Akasha Art Projects: The Importance of Framing

By: Safa Zaki

Which came first, the photograph or the frame?

While the causality dilemma isn’t exactly the point here, the fact that photography and framing are not mutually exclusive is.

No one knows this better than Sonja Scharf and Kelly Kyle, the owners of Akasha Art Projects, a true Toronto gem nested atop street-level shops (plug: Dudley’s Hardware) and eateries in the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village.

Scharf and Kyle are both trained as contemporary fine art photographers, and Kyle is even a graduate of the International Picture Framers School (yes - there is an International Picture Framers School) in Kingston, Ontario.

Kelly Kyle (left) and Sonja Scharf. Photo courtesy of Akasha Art Projects. 

Kelly Kyle (left) and Sonja Scharf. Photo courtesy of Akasha Art Projects. 

If there is one thing that these women know, it’s photography. During a conversation in their elegant gallery space, which opened in 2010, Sonja explained, "In order to really promote the work in the gallery and in order to really speak to it, we speak to what we know, and that’s photography."

That’s likely why they’ve been able to feature the work of talented artists like Sean Galbraith, whose series of photographs from various abandoned institutions were shown in an exhibition called Institutions at Akasha from Sept 6 – Oct 4, 2014.

Yet the gallery and respective sales are only one part of Akasha’s business. Scharf and Kelly also offer an archival-level framing service, which uses the same pH-neutral materials that museums do to perfectly preserve paintings and photographs (read: no acid allowed).

When asked what their biggest pet peeve was with art and frames, Kyle didn’t hesitate: “My biggest pet peeve with any art is over framing. Meaning that the subject matter  has been completely  overlooked by the person  who is framing  it for you. Framing can make or break your art. It can actually affect your sales, in making it, or breaking it. I’ve seen work and talked to people who wonder why their art isn’t selling and they’ve gotten a frame at a garage sale and just tried to make their art fit into it.”

But that doesn’t mean artists, or consumers, have to spend a fortune on framing. Sonja and Kelly are the first to say, “If you can’t afford to present your art it in the way that you like, hang it up with clips. You’re better to just have more integrity, and say, ‘well this my work’, then go get a handful frames that don’t fit, with mattes that are disproportionate to your square and rectangle, and then wonder why aesthetically the vibe isn’t jiving.”

It’s fitting that Sonja and Kelly chose an old Sanskrit word, Akasha, which loosely translated means to shine light on, as the name for their gallery. Sonja explained that, “It also means to take the unmanifest world into the manifest. Which, really, is art when you think about it: it’s all in the artists head until it becomes manifest.” 

Akasha Art Projects is located at 511 Church Street in Toronto. 

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