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  • Writer's pictureAdhemar Altieri

Life around the lake: An artistic take on Canadiana

Willy Johnson at work in Toronto


Published originally on December 15, 2017, on LinkedIn and Canadian outlets.

Toronto artist brings his life experiences growing up around a lake

to his first solo showing, a one-day exhibit at the Provo Foodbar

Toronto, December 15, 2017 – How much more Canadian does it get than a lake? One of this country’s most prominent features is also at the heart of “Lake World”, a series of oil paintings by Willy Johnson exploring a lifetime around Jack Lake, in the Kawarthas Region of Ontario.

Produced over the past two years, the paintings “celebrate the power of life and its mysteries, with insights that explore lake scenes and situations” according to Johnson. There’s a mystical flavour as well, or what he describes as inspiration from the coming together of science and spirituality.

The source of the imagery, Jack Lake, was named after its former owner, a native Canadian known to locals as Handsome Jack. In the early 1900s, Jack Lake became larger when a dam was built to benefit the logging industry, long gone from the region. Johnson witnessed and then interpreted what he saw on the canvas, his own impressions of a more contemporary Jack Lake, now a reservoir for the Trent-Severn Waterway.

In all, 28 paintings will be on show throughout the Provo Foodbar on Dundas St. West, a location sprinkled with art shops and galleries, most prominently the Art Gallery of Ontario across the street. The Provo already bears Johnson’s distinctive style in three “linear flow” murals, one of them a 52-foot rendition of six iconic Toronto buildings. There is a sequence behind the bar with the Bloor Viaduct as the centerpiece, and another mural outside the eatery, framing the main entrance.

Carving a totem pole: six years in the making.

An added attraction during the showing will be a totem pole carved by Johnson which took more than six years to complete. The pole draws on his experiences around Jack Lake and brings together many of his interpretations of lake life. Work on the totem pole was completed lakeside in the family cottage and at his workshop in Scarborough.

Johnson’s work as a conceptual artist and graphic designer has also been featured in The Globe and Mail and the ABC television show Shadow Hunters. And he has left his mark abroad, with an acrylic painting produced in 2014 in São Paulo, Brazil. The work is on permanent exhibit at the Jesus, Joseph and Mary Maternity in Guarulhos, a suburb of São Paulo.


Lake World

A series of oil paintings by Willy Johnson

Exhibit, sales and meet the artist: December 17, Noon to 9 pm

PROVO Foodbar – 308, Dundas St. West, Toronto


Willy Johnson was born in Toronto and grew up between the city lights and nature, particularly the family cottage on the edge of Jack Lake, in the Kawarthas. Even in the city, his preference always took him to extended bike rides and hiking along Lake Ontario or inner city wooded areas. He began to develop his artistic vein in high school and went on to graduate from the Wexford School for the Arts, where he captured a drawing and painting award in 2010. He holds a BA in Illustration from OCAD University, completed in 2014. His work was first featured in a duo exhibition with Morgan Booth at Toronto’s 561 Studio in 2011. He produced a nude self-portrait for an OCAD University Figure Show in 2013 and completed a spiritualist-inspired acrylic painting for a maternity hospital in Brazil in 2014. His distinctive murals featuring Toronto landmarks were completed in 2015 and 2017 and are on permanent exhibit at the Provo Foodbar, in the heart of Toronto’s arts district. He has also completed projects for The Globe and Mail, the ABC network television show Shadow Hunters and as a designer for Canadian wearable computing pioneer Steve Mann.


*ADHEMAR ALTIERI é jornalista com passagens pelo Grupo Estado (Rádio Eldorado), Redes Globo e SBT no Brasil, redes CTV e CBC no Canadá, CBS News dos Estados Unidos e BBC de Londres. Desde 2003 se dedica à comunicação corporativa, como diretor da UNICA, a União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar, do Instituto de Hospitalidade e da Amcham, a Câmara Americana de Comércio para o Brasil. É sócio e diretor executivo da MediaLink Comunicação Corporativa.

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