SOUND SEEKERS: Checking out the poster art at the House of PainT urban arts fest
Scene & Heard

SOUND SEEKERS: Checking out the poster art at the House of PainT urban arts fest

Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani. 

Kenji Toyooka, the man behind this poster, is also artistic coordinator for House of PainT

House of PainT celebrates a decade of urban arts and urban affairs with this weekend’s festival. There will be music by hip-hop heavyweights Afrika Bambaataa and Big Daddy Kane, Friday at the Dunbar Bridge, in addition to the main event taking place all day and into the night on Saturday underneath the same bridge. There are also a number of educational panels, including one on getting more art in public places. Find the full House of Paint schedule here.

Over the years, we’ve written extensively about the festival’s origins, its advocacy, and its innovation. This time, we chose to zero in on some of the art aspects of the festival. Perusing the schedule, we came upon the Good Look Graphic Art Show that focuses on a decade of graphic design in Ottawa. The show takes place at the newly remodelled Café Nostalgica and features 20 different works.

The launch party happens Thursday night with performances by Boogat, Jaguar Priest, et Le R and DJs Gerald Dragon and Lamb Rabbit. We discussed the city’s graphic-art style with House of PainT’s artistic coordinator, Kenji Toyooka — himself a web and graphics guy — whose work will also be featured in the show.

Pierre Chretien has a distinct, classic, 1950s-1960s silkscreen poster style

Toyooka says graphic designers are always thinking about people and how they absorb information and ideas. From there, trends develop.

“Graphic design is a less appreciated art, even if it’s one that is more influential,” he says. “We see it more in our everyday lives and it guides the culture.”

Over the past decade, he noticed that there were a number of concert poster designers who contributed to the city’s music scene and he wanted to curate an art show that was geared to those interested in art and typography.

He went to some of the city’s more prominent venues, including Ritual, the Mercury Lounge, and Babylon — which wallpapers its lounge area with concert posters — and asked around about their choice graphic designers.

Toyooka then approached the designers and asked them for a previous work as well as a new commission in order to show more than one side to each artist. The works are printed on high quality art paper in sizes ranging from four-by-six inches to 16-by-20 inches and have been framed for display and sale ($80-$120).

Simon Boisvert is a graffiti writer

“Usually these are created for massive reproduction as flyers and posters,” Toyooka says. “I wanted an art reproduction process because it makes you realize what an art form these are. That form of printing elevates it to that degree.”

Here are selected works from the show:

Pierre Chretien: The keys player from The Souljazz Orchestra is also talented behind a computer keyboard. “He has a distinct, classic, 1950s-1960s silkscreen poster style, which looks fantastic and is very much is an artwork unto itself,” Toyooka says.

Simon Boisvert: “He was a graffiti writer and so he often includes motivational quotes by famous graf writers in his work—there’s a poetic element to it.” And because he did graffiti for years, Toyooka says, “writing in fonts is right up his alley.”

A work by Adam Hughes (Mad Anvil)

Adam Hughes (Mad Anvil): “I love this poster,” Toyooka says. “It’s a classic art-meets-design kind of work. There is so much consideration for design here. It’s very contemporary too.”

Erin English: “She’s an illustrator who has been working in the video game industry. She has painted since childhood and moved into the digital realm quite early on. She’s been using a tablet to illustrate her work for 10 years now.”

Stefan Grambert: “He’s a DJ known as Brahma Breaker who played at Zaphod’s for years. He turned to graphic design — a lot of people with different backgrounds come to design.”

Kenji Toyooka: “I started as a painter and became a graphic designer later on. I’m completely self-taught. Since I work with a huge range of clients — I recently designed wine labels — I think my work is more of a cross-section of what kinds of jobs a graphic designer will get throughout their career. It’s that serendipitous nature that designers will take on in the work.”

Erin English is an illustrator who also works in the video game industry


Stefan Grambert is known as a DJ and graphic designer