When I heard that Art Battle was finally going to be held in Brampton, just a few minutes from where I live, I was really excited. I’d attended one of Mississauga’s Art Battles and came to this one to support a friend who was competing. The place was packed when I arrived and, to my surprise, the event had also caught the attention of my friend and writer for Enrich Magazine, Laila Zarrabi Yan. As Laila had never attended an Art Battle before, I had the opportunity to explain a little bit about the event and share in the excitement while we debated different interpretations during each round.
Art Battle is live competitive painting where twelve painters compete, all doing their best to gain the audience’s favour as they vote to decide the winners. It’s an event worth coming to again and again, because the painters are always changing and the techniques are always evolving. Plus, as I discovered during my conversations with Laila, it’s a very social event and is much more fun when you get friends involved.
The first of four Brampton events this season, and the first to ever be held here, Art Battle 244 on March 12th boasted an excellent turnout, with people of all ages completely filling the venue. It took place at Spot 1 Grill, which split its restaurant into two spaces, one for Art Battle as well as a separate area for the regular patrons. The wait staff did an excellent job in taking care of both, making sure that everyone in the audience for Art Battle was able to order food and drink.
The Art Battle Brampton organizers, were the silent heroes of the event, making sure that it ran perfectly without the audience being aware of the duties that they were carrying out.
The focus, as it should be, was on the art. Everything is about the individual pieces being created right in front of you – every brushstroke, every mistake that changes the picture from what the artist had planned to create. You get to witness the evolution of a blank canvas into something more, something that takes up all of your attention. It doesn’t matter so much who is doing the painting, but that the painting is being created. In one time frame, you are witnessing the act of the artist interpreting the paint while the audience is interpreting the evolution of colour, skill and style.
Art Battle is all about art, but it is also about the community being involved in art, and how the audience has just as much influence on the creation of art as the artist does, because the audience is what gives the art purpose.
Art without an audience has no meaning. So to be part of the creation process is actually quite special. As organizers James Flux, Kevin Hunt, Sam King and Crystal Lori Boyd pointed out to Laila, being part of the creation process is entirely different from viewing art in a gallery, because you get to see the techniques, frustrations and mistakes that shape, change or potentially destroy a piece. It’s the process of watching this evolution that generates the conversation of interpretations. As an audience member, don’t be afraid to voice your opinions, even if you aren’t speaking to anyone in particular, because other audience members will often join in the discussion. While Laila and I were discussing our interpretations, other audience members often joined in, adding new ways to look at the pieces or agreeing with some of our opinions.
Art Battle is split into three rounds. In the first two rounds, six painters have twenty minutes to paint anything that they like, and then the top two from each round move into the third to compete for the title. After each round, the audience members vote on their favourite pieces, one vote per person per round. During the rounds, the audience is encouraged to participate by circling the artists. This movement is critical to the Art Battle experience, as it allows the audience to experience the creation process. Each circle around the artists revealed new techniques, bringing completely new interpretations to the artwork. As an audience member, it’s important to keep a steady pace as you move around the room, as the paintings are always changing and the techniques used vary from minute to minute. The benefit of these changes is that they promote more audience conversations, as we discuss what we see at different times.
To add to the intrigue, artists are allowed to bring their own materials. The event staff provides acrylic paint, canvases and easels, but the artists must bring their own paint brushes, tools and other creation materials. Sponges and palette knives are usually popular tools, but this Battle saw the use of several other items such as plastic forks to scratch away paint, tape and paper towels. One artist even divided her paint into plastic Ziploc bags and piped it onto the canvas like icing. Each artist had different techniques and approached the canvases in specific ways. Some made it clear what their final piece would be from the very beginning, and then added layers of paint for depth and colour. Others began painting one theme and, by the time the audience circled back around, the painting had become something completely different.
Brampton’s events are currently independent from the National Project, as the introduction of Art Battle is to help make Brampton a better place and to enrich the lives of Bramptonians. The idea is to cultivate Brampton’s art scene and encourage more exposure for the local artists in preparation to hit the National scene next season, opening many new paths for participating artists. James confirms this to Laila as he notes, “Six months ago the quality of discussion was ‘Nothing is in Brampton’. Now I’m meeting individuals every day and they’re saying, ‘No, no, no! Let’s make something in Brampton.” This is what Art Battle is for. It’s to bring people together and show them that the quality of art is just as good, if not better, in Brampton as it would be in Toronto, Mississauga or any other Canadian city.
This was emphasized by artist Amanda Busby, who was participating in her fourth Art Battle event. During her chat with Laila and me, as we admired the quality of the paintings after the first round, she said, “This is the first time Brampton’s had a competition like this, so everyone comes out, brings their A-game and comes out swinging. You get all of the talent all in one spot.” Amanda, who went on to win the final round, was awarded a cash prize and a two-week solo exhibit at Beaux Arts Gallery, where she will add a splash of colour to the spring/summer.
The second of four Art Battles at Spot 1 will be held on April 9th followed by the third on May 14th and the fourth on June 11th. Anyone can enter the competition and all ages are welcome in the audience. For details on the coming events, follow Enrich or visit artbattle.ca.
Come on Brampton! Show us the artist in you! What will you create?
Tap into the artist in you. Enrich yourself. Enrich Brampton.
by Larissa Coombes with interviews by Laila Zarrabi Yan