Workman Artists from left to right: Amanda Lederle, Hanan Hazime, Nicholas Ridiculous, Apanaki Temitayo and Jenny Chen. Image courtesy of the artists.
Last year, the AGO and Workman Arts partnered to present Talking Back and Together, a five-part video series exploring mental health awareness and advocacy through art. The resulting videos, which originally premiered on the AGO’s Facebook page, featured five artists with ties to Toronto/Tkaronto: Amanda Lederle, Hanan Hazime, Nicholas Ridiculous, Apanaki Temitayo M and Jenny Chen. All of them channel their creativity and lived experiences into a range of media including painting, drawing, movement, writing, music and poetry. Some even offer institutional critiques directed at the AGO and, more broadly, art in Canada.
With that in mind and wanting to learn from the artists themselves, we pulled together all the videos in the series for you to check out.
Drawing connections between mental wellness and self-expression, Amanda Lederle (they/them) showcased two main bodies of work in their practice: black-and-white emotional maps and paintings of gender non-conforming footwear. Lederle’s emotional maps allow them to contemplate complex and intangible feelings relating to their lived experiences navigating the pandemic, anxiety, resilience, courage and more. Their paintings of footwear encourage viewers to reconsider their assumptions about gender expression. Each painting is framed to show only the footwear, highlighting that the gender of the wearer cannot be simply assumed. Lederle is a neurodiverse, queer Chinese-Canadian-born visual artist and self-described “recovering perfectionist and empathic human”.
Hanan Hazime is a multidisciplinary artist, creative writer, community arts educator, and writing instructor. She also identifies as a Neurodivergent, Lebanese-Canadian Shi’a Muslimah Feminist and Mad Pride Activist. Her video begins with a reflection on the lack of diverse representation at the AGO in its art and artists on view. Hazime goes on to share two works from her practice. The first is her series of self-portraits titled In Red, which invites viewers to question “cultural binaries, labels and identities placed on Muslim women”. The second is her chapbook of poetry Aorta, published by Zed Press.
In “an ode to the beauty born of mad radicals and fad chasers”, Nicholas Ridiculous welcomes viewers to watch his video Raised by Fiction, where he discusses his journey as a lifelong creative, working with poetry, music, fashion and movement. He also shares his experiences moving through foster care and how that influenced how he creates art today. “I was put into a dark box a long, long time ago by the foster care industry,” he explains, “I am finally starting to make my way out. And with me come the worlds I've made to survive the trials.”
Apanaki Temitayo M is a Toronto-based bisexual, multidisciplinary artist, author, spoken word poet, actor, teacher and mother. In the first half of Journey as a Canadian Artist: A Critique of the AGO, Temaitayo M offers a reflection on the convergent themes of her practice, namely her Trinidadian heritage, spirituality and Black identities. The second half goes into an in-depth exploration of the lack of representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour at the AGO, with insights from fellow artists.
Jenny Chen is a visual artist working with watercolour, pen and clay. In her video, she shares her inspirations and how her practice has evolved in the past three years, finding parallels in her work with Yayoi Kusama’s use of repetition and patterns, as well as her mental health experiences. The video ends with Chen guiding viewers through a line drawing tutorial.
The AGO recently unveiled its exciting new line-up of spring/summer programming. Find out what events are coming up and how you can participate here.