An overview of Dart’s works heretofore produced in the lead up to his artist residency in Port Hope, Ontario with Critical Mass in August 2020.
Jay Dart is a Canadian drawist, author and designer whose practice includes bookworks, animated videos and mixed media installations. Dart’s work has been shown in galleries and art fairs around the world including exhibitions in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Regina; as well as internationally in Paris, New York, and Amsterdam. He is the recipient of multiple grants and honors including from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and a National Magazine Award for editorial illustration. His work has been featured on CBC Radio and TV including a profile on The Exhibitionists. Dart is a graduate of the University of Guelph’s Fine Art programme. Currently, he lives and draws with his family in a small hamlet outside the sprawl of Toronto, and he teaches Drawing and Design at Durham College and Sheridan College.
In 2019, Dart self-published an artist edition of Where Yawns Go: Volume 1 – a picture book that brings together the narrative that has been evolving in his exhibitions over the past decade. The Field Guide to Yawnder, featuring an illustrated overview of the people and places in his whimsical mindscape of Yawnder, was published in 2016 by the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in conjunction with his solo exhibition and can be found, among other places, at the Art Gallery of Ontario bookstore.
He is represented by Galerie Youn in Montreal. In the Fall of 2015, Galerie Youn published a catalogue titled Jay Dart: Images of Yawnder. Works are also available at Slate Gallery in Regina and Gallery Jones in Vancouver.
Profile from CBC’s The Exhibitionists.
As a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, Jay Dart has worked with the Globe & Mail, Yen magazine (Australia), Max Joseph magazine (Germany), Land of Nod, Maisoneuve, NOW Magazine, Leo Burnett, Rogers Media, RESFEST International Film Festival, Sons & Daughters Film Production Co, University of Toronto, University of Guelph, Toronto Cyclists Union, and Juno Award winning singer/songwriter, Donovan Woods. He received a National Magazine Award for his editorial illustration for the Globe & Mail.
2020 Digital Originals project grant // Canada Council for the Arts
2020 Visual Arts project grant // Ontario Arts Council
2018 Exhibition Assistance Grant // Ontario Arts Council
2016 Gold Award, spot illustration // National Magazine Awards
2016 Visual Arts project grant // Ontario Arts Council
2014 Exhibition Assistance Grant // Ontario Arts Council
2014 Best In Show // Annual Members’ Exhibition / Station Gallery
2012 Exhibition Assistance Grant // Ontario Arts Council
2011 Best In Show // Annual Members’ Exhibition / Station Gallery
2010 Audience Choice Award Winner // Queen West Art Crawl
2008 Honourable Mention, Drawing // Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition
Distance: Existence – creating a multimedia project that began in the summer of 2020 during an artist residency in Port Hope. This project includes drawings, animations and sound elements. Thank you to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.
Where Yawns Go: Volume 2 – assembling drawings for chapters 3 and 4 of the Yawnder saga created from 2015-2020 and working with Jiggs on the writing.
Upon the Unknowns – creating drawings for upcoming exhibitions that feature scenes from future chapters of the Yawnder saga.
Screening of Distance: Existence in Port Hope (Summer 2021)
Solo Exhibition at Galerie Youn (Spring 2022)
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In the pre-quarantine times of early 2019, I began a series of drawings as a continuing investigation into some new themes that I had been exploring in my work, including the quality of onliness, the ecology of old fields, theories of meditation and awareness, and transitional states. These new topics in my work resulted from personal events in my own life. Little did I know that, by the time I was putting the finishing touches on these pieces, the resulting images would depict an apt sentiment for the state of global isolation and the new distance existence that resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Such themes had slowly been emerging in the ever-evolving narrative of the Yawnder saga – a series that has been the focus of my practice for over 10 years. This series tallies over 200+ works, including drawings, bookworks and installations that featured wanderers of a whimsical mindscape and the discoveries of my alter ego, Jiggs. Each drawing adds to a mythological tale about the mystical nature of inspiration, the search for innovative creation, and the dissemination of ideas. I referenced images of people settling, logging and forging their way on the frontiers of the wilderness, and rearranged them into a conceptually layered world that presents timeless allegories for creative endeavours complete with the challenges and opportunities of new technologies facing contemporary creators.
Nowadays, this journey has taken me to the old fields – an ecological term that describes lands that were once maintained, only to be abandoned – where a natural succession occurs that can either result in the rapid return of a native ecosystem or change toward a completely different system with often unpredictable dynamics and impacts. These emerging ecosystems found in the marginal, deserted lands of my rural community have provided a backdrop for a new cast of wayward young characters making their own marks amid uncertainty. The wide-open, abandoned old fields provide a paradoxical landscape for the youthful explorers who find themselves in uncharted territory, inundated by swarms of sparks and floaters. These are the overlooked spaces between places, symbolic of the gaps between all things, that may be reconsidered as we look for answers in these unprecedented times when the need for distance is bringing new perspectives to help solve extreme challenges.