Tonight, I witnessed the Top Chef equivalent of the emerging art world. And it rocked the casbah! Basically, the competition consisted of two rounds of eight artists, who battled it out head to head for twenty minutes to see which of them could produce the crowd favourite within that time frame.
To add a little excitement, six of the artists (three in each of the first two rounds), were randomly selected from a hat filled with the names of willing audience participants. The top two from each of the first two rounds then competed in the grand finale. And it was intense! Luckily, there were refreshments available and entertainment provided, including a warm-up singer and DJ, to keep us all jazzed up throughout the evening, as we reminded ourselves that art truly is in the eye of the beholder.
Art Battle TO has taken on various formats in its 29 competitions to date, including a cage match and doubles, but the basic premise is this: pit some local and international artists against some random amateurs, supply them with a blank canvas and acrylic paints, and give them twenty minutes to create the best possible work that they can in that timeframe. The audience mills about during the entire event, and casts their vote for the piece they like best at the end of each round. The top two contenders from each of the first two rounds then face off in the grand finale. At the end of the night, all of the works are up for grabs in a silent auction.
It was truly fascinating, humbling, and inspiring all at the same time to witness the canvases coming to life in such a short time frame. It was also interesting to see how your own perception of each work of art evolved with every minute that elapsed. A scene that may have completely grabbed you early on became something that made you want to bitch-slap the artist a mere quarter of an hour later. The weird part was that you were close enough to do so at any time. Oh, the restraint!
By the time the first two rounds were over, we had seen some very unique treasures arise from this pressure cooker of a process. The crowd’s expectations were understandably high going into the finale. In addition to the ‘Bring Back the Soul’ yellow and black entry above, here were the other three winners that managed to secure places for their creators in the ultimate showdown.
The first two sets of paintings were thus put aside for the silent auction, as the easels and floors were tidied and cleared to make way for the final four. Two of the contestants had battled before as a team in a doubles event, and chose a common muse that would make it all the more interesting for their own particular rivalry: a rat. Yep, true story.
And I have to say, it worked in their favour, as the king of the rodents did indeed wind up as the big cheese at the end of the night.
The Great Hall, in uber-trendy West Queen West, proved to be a suitable venue for the hipsters both in the crowd and at the easels. A good time was had by all, including the volunteer artist who used his fingers, toes and cheek in his masterpiece, which, while it did not earn him a place in the final paint-off, it did seem to garner him free beer from at least one delighted fan, so he got his own happy ending.
I look forward to the next battle of live competitive painting. Who knows, maybe I’ll even throw my own name into the hat for that one. I’m sure I’ve got some inner stick men that are just clamouring to strut their stuff on the canvas, and battle to the death for a scrumptious piece of cheesecake… Oh, wait. I think I might be thinking about something just a little different. Never mind.