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Back to the Grimoire: The Emerging Artists of the Occult

Curated by Lex Barrie

February 14 – March 3, 2024
Opening Reception: Thursday, Feb. 15, 5 – 9 pm
Curator & Artist Talks: March 3, 2 pm

“Back to the Grimoire” at Propeller Art Gallery – ARTORONTO by Tiffany Duong February 29th

What if someone told you that your thoughts were wrong? Or that your entire way of life needed to be shielded, set aside for another more accepted perspective? 

That is the history of the occult. Coming from the Latin term “occultare”, meaning secret or hidden, occultism encompasses variations of spiritual and supernatural belief systems.  Practices in the occult were believed to be centered around an evil manipulation of natural laws for personal or otherworldly benefits. Because of these claims, religions often outcasted associated practices –  Indonesian spiritualism, Wicca, Norse mythology, Tibetan folklore, Japanese folklore, etc. Outside of monotheistic practices, occultism became associated with demonic imagery, deviousness, gruesome and horrific acts. And all those who followed their practices were forced to convert or be removed from society. 

Back to the Grimoire: The Emerging Artists of the Occult is an exhibition in the telling of age-old occultist history from around the globe, revealing the various cultural and artistic inspirations that help make up contemporary practices. Grimoires are traditionally old leather-bound books, of which spells and spiritual teachings can be recorded. They are the records of inspirations and learnings, passed down from generations. Within these books, keys are held to remind us of the histories that society tried to hide. As artists, we pursue knowledge, fact, fiction and personal expressions in history, commonly defined as “other” – some rooted in the theology of feminism, individuality and deconstructing the so-called standards of conformity within societal borders. 

The 26 artists in Back to the Grimoire: The Emerging Artists of the Occult all share the dictum of pursuing those subjects openly across various cultural and spiritual practices, using imagery that was once shielded from public view.

When we seek the truth in the conventional, a narrative long overtold appears. Back to the Grimoire encourages the telling of the unconventional and the perspectives of the emerging artists of today. 

We’ve heard the old stories – now it’s time to make our own and start anew. These are our inspirations, our stories – these are our Grimoires.
~ Lex Barrie

Curator Lex Barrie:

Lex Barrie (they/them) is an emerging curator, art critic and multidisciplinary artist. As a queer eclectic wiccan, Lex uses unconventional subject matter to address societal and personal conflicts within their artistic and curatorial practice. They are an honors graduate of the Criticism and Curatorial Practice (CRCP) program at OCAD University.

As a critic, Lex has been published in art magazines, gallery blogs and academic journals. Lex’s written works have been featured by events and institutions across Toronto including Nuit Blanche, Art Toronto and The Artist Project, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and several artist-run centers, such as Propeller Art Gallery. Since 2022, they have curated and/or co-curated group exhibitions including a virtual exhibition in collaboration with the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA), the Archives of Ontario and OCAD University, and another with the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair (TOAF), showcased at Propeller Art Gallery in early 2023. These exhibits demonstrate themes from the philosophy of beauty, human connection to nature and visual reflections of mental illness.

Special thanks to our community partners, donors, and supporters. 

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