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Meet the Artist Turning Pianos and Your Childhood Into Pop Art

"I personally believe that Toronto's art scene now is like New York's in the '80s. If there was ever a time to be... in Toronto, it's right now."

by Dean Rosen
Oct 11 2017, 3:26pm

Photo courtesy of Artist

Jordan Sook is romantic about Saturday morning cartoons. "It's kind of like they were your friends on the weekend," the Toronto-based artist explains over the phone. Growing up, Sook dreaded waking up for school during the week, sleeping in as late as he possibly could. Come Saturday though, he was out of bed at the crack of dawn, glued to the television. "You got to see all these cartoons that weren't on during the week. You had the entire Saturday to yourself, you were just free and there was this happiness and joy."

Take a look at Sook's work and the influence of those weekend mornings is palpable. In his most recent exhibition, Kid & Company, big bright paintings of Bart Simpson, Charlie Brown and Pikachu amongst other familiar cartoons adorned the walls of Queen West's Only One Gallery. Alongside the paintings, Sook created a half dozen garbage cans featuring other classic characters such as Fred Flintstone and Pacman. For the most part, his work maintains the qualities of the characters, utilizing bold lines and bright colors, adding only a few nuances such as Xs in the place of pupils. Outside of his gallery work, Sook has also been tapped to cross-pollinate his work into the music world. Over the summer he was commissioned by Wayhome Music & Arts Festival to take on a series of piano installations inspired by their headlining artists: Frank Ocean, Flume and Imagine Dragons. Additionally, he's been hired to produce work for members of OVO, which he is still in the process of working on.

For the 25-year-old painter, his pieces are about revisiting his childhood, and for the viewer, the experience is about bringing them into that same mindset. A self-described kid at heart, he focuses on putting himself into the shoes of his younger self. "It's really going into this time machine and talking to yourself fifteen years ago or however long it is. You clean that up and add an artistic polish to it and then that's how you get the final product." Noisey spoke to Sook about how he started painting cartoons, Toronto's art scene and his art going forward. Also watch the short mini doc on his work below.

NOISEY: How did you begin painting cartoons?
Jordan Sook: It started with the yellow Bart Simpson piece. That piece was something I originally made for a friend of mine whose birthday it was. I just whipped up this piece and that's kind of how that whole cartoon style came together. I just started to replicate everything from that so I guess that Bart Simpson piece is one of the more special pieces. That helped defined the parameters of the style in the sense of the bold lines, the Xs on the eyes, having question marks, stuff like that.

How have you found the art scene in Toronto?
I feel like the art culture Toronto is growing. We're obviously not at the level of the scene in London or New York yet but we are growing at a very rapid pace. I personally believe that Toronto's art scene now is like New York's in the '80s. If there was ever a time to be at a certain place at a certain time, it's Toronto right now. I mean, can you imagine if you lived in New York in the early '80s, being around Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring. People who were living in these crazy loft condos that were inexpensive. It was just the right place to be at the right time. For anything to do involving the culture, I feel like Toronto is good.

Photo courtesy of the Artist

Do you plan on branching away from painting cartoons?
Cartoons are what I'm doing now but I'm definitely versatile. One of the next projects I want to take on is doing a series on Canadian landscape — that's something completely different from the cartoons. As an artist you're always looking to grow and do new things. The best artists learn from others and continue to do new things and branching off into doing different things is always beneficial. It has to do with growth as well too.

Are you working on any other projects right now?
I'm working on some commissions for some pretty cool people here in Toronto. I have a pop-up that I'm working on with my partner — we have a company called THRD going on on the side where we take on different creative projects with companies and different brands. I have another show coming up hopefully in the near future, just trying to figure out which gallery is the right gallery for my next show. I'm trying to branch out of Toronto and meet new people, just trying to grow as an artist.

Dean Rosen is a writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.

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