Stepping into a Colourful Oasis : The Art of Dave Melnychuk

I left home on Thursday at noon, walked half a block and turned around and went back for an umbrella. While I’m not complaining about the unseasonably mild weather we’ve had here in Toronto over the past week, a bit of sunshine would be appreciated. This is all to say that it was one dark and dreary day.

I was on my way up to Bloor Street near Bathurst to meet my friend Julie for a sushi lunch. I took the bus up (streetcars aren’t running on Bathurst these days — I’m not sure why), but after a tasty and filling lunch with my lovely friend, decided to take advantage of the snow-free sidewalks and walk home. Also, there was a place I wanted to check out near there, over on Spadina — The Ukrainian Museum of Canada, located at 620 Spadina Avenue, just south of Harbord, on the grounds of The University of Toronto.

And that was where I was treated to a site for my colour-craving eyes to behold! On display was a breathtaking show called “Ancient / Contemporary – Symbolic Forms of Ukrainian Tradition”, all created by a single artist, Dave Melnychuk.

Dave is Canadian, a graduate of OCAD U and U of T, and resides in Toronto. However his grandparents and extended family are from Ukraine, so he grew up immersed in and learning the traditional art and craft of his Ukrainian ancestors.

Upon entering the gallery, I was warmly greeted by a number of charming volunteers, who had just finished a meeting when I arrived. A couple of them gave me a quick guided tour and then left me on my own to explore the extremely wide array of pieces, which included remarkable examples of embroidery and textile embellishment, furniture building, wood-carving, painting, drawing, print-making, paper crafts.

I was told that the arrangement of the show was as though the personal items from his actual home environment had been picked up and transported to the museum, as is. These were things the artist looked at and used every day. Prior to them being moved, the colourfully adorned coats were what he wore while out and about, the ornately painted book shelves held his books, a brightly painted wooden chest contained his art supplies, and a mirror with an intricately carved frame was looked into.

To quote him, “Traditionally, art wasn’t separate from other aspects of life. It wasn’t analyzed aesthetically at arm’s length, removed from practical, everyday considerations. It was part of life, with no divisions of higher or lower forms, or of art as separate from craft. The art of former times consisted of an attitude of reverence for oneself, for one’s community and society at large, for nature in all its forms, and for any and all tasks which people undertook.”

↑ The white part is cut out of paper, a traditional Ukrainian art-form called Vytynanky. ↑

↑ He even made the shirts which he then embroidered. ↑

↑ Because who wants to use a regular tissue box when you can have this? ↑

↑ A historic photograph of the artist’s family. ↑

↑ There is a series of drawings of his family members, “put into” traditional Ukrainian garments. ↑

↑ Oh, hi ↑

↑ The painted eggs are called Pysanky. ↑

As you can see, the variety of art-forms Dave Melnychuk is skilled at, and the sheer number of works made by a single person, is mind-blowing, particularly given that everything there was created within the last six years!

This impressive show will be on until February 19, 2017, so there is plenty of time left for you to go a get a good dose of colour. Admission cost is by donation.

From the gallery, I walked south, all the way down Spadina to King, and of course, I took plenty of photos on the way. So, I’ll be back soon with some of those. In the meantime, here’s one of the CN Tower obscured by fog.

Thanks for reading,