Dear Readers, yesterday was mostly a drab, dank day in Toronto, with everything in shades of grey. The buildings are often painted in a colour that I can only describe as ‘bottom of a stagnant pond’, and the chill winds whistle between the skyscrapers so that you feel like an ant in a ravine. We went for dinner at the Queen Mother Café, which is a big hit with local students, and even as we sat eating our chocolate pecan pie, the sky lightened and everywhere lit up with spectacular evening light.
We went for a quick walk to Grange Park, which is where you get a view of the Ontario College of Art and Design, with its Will Alsop-designed extension, the Rosalie Sharp Centre for Design. This ‘box’ is cantilevered above the existing college building, and has won numerous awards, but also seems to be popular with students and Torontonians alike – a serious effort was made to include all the major stakeholders in the design, and the playfulness of the structure seems to have won everybody over.
At the other side of the park is the Art Gallery of Ontario. In the photo below you can see the original buildings, from the 1840s and 1885, and above it the South Gallery, designed by Frank Gehry, with its protruding spiral staircase and blue glass and titanium panels. The gallery is surprisingly integrated inside, but looks almost shocking from the outside – the blue panels remind me of tarpaulins and seems to give the whole thing a rather unfinished look.
At the corner of the Art Gallery of Ontario, I found this chap.
He is constructed entirely from old leather sofas.
The artist, Brian Jungen, was inspired by the story of a circus elephant called, inevitably, Jumbo, who was killed by a train in Ontario in 1885. The work is called Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill. ‘Couch monster’ refers to the breaking of the animal’s spirit that is required to make it work in a circus – it becomes a ‘monster’ created by human beings for their own entertainment. Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill comes from the Dane-zaa language of the Athebascan Native Canadians, and means ‘my heart is ripping’, speaking to the sadness and cruelty of keeping living beings in captivity. I was very moved by this diminished creature, balancing on its little legs on a ball, wrinkled and powerless.
It just goes to show that you never know what’s around the corner in Toronto!
Even before I read your description, my heart went out to that elephant!