The Good, The Bad, and The Untapped

April 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

A review of The Artist Project: Juried Contemporary Art Fair

By Emily Butko


On February 22nd I had the pleasure of attending The Artist Project, a contemporary art fair at Toronto’s Exhibition Place. Featuring more than 250 carefully juried independent contemporary artists, The Artist Project provides the opportunity to explore and support Canadian and international artist from various disciplines. With very minimal information on the event, I had no idea what I was getting myself into! The large number of artworks displayed at this fair showed great variety of expression. I could have easily spent the entire weekend meandering up and down the endless aisles engaging with  the good, the bad and the downright ugly, but alas, I needed to find something worth writing about. In the end it was the Untapped Emerging Artist booths that caught (and kept) my attention.  As a strategy to support budding artists, The Artist Project’s organizers select 14 of the country’s best up-and-coming artists from hundreds of applications and  showcase their work in the art fair, free of charge (booths at the fair can cost anywhere from $1000 – 4000 for the weekend). For me, it was this outnumbered group that produced some of the most interesting and engaging works displayed at the event. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview one of the featured up-and-coming artists, Rachel Vanderzwet. A recent graduate of the University of Guelph (BAH honors in Studio Art) Rachel is an emerging artist living and working in Guelph, Ontario. Subtly hinting at the recognizable, Rachel’s paintings whimsically drift between abstraction and representation. Eye-popping colour and dynamic brushstrokes successfully instill a sense of energy and motion in the viewer. Her work not only engaged me, but also kept me intrigued, searching for a referent and ultimately leaving me with a mystery, igniting my imagination.  The following is an interview with the artist:


EB: How did you hear about The Artist Project? Could you describe your experience in the Untapped Emerging Artist Competition?

RV: I heard about The Artist Project through a friend that was in the Emerging Artists section last year. She really enjoyed her experience so I thought I would try it out for myself. The Artist Project was a great weekend for meeting and getting to know other artists, inviting discussion of my current work and getting my name out to a wider audience.


EB: Looking at your older work, I can see the progression from representation to abstraction. Why the transition?

RV: I made the translation into abstraction fairly naturally. I still paint from realistic sources and sketches that I think offer a certain sense of recognizabilty in the work. I found that personally, however, there was a lot more I could play with as things became less distinct. There was a freedom and sense of fun and exploration that I had found somewhat limited within representation. It also gives me greater opportunity to explore colour, gesture and the materiality.


EB: Do you have any upcoming scheduled shows or gallery Exhibitions? What’s next for you?

RV: Currently I am back to the studio! I hope to focus more on showing in the public gallery system in the months to come but welcome opportunities to exhibit on many fronts.


Rachel Vanderzwet. Belted Lace, 2012. Oil on Panel. 11″ x 14″.


EB: Do you have any advice for newly emerging artists and recent grads?

RV: I would say the most important thing to do as an emerging artist and/or recent grad is to keep working. Find a way to practice your art and be aware of opportunities to show. You never know what may pan out and there are lots of experiences and opportunities available, specifically for artists new to the scene.

Rachel’s work can be viewed at her website,

To learn more about The Artist Project visit 

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