Ted Karkut Logo


Working with plant material is an experience that extends even to the sense of smell. The smells of dried leaves, stems, petals, etc. in their storage boxes hit you with remembered memories.

One can be led astray by the colours and forms of the various plants. It seems that it would be enough just to photograph this raw material without having to manipulate it into some final cognized work and not theorize that initial spontaneity out of it. And that is one of the frustrations of working with chlorophyll-based organic matter. It changes quickly and it’s pretty well impossible to preserve this initial kick.

The initial kick is often in the gathering, or even the scouting stage, as you size up what looks like to be a particularly satisfying crop. Recent work has become more sculptural and the black locust has become a personal favourite. It’s a difficult plant to locate in Toronto. Gathering its leaves can be a painful undertaking and its sharp spikes leave reminders, especially behind the fingernails. (though this task pales to Wolfgang Laib’s gathering of tiny pollen for his large floor pieces - now that’s discipline). These particular stems looks especially beautiful drying in string-tied bundles (three pieces in this show are black locust-based).

Spontaneity and accident (intuition) are both important aspects of my work procedure. Though I know and like some of the work of certain well-known contemporaries the jolt of recognition and spiritual affinity I feel most with is the non-leaf work of Martin Puryear, a wood sculptor. What I feel drawn to in his work is the poetry and the mysterious allusions. This to me is what leaf work should be, not just something that “illustrates” the passage of time, colour, or some other natural process. And that is a danger one can easily fall into because the innate beauty of the materials one works with can make you lazy and you could go on creating perfectly aesthetic constructions that have no poetic or transcendent resonance. This lack of poetry, and the supremacy of good design, has led someone like Richard Long to call certain of his successful contemporaries “second generation decorators”. I can attest that this can indeed become a working hazard.

Environmental messaging is of little or no interest to me and in that sense it’s a misnomer to call this work environmental (at least in the sociopolitical sense). Plant material happens to be what I’m working with and I have no arguments about technology, pollution, the truth of nature (at least as far as the art is concerned). I’m not even interested in the time aspect of the plant material, even though that is part of working with plant matter. I like working with plant matter, I like its fragility, its impermanence.

Ideally, what I would like to accomplish is to manipulate it so that it isn’t like plant matter in its original form (and meaning) anymore but a new ”ground” for contemplation, detachment and elegant thought.

Ted Karkut .
Artist's Statement . Propeller 2007


66 cm x 50 cm
leaves, charcoal, prismacolor, acrylic on paper


Because It's There

112 cm x 66 cm
cherry leaves on gessoed paper


Open Faced

170 cm x 40 cm approx.
clay, black locust stems, acrylic


A Thorny Subject

40.5 cm x 51 cm x 37 cm approx.
black locust stems, string, clay, acrylic


Shadow Piece

dimensions variable
clay, maple leaves


Sectio Aurea

61 cm x 45 cm
petals helianthus tuberosa, pencil, acrylic


Sectio Aurea (side view)

61 cm x 45 cm
petals helianthus tuberosa, pencil, acrylic



45 cm x 40 cm
maple leaves


Leaf Piece

40 cm x 44.5 cm each
gingko, maple stems, thread



willow leaves on paper frame



(coll. Faculty of Environmental Studies, York Univ.)
willow leaves on paper frame


Helen's Exile

76 cm x 83 cm
oil on canvas, leaves


Always Known in the Mind

44 cm x 42 cm
charcoal, ballpoint pen on paper


Midnight by the Well and Sky 1

106 cm x 93 cm
charcoal, ballpoint pen on paper


Midnight by the Well and Sky 2

111 cm x 93 cm
charcoal, ballpoint pen on paper



19 cm x 16 cm
charcoal, ballpoint pen on paper


Japanese Rain

90 cm x 50 cm
ballpoint pen, charcoal on paper


Meta Blue

50 cm x 40 cm
colour photographs, folded exposed photo paper


High Park Early Snow

49 cm x 19 cm
b&w photographs, coloured pencil


Windy Day Mandala

106 cm x 93 cm
maple leaves, photocopies of coloured photograph


105° W 18° N

70 cm x 50 cm
charcoal, acrylic, ballpoint pen, flamboyant tree pod



48 cm x 48 cm
black locust stems, acrylic, string


Sumer Is Icumen In

76 cm x 101 cm
coloured pencil, gesso, acrylic


Spencer Room, University of Western Ontario, London 1979
Hamilton Artist’s Co-op, Hamilton 1979

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto 1980

The Funnel, Toronto 1983

Wormwood’s Monkey Dog Cinema Photo Gallery, Halifax 1984
Zacks Gallery, York University, Toronto (group) 1984

Alternative Grounds, Toronto 1998

Broken Fence Society, Polson Pier Gallery, Toronto (group) 1999
Academy of Spherical Arts, Toronto 1999

Ashton/Evicta Gallery, Toronto (three man) 2000
Visual Arts Centre of Clarington, Bowmanville (group) 2000

Broken Fence Society, Acadia Gallery, Toronto (group/award) 2001
Stage Gallery, New York (group) 2001
Thames Art Gallery, Chatham (group) 2001

Broken Fence Society, Acadia Gallery, Toronto (group/award) 2002
Festival of Flight, Ridgetown, Ontario (group) 2002
Grimsby Public Art Gallery, Grimsby (group - jurors first prize) 2002
Studio Below, Toronto (group) 2002

Vision: Earthworks, Grimsby Public Art Gallery, Grimsby (fundraising) 2003
Broken Fence Society, Broken Fence Gallery, Toronto (group) 2003
Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Toronto (group) 2003

Grimsby Public Art Gallery, Grimsby (group) 2004
Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Toronto (group) 2004

Academy of Spherical Arts, Toronto 2005
Grimsby Art Gallery, Grimsby (fundraising) 2005
Eco Art and Media, York University, Toronto (group/purchase award) 2005
Faculty of Environmental Arts, York University, Toronto (group) 2005

Drawing 2006, John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto (group) 2006
City Hall Library, Toronto Public Library, Toronto 2006
Oakwood Arts Centre, Toronto 2006

In Flight, Destination West Gallery, Toronto Pearson International Airport (group) 2007
Urban Gleaning (with Fran Freeman and Stan Krzyzanowski), Propeller Centre, Toronto 2007
Nature Scopes, National Museum, Gongju, South Korea (group) 2007
Nature Scopes, Gallery Space Beam, Incheon, South Korea (group) 2007
Nature Scopes, Gallery Art Space C, Cheju Island, South Korea (group) 2007

Environs, Scarborough Arts Council, Toronto (group) 2008

RENGA: Japanese Influences, Global Practices, Living Arts Centre, Mississauga (group) 2010

Whirligigs Show, you me gallery, Hamilton (group) 2011

Eight Haiku, Gallery 50, Toronto 2015


Plant materials, clay, paper, acrylic, charcoal, ballpoint pen, photographic paper, pencil, light

For more information on the artist, email k.ted@excite.com.