It’s been almost a year since the final bow in Kingston, the night so much of Canada (and thousands more around the world) watched The Tragically Hip end the Man Machine Poem tour.
The tributes have been plentiful. The five members of the band are set to receive the Order of Canada. There have been fundraising concerts on both sides of the lakes. Fans and musicians alike are eager to say thanks to the band they love.
Now artists are getting into the act too.
“That Night in Toronto” is a collection of pieces from 10 Canadian artists, on display at Mayberry Fine Art in Toronto through August 30. Each one is inspired by a different Hip song. No two artists used the same piece of music.
Danielle Krysa, author of the Jealous Curator art blog, invited the artists to submit pieces to the exhibit. In her introductory note, she mentions that the show is important to her as “an ode to a Canadian great.”
“Gord is a musical genius,” she writes of Downie. “You could hear a nation gasp when the news was made public. I wanted to do something, but what? An art show, of course.”
She continues: “From ‘wheat kings and pretty things’ to ‘musical chairs, double dares, memorized stairs,’ the words from these generation defining songs strike a chord in, well, anyone who has ever heard them.” The show was difficult to pull together, Krysa adds. Some artists couldn’t narrow it down to one song.
“Originally I was going to assign bits of Hip poetry to each of them, but every artist came back with stories of their favourite songs—memories from road trips, University concerts, breakups, dance floors, house parties and the list goes on. The paintings, drawings, sculptures, collages, paper-cut pieces they’ve created are beyond what I ever could have imagined.”
A donation of 20% per sale will be donated to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research at Sunnybrook Hospital, where Downie received treatment after his diagnosis for glioblastoma in late 2015, made public in May 2016.
The artists involved in the show include Annyen Lam, Ben Skinner, Meghan Hildebrand, Krysa, Sara Genn, Sean William Randall, Don Proch, Jay Dart, Brandy Masch and Sara Gee Miller.
Finding meaning in the lyrics
In an interview with CBC’s Q show, Dart recalls how the Hip’s “Fully Completely” album came out on his 14th birthday. His piece is inspired by “Looking for a Place to Happen” from that album.
“It wasn’t just one lyric, it was all the lyrics,” Dart told Q’s Tom Power. The lyrics matched perfectly with a series of drawings he’s been working on for a decade, in which his “alter ego, Jiggs,” is traveling across the country. “There’s a lot of Canadiana in my drawings, loggers and people making their way in the wilderness as you’d see in 19th century photos.”
For Annyen Lam, a first-generation Canadian, her introduction to the Hip was hearing “Ahead by a Century” in a store. That was a big part of her introduction to Western music as well. “Because of the popularity of the song, it sort of became emblematic of the fact that I was here in Canada, a pin on the map.” Her piece is inspired by a different song, “At Transformation” from “Now for Plan A.” To her, it’s a song that “felt like it was coming from a place of wanting to be of support and care to someone else but still kind of grasping, feeling lost and not really having the emotional tools to address what they wanted to address.”
Editor’s note: The article has been updated to reflect the new closing date.