State of change: Canadian art and transitional design

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Transition suggests moving from one state to another. A philosopher (or therapist, for that matter) would acknowledge the markings of both the before and after in this state, and the beauty that can emerge. Transitional art is a fluid concept, but one that hints at work that captures the best of the “new” and the “old”. This can be interpreted in any number of ways – from technique, to colours, to subject matter, to influences, and more.

In this collection, we’ve gathered works that echo traditional approaches to art, but infused with something contemporary; they are paired alongside inspired interiors by noteworthy BIPOC interior designers from across the country to show how these Canadian original paintings can enhance beautiful spaces. The colour palettes and mood of the works here are timeless, would work well in any modern or historic neutral-toned room. 

While the idea of “transitional design” (a happy medium between stuffy traditional interiors and super sleek glossy modernism) applies to the world of interiors, there are similar themes when approaching art for such spaces and an art style in itself: the merging of ideas and aesthetics from yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Our first example above (and wonderful representation of a state of transition) is a painting by April Pyne. Pyne is a visual artist living in Moncton, New Brunswick. Her work explores minimalist objects, simplified shapes and fragmented forms that are reminiscent of interiors, exteriors and sky. She is influenced by the work of Paul Klee, the Russian Constructivists and Midcentury Modern design. 

These works can appear to have been created by visionary classical artists from long ago, but ahead of their time. Rather, these are contemporary Canadian talents using long-established techniques with some reverence to art styles before them, but firmly placed in the the now and near-future. The atmospheric portrait by Mihyun Maria Kim captures this essence. Kim is a Korean-Canadian painter presently working between Canada and Germany. During her three years in the EU, she participated and worked for artist residencies in Barcelona, Paris, Seville and Leipzig, and co-founded MODS collective.

This Hampton Rowe project, with its neutral palette of whites and greys and updated traditional architectural features, is a classic example of transitional style, and a perfect match to this piece by Tina Arriaza. Arriaza is a Toronto-based artist interested in themes that revolve around queerness and the natural. Tina primarily uses watercolour and other wet mediums to make works that appear as delicate and soft.  

Art in a transitional style tend to play off of a neutral colour palette and natural elements, but that doesn’t mean that it cannot be bold. Black is used to wonderful effect here in this photographic work by Felicity Somerset. Somerset is a fine art photographer based in Toronto, Canada inspired by nature and rural life in all its varied forms. She was first introduced to a camera by her father, a talented amateur photographer, and image-making has been an important and essential part of her life ever since.

The work of Annette E M Courtemanche uses a minimal colour palette of neutral hues, like greys and beiges, to create a sense of calm in her work. These pieces would work wonderfully in a transitional design space that also follows the same colour palette and minimalist principles.

Annette E M Courtemanche is an artist who lives and works in Toronto, Canada. As a self-taught artist working primarily in painting with acrylic and mixed media, Courtemanche continues to push the boundaries as her art tries to negotiate what occupies the space around us and how we perceive those spaces. She studied at the University of Toronto and is now exhibiting publicly.

On the other side of the spectrum, the artwork of Nelson Cheng art channels old-meets-new, with art styles of the past mashed with the world of today to great effect. Combining technique that nods to the landscapes of the Group of Seven, his work is very much modern thanks to the vibrant use of colour combined with the urban subject matter. Cheng is the inaugural winner of the Landscape Artist of the Year Canada television series. He is also the recipient of the Murray and Marvelle Koffler Founder’s Award for distinguished emerging artists, and a nominee of the Mayor’s Award at the 58th Toronto Outdoor Art Fair. He has also been featured in the publications Distillery District Magazine, Toronto Star and at the McMichael Canadian Collection.

Discover more art by independent Canadian artists that speaks to your art collector taste. Is your home or office minimalist? Maximalist? Or a happy medium of being in the “transitional” style? There are thousands of original works to be found on Partial available to ship across Canada, the US, and worldwide.