Mar. 5-29 Angela Julian: "Suit Thyself"
Suit Thyself is a collection of artworks that focuses on the suit as a garment of expression. In this show it is fashioned as more than just a form of workplace attire. As a male-oriented style of dress, the broadness of its design is likened to a pictorial frame where it becomes a conveyance for different images. The history of the suit is rooted in military regalia and the different ranks of uniforms, also flourishing through the dandyism of British culture in the eighteenth century. But in this exhibit the purpose of the suit is manifold, it is no longer an accoutrement of ceremony or the armor of the office but a canvas and a placard for projection. It is freed from a conservative palette and highly saturated with colour. The men fitted inside these richly adorned vestures are chosen for their exceptional creative abilities and contributions. Most artists have an extensive list of figures they summon for inspiration. From their idols they borrow, they mimic, they parody, they extrapolate, they pay homage to. This show is intended as an exaltation of great artists that produced tremendous bodies of work during their lifetime. In merging an aspiring artist to the previous harbingers of taste, they too can join the cultural milieu of artists.
Throughout art history the most notable artists were males. Having transitioned from the role of craftsman, the artist was seen with new authorship over his work. The plastic arts were as worthy a field among the other liberal arts. The male artist was not just a chronicler of important persons and events during his time, but a master within his field. Women portrayed in art have been represented in many diverse roles, however there is a scarcity of female artists to be found. There were the exceptions like Gentilleschi, Kauffman, Inglis, etc. that rose to match the men of their time, but prior to 1900 the numbers were few and far between. In the fine arts women are depicted in a wide array of roles; the Madonna, the biblical figures of saints and martyrs, as mythological characters, through allegory or satire, as royalty and the nobility, as patrons of the arts or leisurely ladies in waiting, as the prostitute, the agrarian roles of milkmaids or sowers, and so on and so forth. Among the many reverential and exploitative artworks there are of women, it was not uncommon for the artist to become fixated by them as subjects, revisiting them time and again. This body of work flips the narrative of the man as the artist and turns him into man as the muse. Transposing the roles where the woman is the artist and the arbiter of aesthetic decisions.
These portraits capture an original likeness of the sitter, but they look to further esteem these individuals with distinctive garb. Each of these gentlemen has been donned with an ornately custom suit made specific to the wearer. They are to be viewed as transformative pieces of clothing, acting as vehicles when communicating different tones, themes and moods. If one were to delve deeper into the origins of each person, they would see a connection between model and design. The inner fabric of their abilities and being is transformed into a literal draping of exterior fabric. Eccentric attire often acts as an outer cloaking of a subdued identity, a latent desire to become a certain alias or character. Clothing assists with realizing this transformation. As an artist living in downtown Toronto next door to the financial district, suits are part of the cultural landscape. These drawings are meant to reinvigorate the classic suit. With the use of distinct textiles and patterns, new life is breathed through them.
The history of drawing is one that serves as a preliminary function to a larger more ambitious project. The earliest of gestural sketches, the preparatory cartoons of frescoes, or the drafting of architectural buildings, they act as precursory designs. The germination of an idea caught in those first few lines. These artworks are a triumph to the drawing as an end unto itself. A drawing can exist singularly, manifesting on paper as a finished work irrespective of any future development. This is further indicated by blowing up the size and scale of the drawings, increasing their presence in the room.