This weekend, make sure to stop by exhibitIKEA at the corner of King and Peter. IKEA picked four talented Toronto creatives, artist Thrush Holmes, Designer David Dixon, Sculptor Bruno Billio, and George Whiteside, sent them on a shopping cart joy ride around the store, and told them to make something with what they found-with no limits. The results are incredibly diverse interpretations of IKEA’s familiar interior building blocks. 

Holmes’s piece was originally supposed to be a painting, but the idea spiraled into a life-size installation, a cozy shack wrapped in IKEA boxes and splashed with bright graffiti tags and humming neon which serves as an abstraction of the traditional graffiti art. Inside, poetry both original and borrowed from the Romantics, is burned into IKEA furniture, a perfect space for someone seeking solitude. A wood-burning oven, stacks of books, and a cozy flannel decorate the room, which is elevated to fantasy with small details like writing on a mirror. Outside, a sparkling deer grazes in a pen, and IKEA shipping crates create a border for a garden. A neon plume of smoke erupts from the cabin’s roof.

In the centre of the big space, Billio’s chair sculpture arches like a giant Jurassic spine, reflected in a large mirror on the floor which Billio designed to provide the viewer with access to multiple perspectives of the work. The black and white piece becomes dynamic in the mirror, and as I view it with the artist we have a ping pong match of organic and material things the deceptively simple grand-scale work reminds us of. The two twin stacks mirror each other but are somehow unique, inviting different interpretations of each. Billio points out how, in the reflection, there is a sensation akin to looking down a well. Indeed, you’ll be tempted to toss in a coin for good luck. While Holmes’ work emphasizes the possibility of raw materials to conjure a unique and magical space, Billio’s shows that when you remove these objects from that traditional space, you transform them into something unique and magical. The two compliment each other well.

Next, we walk into David Dixon’s fantasy closet. An elegantly simple space of black, white and grey with sparing yellow accents, mannequins wear beautifully tailored, timeless silhouettes rendered in IKEA fabric you can purchase by the yard. Dixon describes the multitude of paper lanterns above as an organic compliment to the graphic simplicity of the space. When you open the closet, possibilities hang side by side-a literal interpretation of the potential inherent to getting dressed in the morning. From letting the bridges you’ve burned light your way to ordering dessert, Dixon’s space will remind you that getting dressed isn’t just practical, it’s full of possibility.

Photographer and artist George Whiteside’s space gives the illusion of opening a cupboard full of treasures. From the centre of the room, viewers will see a beautifully appointed lounge, with simple couches and clusters of glass and ceramic vases. When you turn the corner, two huge walls of photographs are revealed. The work turns IKEA objects into sculpture. Originally, Whiteside had planned to paint all of the objects grey, and arrange them in abstract compositions to create unexpected shapes. But things changed when the avid paper collector found an old recipe book, whose rounded pages echoed the rounded corners of the frames he’d selected from IKEA. Inspired by the smudged pink and blue ink on the pages, Whiteside integrated these accent colours into the works. On some, a cryptic smudge of cursive remains. His stacking of the objects not only creates a new whole, but invites a new meditation on the original shapes, revealing beauty that is easy to overlook at first glance. 

exhibitIKEA runs  Thursday, August 18th to Sunday, August 21st.
Thursday-Saturday 10 am-6 pm
Sunday 12pm-5pm
363 King St. W. at Peter

If you can’t make it to the exhibit, make sure to check out the video tours led by the artists on IKEA’s Facebook page.

~ Haley Cullingham