A gay bar may seem to some like an unlikely place to treat yourself to quality Canadian art, but that’s the case at Swizzle’s where Nova Scotia queer artist Danniel Oickle is showcasing his work.
Oickle first became interested in art as a youth on the East Coast, where he studied under well-known artist Francis Israel.
“He is very conscientious, focussed and gifted,” says Israel of her pupil. “He has a nice ability, and a great imagination. I knew from an early age that he had a lot of potential. I just think the world of him and wish him well.”
Isreal first taught Oickle the use of watercolours, ink and pencil, and he went on to place second at the Annapolis Valley Art Festival in the pencil and sketches category.
“Though I was young, I found her to be an inspiration and a true artist of her time,” says Oickle of his mentor, Israel.
When Oickle moved to Ottawa at the age of 14 he took classes at Sir Wilfrid Laurier and learned oil, oil pastel, and acrylic. It was the second time he’d moved here; the first was as a five-year-old coming from Cyprus.
“The second time, moving back from Nova Scotia, was hardest because I was at the scary age 14, early teens. I was discovering my sexuality and learning how to hide it from people, yet express it in other ways,” remembers Oickle.
With a handful of school exhibits under his belt, Oickle made the move to Toronto, where he turned his creative focus to all ranges of art, including performing and photography.
He worked in the theatre as a director with ACCI theatre company, as a dancer at Wexford Ballet Company, and taught acting at the Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute. He landed leading roles in popular theatre productions of Hair and Tommy. It was then that his photography flourished and he began doing headshots and actor’s and model’s portfolios.
When Oickle moved back to the capital, the urge to paint came roaring back.
“I began drawing mostly in my notebooks at university until people started buying pages from my notebooks,” he laughs. His buzz among students caught the eye of Swizzle’s employees, and he was offered his first solo show at the well-known queer hotspot, where he has now been the sole artist for close to three years.
His art caught the eye of a mayor’s office employee, and Oickle was chosen as one of the 150 artists to paint a five-foot wooden tulip at last year’s tulip festival.
Oickle’s choice of art reflects his queer pride.
“I painted ‘Adam And Steve And The Tree Of Knowledge’,” said Oickle. The tulip was a portrait of two men, and it garnered a lot of attention and became known as the Gay Tulip.
Oickle says his sexuality can’t help but come out in his art. Sex plays a major role in his art.
“My art is like my hand; it is part of me,” he says. I cannot separate any part of myself from it and the more I create, the more intimate I get with my art. I find I often deal primarily with issues of sexuality. My own sexuality does affect the way I paint and draw; no matter what you paint, you always paint yourself.”
One of Oickle most talked-about pieces, titled “Coupling”, shows two figures engaged in sex. While Oickle says most viewers see a man and a woman in his piece, in reality the figures are two men.
“I feel that both sexes are part of each other and I like to leave my images open to interpretation while holding my own view of them. I try to present homosexuality in a natural way. I don’t create pornographic images, but very innocent images of sexuality and the erotic. People often find my art erotic without the need for representing sexual acts.”
Oickle’s art is currently on display indefinitely at Swizzle’s bar, 246 Queen S.