Matthew Varey, Artist – Toronto

Matthew Varey has exhibited in more than fifty solo and one hundred group exhibitions. He is the founder of Etobicoke School of the Arts’ Contemporary Art Department, the world’s leading high school art program. His current exhibition System One is at United Contemporary in Toronto until December 16.

1. Contemporary physics (without the math)

If we taught this stuff in schools, we would save billions of hours of not terribly effective focus and provide the ability to come to terms with our actual problems. In The Order of TimeSeven Brief Lessons on Physics, and Reality is Not What It Seems, Italian quantum gravity physicist Carlo Rovelli writes as beautifully as any of our literary greats, while filling us in on what we actually need to know to understand ourselves and what we mean by purpose. Information about how the universe may actually work within prose as poetic as Anne Michael’s Fugitive Pieces. The best of all worlds. Imagine a future in which this is the common knowledge.

2. Queen Street in Parkdale

Mostly really the gaping hole of the closed Designer Fabrics. Walking east on the south side of Queen one night this past summer with friend and local resident Nick Morgan, we discussed the value of the land under the best fabric store in town. We looked across to see giant orange signs taped to the windows. Game over. I continue to have conversations with devastated Torontonians who depended on, loved, and enjoyed the community that was Designer Fabrics. We were part of that larger family Sheldon and his staff provided. Designer Fabrics and Baccus Roti. What will we do? Hold on, Home Hardware, hold on.

3. Queen Street near Bathurst

Malabrigo yarns via Romni Wools

Please don’t leave us, Romni Wools. We lost Designer Fabrics. We need you to stay. If you have not visited this center of the world for knitting and wool, I recommend a trip to the Queen West location. No one will stop you from massaging the cashmere and alpaca. The thick thin width and natural dies of the now discontinued Malabrigo Gruesa were my favorite, but their Rasta is sensational. Small batch hand-died fantasies of glorious flexible colour.

4. Steve1989

I will recommend the French RCIR Ostrich and Cranberry Sauce as an introduction to my late-night companion: YouTuber Steve1989. Nothing like getting ready for bed while listening to Steve discuss the finer points of Meals: Ready to Eat from around the world and throughout time. I have witnessed him cooking and eating meat from 1891 Boer War rations, but the 2015 French ration in the linked video provides a different sense of what is possible in our emergency rations. He has a developed palette, a love of fine instant coffee, and the ability to tangibly describe what he eats. Nice.

5. How to Build A House & ESACA

I began with what I wish we knew, and end with a book full of things that I once knew but forgot, and now remember again, thanks to How to Build a House by Luca Soldovieri. This is remarkable reading for anyone with children or parents. This book is prose poetry, honest, and full of the beauty we are born with. It is a product of the most beautiful thing I have experienced: the Contemporary Art Department at Etobicoke School of the Arts. The great misconception about that place is that we focus on making art. How to Build a House was published earlier this year by Hektor Projects and is available at Type Books on Queens Street (another obsession).