CATCH THE WORK OF THIS COPPER ARTIST AT THE TORONTO OUTDOOR ART EXHIBITION
Story by Erin Lucuik
Images provided by Adam Colangelo
For someone who insists he found art purely by chance, artist Adam Colangelo’s copper masterpieces make you wonder why he would consider doing anything else.
From his studio at N/A collective in Toronto’s west end, Colangelo explains that his initial introduction to copper wasn’t in an artistic context. “I spent hours working on motorcycles in my grandfather’s garage and it was there that I found my first piece of copper.” In the experiments that followed, Colangelo found promise in a medium that proved to be extremely versatile: by applying heat and chemicals to the copper, he could produce any colour in the rainbow.
As Colangelo wields a blowtorch to demonstrate one of the techniques he uses to treat copper, it’s clear that he’s a hands-on kind of guy. “My work requires a significant amount of physical labour,“ he notes. “But that’s one part of my job that I really enjoy.” With the same precision and patience I imagine he used when working on motorcycles, he heats the copper until it slowly starts to turn colour. Several seconds tick by before the copper turns shades of orange and then deep red and sienna. Although the results from his blowtorch work are fairly immediate, the chemical treatments he uses take days. Pointing to a shelf with stacks of copper sheets sandwiched between papers he explains, “After applying a chemical treatment, the copper needs to sit for days, sometimes weeks.” While this process takes time, it’s time well spent. He pulls back the paper from one sheet to reveal a beautiful turquoise patina and behind another lays a crackle finish.
After several years of trial and error, it seems like Colangelo has perfected his technique, but he says the experiments continue on a daily basis. “I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself and my practice.” Recently Colangelo has been experimenting with scale. With his largest piece to date measuring 72” x 108”, finishing his work becomes more of a challenge. After arranging his treated copper and gluing it on a wood panel, he applies either a shiny resin or a flat satin finish to seal the copper and stop the oxidization process. “On the bigger pieces pouring the resin is a bit trickier,“ he describes. “You’ve got to get it right on the first try, or the piece is ruined.” But as we stand in a studio filled with Colangelo’s resined commissions, it’s safe to assume he’s got nothing to worry about.
As the commissions continue to pour in, Colangelo is preparing to make the rounds on the art festival circuit. This summer you can find him at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition and the Queen West Art Crawl, and he’ll be at the One of Kind show come December. Colangelo looks forward to these shows each year, and for good reason. When he’s placed aside other artists, his work stands out. “There aren’t many copper artists at the festivals,” he notes. “I feel lucky that I can make my mark in this way. “ His geometric compositions speak to his understanding of the copper medium and his aesthetic sensibilities. It’s for these reasons that his work is at once unique and universally appealing.
With his career kicking into high gear it’s clear Colangelo is one to watch. But just as he happened into a career as an artist, he prefers to leave the future up to chance. He smiles as he says, “I always tell people to do what you love and I’m doing just that.“
Check out Colangelo’s work in booth 18 (near Queen St. W.) at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition from July 6-8.