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Get to know Esther Doyeon Kim and Steven Restagno

February 3, 2022

Get to know Esther Doyeon Kim and Steven Restagno
2021 Award Recipients for Painting

The two artists we are introducing today celebrate the art of painting in ways that fill you up with that rush of awe, fascination and energy one gets when seeing amazing art! 

Esther Kim’s humorous and vivid paintings brought her TOAF’s coveted Best of Painting award of $2,000. Our thanks to Brett Ledger and Patricia Olasker for their generosity and continued support of this award. 

You may also remember Steven Restagno, the recipient of the Best of Student Award in 2019. His masterful and breathtaking portraits earned him the Painting Honourable Mention this Summer - supported by Toronto’s beloved Gwartzman's Art Supplies

We invite you to dive a bit deeper into Esther and Steven’s work and find out what captured our judges’ attention. Enjoy! 

Some more upbeat TOAF updates: 60 Works / 60 Years is open to the public again as of February 9th at the Market Gallery. Plan your visit.

We have a new and exciting opportunity for past and current TOAF artists interested in creating temporary public artworks. Art Nest in partnership with ArtworxTO and supported by the Toronto Arts Council is seeking Proposals for TOAF61. 

Cheers to brighter days!


Esther Doyeon Kim - 2021 Best of Painting

"Esther’s work feels fresh, exciting and extremely contemporary. There are so many layers to Esther’s works, with the art historical references (Van Gogh, Matisse and Warhol), to the moments that clearly nod to our past year… Gucci hand sanitizer, Amazon packaging and face masks. There is a play and sense of humour but also a questioning about what it means to be in the world today. Her diverse range of paint applications and use of various methods from acrylic, oil, and marker also defy single categorization."

- Daniel Faria, Gallerist, Director of Daniel Faria Gallery and 2021 Judge of Best of Painting

Happy 2020Esther Doyeon Kim, 2020. Acrylic on Canvas. Still available at TOAF.ca

Esther Kim is a South Korean Canadian raised in Vancouver, currently based in Toronto. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU). Kim’s recent works scrutinize the idea of gratitude on mundanity, delivering a sense of picturesque happiness — a celebration of a tedious moment. She explores simplicity, flat forms, and animated colours to create expressive, whimsical and joyous moments.

A Joyful BathEsther Doyeon Kim, 2020. Mixed media on canvas (acrylic medium, acrylic, acrylic pen). Still available at TOAF.ca

"Winning the award Best of Painting in 2021 has encouraged my artistic pursuit, providing me with public recognition by sharing my work with the Toronto art community. The award is very meaningful financially and emotionally as it has strengthened my belief in myself as an artist. The award lightened my financial burden and allowed me to concentrate on my art practice more.

The extraordinary experience of TOAF has opened a creative outlet by interacting with diverse, talented artists. 2021 was a time of inspiration, connecting with new artists and collectors. I believe TOAF is an art fair for many emerging artists to cultivate the art culture and community of Toronto and share the passion of their love of art."

- Esther Doyeon Kim, on receiving the 2021 Best of Painting. The award is generously supported by Brett Ledger & Patricia Olasker.

View more of Esther's works


Steven Restagno - 2021 Honourable Mention Painting

Blindfold IIISteven Restagno, 2020, Oil on canvas.

"I was struck by how Steven pushed the traditional notion of portraiture into something distinctly his own. He has a very accomplished high-realist technique but the subject matter pushed the portraits into a personal, sensual space while still being tender."

- Daniel Faria, Gallerist, Director of Daniel Faria Gallery and 2021 Judge of Best of Painting

Steven Restagno is a multidisciplinary artist based in Waterloo, Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts from the the University of Waterloo. His practice is concerned with questions of male vulnerability and queerness. Stemming from a tradition of portrait painting, Steven is interested in the relationship between beauty, constructed image and identity.

Threadbare is an ongoing series of high realism oil paintings that reflect on queerness, masculinity, and identity.

Nature and Nurture (diptych)Steven Restagno, 2021, Oil on canvas.

"I was grateful to be able to participate in TOAF’s online exhibit during a time when many aspects of the art world had been put on hold due to the pandemic. Receiving Honourable Mention really helped me to further engage with the fair’s audience in an online space. The gift card to Gwartzman's Art Supplies was an added bonus!

I see TOAF as an invaluable platform for artists to engage with a large number of people, including collectors, curators and other artists. My favourite thing about TOAF is the diversity of its exhibitors, with artists making work in a wide range of mediums, coming from different stages in their careers and many different backgrounds."

- Steven Restagno, recipient of the 2021 Honourable Mention Painting, supported by Gwartzman's Art Supplies

View more of Steven's works


Continued Programming

Our exhibition, 60 Works/60 Years at Market Gallery will be re-opening for in-person viewing starting Wednesday, February 9, 2022 with updated hours.

Two of our special 60th Anniversary virtual exhibitions are still on view at TOAF.ca

Take a look at select TOAF60 Emerging Artists in BEING+. Keep an eye out on our Youtube channel for the recording of our recent art talk, hosted by curator Abisola Oni and featuring some of the exhibiting artists.

60 Over Sixty continues as a celebratory exhibition of the life-long dedication and creativity of senior artists, curated by Flavio Belli.

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