Meet the artist with a rosy perspective on downtown Toronto and Etobicoke’s grittiest quartiers
Keita Morimoto paints city scenes that are instantly recognizable to anyone who, like his young subjects, loiters in downtown Toronto and Etobicoke. In place of postcard-perfect skylines, his work portrays gritty streetscapes, awash in light, that are rich with geographic and cultural clues.
Meeting Place shows a ramshackle strip in Chinatown in stunning detail. Chinese characters and road signs jostle for attention with a Vietnamese phở joint, while a parking sign directs unseen cars to Dragon City, a glass-clad shopping mall with a cult following of bargain hunters, located at the corner of Dundas and Spadina.
In the foreground stand Morimoto’s personal muses: the artist’s real-life friends. He photographs these figures, self-styled in idiosyncratic streetwear (vintage blue bubble jacket, Birkenstock slides), in his studio before digitally imposing them onto his compositions.
Working from photographs ensures that his subjects, and the locations they find themselves in, are given equal weight. In Arrival, for instance, a glowing TTC streetcar spills light onto the street, where two of the artist’s friends wait behind a barrier. Through the open door and windows, the faces of passengers and vacant red-upholstered seats are illuminated.
Morimoto, who graduated from OCAD in 2012, owes his theatrical use of light and shadow to the Old Masters (see Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Gainsborough). His everyday depictions of city life, however, follow in the footsteps of modern giants such as Edward Hopper and William Eggleston. These artists “depict their own personal experiences while distilling magical and mysterious qualities from banal and ordinary, decrepit and disenchanted scenes,” says the painter.
Keita Morimoto’s hyper-local scenes, imbued with the gravitas of the masters, are set to become classics.
Nicholas Metivier Gallery hosts “Light Passage,” Keita Morimoto’s second solo exhibition at the gallery, from February 8th until March 3rd.