection is created with the same 3D design software, CLO3D. Her collection “Dwaita-Duality” is an homage to Sanskrit philosophy and the ancient concept of “dwaita”, titled along with its English translation. “This collection is an exploration of the dynamic interplay between contrasting elements, a celebration of balance and harmony found within opposing forces. Each garment in this collection encapsulates the essence of duality, skillfully fusing textures, colours, and silhouettes that seemingly oppose yet beautifully complement one another.”



Fashion Art Toronto’s Fall 2023 season runs from November 16th-19th at Black Creek Assembly (161 McCormack Drive). The exhibitions will be on display in the event space from open to close each night. Tickets are available now at fashionarttoronto.ca.

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