A Philly Experience

Battle of the Canvas Brings a Cornucopia of Talent to the City of Brotherly Love

by Lawrence Ciarallo

Sunday November 6th, 2011 saw twenty-seven talented artists arrive at the elegant TRUST.  Constructed as a bank in 1902, long since converted to an event space, and located in the Old City section of Philadelphia, this wonderful venue was the scene of Battle of the Canvas 2011; a seven-hour, non-stop fusion of art, music and culture. The brainchild of Temple University alumni Simone Banks, the 2nd annual Battle of the Canvas, progressed strongly in its depth, variety and embrace of the beauty that can be found in the arts.

The main attraction was the “battle”; twenty-seven canvases were distributed to the artists whom then had the next seven hours to transform the blank surface into a unique piece of artwork. Every medium and discipline could be found, from the photorealistic work of S. Ross Browne and the pen and ink virtuosity of Sean Martorana to the surreal abstractions of Debora Dias or Stephan Haigh. Whether playful or serious, political or pop-culture the breadth of subject matter thoroughly championed the BOC’s mission, to create a genuine experience by asking artists: “What’s your Imprint?”

Onlookers reveled at watching stark, white canvases transform, in mere hours, into vibrant, pulsating depictions of fantasy, imagination or social commentary. E.W.W Creative used the H.G. Wells decree “If we don’t end war, war will end us,” to frame his imposing portrait, while Katie Reidy sought the adolescent in all of us with a heartwarming cityscape of buildings, markers, rainbows and fun-loving characters. Evolving hour-by-hour, the visual backdrop was highlighted by the sounds of numerous, supremely talented musical collectives.

Sela, 2011

A feast for the ears indeed as Mazon, Sela, Shadowplay and Nonstop to Cairo, amongst others, graced the stage in a succession of rhythm and poetry. Music and visual art is certainly symbiotic with both artisans feeding of one another’s ingenuity. The tap of the snare akin to a brushstroke, a clever couplet complementing the tiniest of illustrated detail. Rock-n-roll and spray-paint, hip-hop and acrylics, nowhere was the amalgamation of ideas and creative channels more prevalent then at this seminal event.  Artists, entrepreneurs, and musicians all came together to leave their imprint on this fine city and define, through conviction, variation and cunning, what the Battle of the Canvas is all about. 

Alas, it was a battle and to the victor goes the spoils. After the voting had concluded, the tandem of Christopher Rys and Justin Swain we’re triumphant and ever the more gracious. Having crafted a beautiful art nouveau piece in which an octopus grapples with a shark as both struggle for the prize of a fair-skinned mermaid Rys and Swain exemplified what it meant for participants to embrace this distinct occasion. It truly was a conglomeration of many disciplines that built upon the previous year, establishing a tradition of creativity and excellence. As Rys stated “Artists are and always will be the engine for change in our country but NOTHING happens without the support of amazing people like you.”

*Note – Simone Banks, director & curator of Battle of the Canvas, can be reached at filtered37@gmail.com and check out her tumblr account http://filtered37.tumblr.com 

Photographs: DiLo DeMille©2011. He can be reached at dilo.demille@gmail.com

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