Upfront Reviews: Showcase
by Cameron Brtnik
Artist Jason Ebrahimi
You walk into a small, brightly lit gallery – small, cozy, inviting. And the first thing you see is a large scale portrait of Frank Sinatra with an ear-to-ear grin in a top hat simply entitled, “Sinatra.” It vibrates with colour, almost as vivid as an lsd trip. I discover that this art style is what Jason likes to call “Abstro-Realism,” or abstract realism, and it is what he is using to create his latest works. “I got into Abstro-Realism because this medium allows me to paint what I see..in a more colourful, layered and abstract way. My admirers really like these paintings.” A quick glance to the left side of the room reveals two more Abstro-Realism pieces, although of an entirely different nature: two large, gay nudes dominate this wall. When asked if these are self portraits Jason replies with a laugh, “They’re just from my imagination…perhaps too vivid for some tastes.”
After what seemed minutes imagining it was me in the nude portrait entitled, “Take Me Now”: rock solid eight pack, bulging muscles, and impressive fully flaccid member. I then move on to the next section – a sharp contrast to the bright and vibrant pieces I’ve seen so far – and there is a vast and impressive canvas of three wolves entitled, “The Great Outdoors.” These wolves are intimidating at first; as they’re facing the viewer, it seems as though they’re scouring the arctic tundra looking for their next meal, and that you’re it, and you get the overwhelming sensation that one of their snowy paws could reach out and slash at you if you get too close. I really like this piece – it probably heralds back to the days I used to (or I was forced to) wear the iconic “Wolf Howling at The Moon” sweaters (which by the way have made a comeback among the more “hip” members of the hipster movement).
Soon after we’re greeted by the friendly gallery owner, Duane Shuttleworth, who takes great pride in displaying Jason’s pieces. When asked how the two of them met he explains, “My niece contacted him online and commissioned him to do a piece, a portrait of a lion head, and he did a fantastic job. I was impressed so my niece put me in touch with Jason. I was delighted to discover he had many more pieces in his portfolio…too many to showcase in my small gallery! I can’t wait to work with Jason again on future exhibitions.” After chatting to Duane about his background that includes an impressive mix of Ojibway, Dakota, British, French and Scottish heritage, I ask him if he has any other projects on the go outside of the gallery. “I’d like to get the Learning Centre component of the business operating.
SAVVY.TO will offer the public awareness training on the topics of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada and Lateral Violence. By engaging people in active learning, pushing their emotional buttons, we begin to give our awareness and energy to a seed of hidden knowledge.” Duane explains, “This kind of training includes an introduction to the traditional sweat lodge ceremonies, a place for healing, learning and affirmation. After spending years with the Elders, they have given me permission to build a lodge and share what I have learned with others.” After ensuring Duane that I’d like to take part in one such aforementioned ceremony (I hear that one can experience vivid hallucinations), I imagine a viewing of Jason’s work under the influence of the sacred peyote plant and make a mental note to come back. Duane then directs us to a mouthwatering buffet supplied by Alternative Cafe. I quickly down my fair share of the scrumptious heirloom tomato and goat cheese tarts, and move on.
Alternative Cafe 443 Richmond St W, Toronto
The final pieces are all of landscapes, particularly in wooded areas. There is one entitled, “Early Dawn,” where the sky is so realistic it’s hard to tell it’s a painting. It’s that twilight sky, the kind that can only be experienced in the moment – or through an artist’s eye. “When I look at a photograph of a place, or building, or cityscape…if I get inspired I can just zone out and focus. And I can bring what I see to life on canvas.” This work reminds me of one of my favourite childhood painters Bob Ross, and all of a sudden I get the urge to paint some “happy little trees.” I think Bob Ross would be proud; Jason’s trees have made me feel happy.
I finally ask Jason an important question: Which of all your paintings would you have the hardest time parting with? (I’ve already made my guess.) His answer shocks me: “The one with the cabin.” Entitled, “Isolation,” it is a small 24×18 painting of a single cabin in the woods. Nothing special, I think, among all his work. “There’s just something about it, something that draws me in…” I understand what he means. Staring at this solitary cabin in the woods something calls out to me too, and suddenly I want to be there, isolated, away from all the chaos of the city, away from my computer and my smartphone and to reconnect to nature. Perhaps one of Duane’s sweat lodge ceremonies just might do the trick.”
Jason Ebrahimi’s work will be on display at SAVVY.TO from March 1 – April 30 2018. You can view more of his work here: https://jaso81.wixsite.com/jeart
114 Sherbourne St, Toronto
Open Mon-Fri 9-5pm, Sat-Sun 10-7pm
Alternative Cafe http://www.thealternativecafe.com/