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by Jacqueline Nunes

Third-year film student Ryan Hughes is not just a filmmaker whose work has been screened at numerous festivals and events, including the Museum of New Art in Detroit, the City Museum of St. Petersburg and at Media City 11: International Festival of Experimental Film and Video.

Hughes also dabbles in painting, photography, music and mixed media art. His bedroom at Neill Wycik is a jumble of art books, records (including his collection of children’s records), camera equipment and scraps of plastic grocery bags and paper.

Hughes’s latest work, a painting entitled Holiday, was exhibited as part of the Young Artist Showcase at the second annual Queen West Art Crawl last weekend.

The Art Crawl, a three-day festival, featured the artists, galleries and famous buildings of Queen Street West and surrounding neighbourhoods.

The Gladstone Hotel hosted the young artist showcase, where Hughes’s painting hung in the Art Bar, a long, rectangular room with exposed brick walls. Bright splashes of red, yellow and blue on the canvas lay beneath stark outlines of bottles, a monkey and unexpected collage materials, like a 7-Eleven logo from a plastic grocery bag.

“I like bold lines and bright colours,” said Hughes about his recent artwork. “Lately I’ve been obsessed with plastic bags. I’ve been using them as a way of taking back commercial images… I’ve spent hours collecting and cutting up plastic bags.”

Hughes’s future aspiration is to make music videos, inspired by his fascination with music and the way it evokes and interacts with images.

“Music is the best medium, period,” he said.

“You read a book once. You look at a painting once. You listen to a song over and over again.”

Hughes considers music videos “a good compromise between commercial and creative.”

Alongside Hughes’s painting was Self as John, an oil painting on a mattress of a girl in only a dark blue dress, by Emily Kathleen Cummings, a graduate of the Etobicoke School of the Arts now studying at a college of art and design in London, England.

“The art… represents the work of some of the finest and most promising young artists emerging in the Toronto visual arts community,” said Clinton Walker, festival programmer for the Queen West Art Crawl.

Also in the young artist showcase was artwork by students from the Ontario College of Art and Design, University of Waterloo and Concordia University.

Nicole Bazuin, a local artist, exhibited a painting called Illumination: An Homage to Jan Van Eyck, Henri Rousseau and Vincent Van Gogh, which featured a Renaissance noblewoman with a jewelled crown, sitting in a jungle beneath an expressionist sky and mountains. The 15 artists were chosen by two jurors from more than 100 submissions.

East of the Gladstone Hotel, on the third floor of the old building at 80 Spadina Ave., the Ryerson Gallery was also open for the Art Crawl.

Wooden planks creaked underfoot and crisp white walls exhibited the evening landscape photography of Ryerson graduate Alison Skyrme. Skyrme, who graduated in 2002 from Ryerson’s photography program, used flashlights and long exposures to capture plant life at night. Since graduating from Ryerson, Skyrme has exhibited her work throughout Toronto and is working on a masters degree in photographic conservation.

The festival also included an outdoors art show and sale in the Trinity-Bellwoods Park, featuring nearly 200 artists, artist open studios and theatrical performances. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health held a community fair, featuring local artists who have received services from the centre, including sculptors, painters and musicians.

The annual Art Crawl (and Artscape, the local non-profit organization that runs it) is inspiring to Hughes, who, along with two other students, founded in January a gallery for young artists and students to exhibit their artwork. The opening reception of the Whippersnapper Gallery drew 700 people.

“We were shocked at the overwhelming positive response,” he said. “I mean, we’re not curators.” In May, they hosted Sleep Is For Dead People: 24 Hours of Live Art, where 24 artists created live art in the gallery for 24 straight hours.

Hughes’s success with his artwork, the Whippersnapper Gallery, his future goals and the vibrant art scene in Toronto, which he says is largely supported by festivals like the Art Crawl, complements his classes at Ryerson and energizes him.

“It’s exciting to be alive today.”

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