"The Practical Powers
of Diverse Surroundings"
Text by Emily Harding
With its 6.3 million inhabitants in its core and surrounding area, Canada’s largest city is also the world’s most diverse. Shiny new condos, picturesque Victorian townhouses,1970s brown brick and concrete monoliths, low-rises, strip malls, parks and greenery, streetcars and endless construction, Toronto is a city of contradictions, cobbled together over time, built to fit the needs of its varied residents.
Toronto held a particular interest for American-Canadian journalist, author, theorist, activist, and influencer of urban studies, economics and sociology, Jane Jacobs. In her seminal book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she spoke on the importance of crowded sidewalks, of the division of public and private, and the particular and peculiar nature of the city:
“[Cities] are not like suburbs, only denser. They differ from towns and suburbs in basic ways, and one of these is that cities are, by definition, full of strangers…in real life only diverse surroundings have the practical power of inducing a natural, continuing flow of life and use.”
These qualities are captured by Toronto-based painter, Jennifer Crawley, as she soaks up the unique attributes and nuances of the Canadian metropolis. It is this diversity of culture, of architecture, and of neighbourhoods, that makes Toronto special, and what makes cities in general so intriguing. Painted just as the worst phases of the pandemic were easing, with people finally returning to public spaces, Crawley has created a contemporary record of Toronto life.
But these Toronto paintings are an extension of her fascination with cities, which stemmed from her travels, as she explored and contrasted different global hubs. Also included in the show are paintings from Montreal, Camaguey (Cuba), and Dubai, (created in 2010 and 2015 respectively), which complement her hometown homages.
About the Artist
Jennifer Crawley was born in Victoria B.C. and was drawn to the arts as a young child. She attended the Victoria College of Art when she was 11 years old for a summer, and later as an adult, enrolled in figurative drawing classes while travelling in Cuba, though has had no additional formal training.
Crawley started painting seriously when she was 19 years old and has not stopped. Through hundreds of commissions, she has refined her skills as a realist painter, working with photography references and oil paint. Through this time, she has also created a several collections: The New Orleans Collection, The Bruce County collection, The Cuban Collection, and, most recently, the Toronto Collection.
Crawley primarily enjoys painting figurative cityscapes, capturing the movement and energy cities imbue through the lens of its inhabitants. Although several of her pieces employ black and white oil paint, she has been recently incorporating more colour, exploring new palettes for future projects.