Reflections: Verity Griscti

The homepage of circa 2005

Akimbo is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2024 with a monthly series that draws on our rich archive of clients, critics, and contributors to reflect on the accomplishments of the past and look toward future possibilities. This month’s installment features Akimbo’s first employee: Verity Griscti.

What are some of your professional highlights from the past twenty-five years?

Verity Griscti, flitting, 2019, acrylic paint on duralar polyester sheets

Twenty-five years ago, I was a student at OCAD studying printmaking, drawing, and creative writing. I knew visual work and communications were important to me, but I had no real goal beyond completing my BFA. After graduation, I made a website to show my artwork online because it seemed like a logical next step, and, by accident, I found I loved the design and technical challenges that came with making websites. A year or two later, I started working with Kim Fullerton at Akimbo, building their client emails and posting content on the site. I also started making websites as a freelancer. I’ve been working in digital product creation for fifteen years now. I won a Toronto Heritage award for my work designing the Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, and I’ve designed for artists, start-ups, and businesses large and small.

After enrolling in night school classes at Toronto Metropolitan University to formally study computation and coding, my art practice became concerned with computer algorithms and generative art-making processes. I started making analogue representations of well-known computer algorithms like Craig Reynolds’ Boids. I created a window installation called flitting for the Akin Vitrine Gallery that reproduced individual stills from Boids onto transparent sheets that were arranged in a column that the viewer could look down.

A progress shot of Connect the Dots

I also facilitated a weekend-long experiment at Maker Festival called Connect the Dots where visitors helped create a large-scale painting of a random walk. Throughout the festival, the chain of dots lengthened and changed direction, continuously altering the work. The final painting never had a central designer or maker, having been shaped by the crowd. By the end of the festival, over three hundred participants had contributed to the piece. The contributors subverted the rules early on, contributing individual drawings instead of solid dots, which was an interesting and completely unanticipated development.

How has your work changed over that time and what is your current artistic philosophy?

My design work has slowly broadened in scope and I’ve become more interested in strategy. I started as a web and content designer, and then moved into user experience design. I am becoming more interested in systems design and systems thinking so I think in flow charts more than wireframes these days.

Verity Griscti, Mob, 2003, silkscreen and acrylic on canvas

A recurring theme through my early work was the movement of crowds. My art practice is still preoccupied with movement, but my work has gotten a lot more abstract and is far more influenced by mathematical models than the way people flow through Union Station. Also, my art practice is now exclusively digital. This constraint is a pragmatic response to having two studio spaces turn into condos within four years. That said, restricting myself to one medium is pushing me to experiment more.

Describe any upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about.

I played guitar in high school, but it’s been sitting in a case under my bed, gathering dust for years. During the pandemic, I started playing regularly again, and I’ve been slowly designing an app meant to help intermediate-level musicians understand their fretboards and music theory. Progress has been slow because I’m learning too many things at once, but I’m hoping to get it out into the world early next year.

What is your vision for the future?

Verity Griscti, Elliptical Walk II, 2016, digital print (open edition)

Twenty-five years ago, I would have never predicted the significance digital media would play in my life, the type of images I’d be making, or the concerns I’d lay awake at night thinking about, so I get nervous when people ask me about visions or plans. Beyond finishing my music learning app, I suspect I’ll dedicate the next few years to exploring how sound and images work together. I have no clue what that work will look like, but it’s a rabbit hole I’m eager to fall down.