“Opacity: Obscured Meaning’’ – a commentary on enslaved Africans in the Middle Passage


By Lincoln DePradine

Karen Carter

Jamaican-born Karen Carter, who grew up in Scarborough, has worked and volunteered in the arts and cultural industry for more than a quarter century.

Naturally, Carter knows good art. In that category, she includes Stanley Wany’s “Opacity: Obscured Meaning’’, which has been on exhibition at the Toronto gallery of the Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue (BAND).

“I think people should come visit. It’s an important show; not just for us – as communities from the Caribbean or from the African Diaspora or from the Continent – but for everybody,’’ Carter told The Caribbean Camera in an interview at the BAND gallery at 19 Brock Avenue.

Carter, a former executive director of Heritage Toronto, is a co-founder of BAND, a charitable organization with a vision of “connecting Black culture to communities to inspire, enlighten and educate, through the arts’’.

BAND’s focus is on “helping with the development of Black artists and cultural workers. And, the gallery component of that, is helping emerging artists show work professionally and having an accessible place for their work to be shared with the general public,’’ said Carter, who also is the director of the Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue.

“Opacity: Obscured Meaning’’ features 11 of Wany’s artwork. A multi-disciplinary artist, Wany holds a degree in arts and design.

Stanley Wany in discussion at the BAND gallery

Wany, who is pursuing a Master’s in fine and media arts at L’Université du Québec à Montréal, lives and works in Ottawa and in Montreal. He has exhibited across Canada, as well as in other countries such as the United States Australia, Finland, France and Portugal.

Wany uses drawing, painting, pen and ink, installation, experimental graphic novels, as well as digital collage, to explore issues such as identity, cultural myths and the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade.

“Opacity: Obscured Meaning’’, Wany’s first exhibition at the BAND gallery, is a commentary on the tumult and trauma experienced by Africans in the Middle Passage during slavery, as well as on the economics and harm of sugar production on plantations in the Caribbean.

“There are just aspects here that are his commentary or homage to big ideas, big thinkers, as well as substantial parts of our history,’’ said Carter. “It’s abstract. And, to some extent, the abstraction makes it more accessible, in that you can look at it and see different things.’’

The exhibits also come against the background of heightened conversations around race and identity that were sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020 in the United States.

“I think artists like Stanley Wany are important, in that they allow you to come to difficult conversations through accessible means. And as I said, because the work is abstract, it’s not necessarily clear what you’re looking at. But, you want to keep looking because every time you look at a piece, you see something different.’’

Stanley Wany’s art titled ‘Sugar Cane Field’

“Opacity: Obscured Meaning’’ opened June 16 and has included an “artist talk’’ – on Wany’s practice and abstract representation – between the artist and curator Raven Spiratos.

The exhibited works, which are available for purchase, will be on display until Sunday, July 17. Officials at BAND are urging members of the public to view it in person at the gallery or view it online at https://www.bandgallery.com

 “A lot of the names that he’s painting homages to, people know them. But to see a representation of the artist’s idea of who they are, you’re almost seeing their character more than you’re seeing their faces,’’ Carter commented, referencing Wany’s solo exhibition. “His work, I think, invites you in. It’s small, it’s in an intimate house; it’s not intimidating.’’

Carter admits to her delight at the exhibition. “I am very happy with the work. This work is definitely worthy of being a part of your collection in the summertime,’’ she said.

“We want people to come see the work. We want people to be members, we want people to buy art. We want people to collect art from Black artists.’’

While other businesses were forced to close during the COVID-19 pandemic, BAND was able to “survive the rough waters’’, said Carter, by utilizing an open space at the back of the gallery to bring visitors in by appointment, and combined it with virtual events that included art sales.

“We’re lucky. We have the benefit and the blessing of being in a space that allowed us to not have to cancel any shows; and, we also pivoted pretty quickly to doing things online,’’ said Carter.