Matador, 8″x10″, acrylic on canvas, 2015. Â© Rob Elliott/Swizzle Studio
When I ran Swizzle Gallery on College Street in the early 2000s, I always took visiting artists to the Matador. The late-night speakeasy had a big dance floor and good country bands and felt like a secret (even if everyone including the cops knew about it).
I’ve done several drawings and paintings of the Matador’s sign over the years. I’ve heard the strange sign came second hand from a bowling alley and was inverted, but like most stories about the Matador, I can’t confirm this one.
(L) Matador, 8″x11″, monoprint and coloured ink, 2002. (R) Matador, 5″x7″, acrylic on canvas board, 2001. Â©Rob Elliott/Swizzle Studio
I was recently commissioned to do a new painting of the sign by someone who regretted not buying one of my earlier paintings. The result, based on some new photos I shot on a freezing cold night in November, is at the top of this post.
Matador sign, 2014. Â©Rob Elliott Swizzle Studio
This painting has me inspired to paint more music venue signs, maybe large. The El Mocambo and Silver Dollar are obvious candidates, but I might also do some less-remembered signs from Toronto and my hometown Vancouver.
Swizzle Gallery, dressed for Savage City exhibition, Fall 2000. Tiki mugs by Matthew Zari(L) and Mark Bello and Neil Lesneski(R).
It’s been ten years since Christine and I shuttered Swizzle Gallery. I celebrated my 36th birthday by closing the rollicking pop art space we had curated for two years. It was bittersweet, so much so I even made a mix CD (remember those? They were considered an astringent replacement for mixtapes, before we embraced the true sterility of playlists) and hosted a sort of wake/birthday party.
Swizzle had been a fun space to run. Having made a big-bum move to Toronto from Vancouver in the fall of 1999, we took inspiration from Mark Atomos Pilon‘s Moon Base and rented a storefront with an apartment in the back. It was a better way to introduce my work to Toronto than lugging a portfolio around to galleries, and we met a ton of great folks at receptions who make up the bulk of our social circle today.
Being an impresario is in my blood, but so is sharing the thrill of art. I miss introducing artists I love to an enthusiastic audience. Take a look at the range of work we ran through Swizzle over two years, there’s a lot of great work there!
Moving to Kincardine for the next seven years turned out to be a good decision – I had the time and space to really work and my art practice took off in all sorts of wild new directions. Swizzle Gallery became Swizzle Studio and I continued to show my work in other venues.
I had considerably more space to work in Kincardine.
What became of the gallery space? 1162 College Street spent several years as an never-open tea shop and then a suspiciously-homely architect firm, most likely fronts for some unsavoury money-laundering. The space has now been turned into the office of musician-turned-Member of Parliament Andrew Cash, which is kind of cool.