Red Canoe, 2015 48” x 48” acrylic on canvas.
This piece juxtaposes traditional Canadian content with a modern graphic treatment. The on-going series repeats a formal foreground composition, and by utilizing hundreds of uniquely mixed hues, explores dynamic colour relationships in the receding background.
Loon, 2016 48” x 48” acrylic on canvas.
This series utilizes the same techniques explored in the Red Canoe. The central image however is expressed uniquely each time. The Loon is based on the image designed by Robert-Ralph Carmichael which is found on the Canadian one dollar “loonie” coin.
Fine Art and Commercial Art Career
Swinghammer started exhibiting watercolour paintings at a small gallery in Niagara Falls when he was 15. After a few group and solo shows in the region, he joined the Niagara Artists Centre in St. Catharines, which was part of the Association of National Non Profit Artist-run Centres. From selling his paintings he paid his way through The Ontario College of Art for two years, studying diverse media such as egg tempra, animation, and plastics.
Swinghammer with his painting “Art”, exhibited at Artspace in Peterborough, 1985
After moving to Toronto permanently in 1984, Kurt started designing album covers, posters, and t-shirts for local musicians and cultural institutions. His colourful “neo primitive” graphic work became associated with the vibrant Queen West scene. The jazz-rap band The Shuffle Demons commissioned a hand painted wardrobe and had Kurt art directed their video Out Of My House Roach. This led to art directing numerous videos for artists such as Maestro Fresh Wes’s Let Your Backbone Slide, winner of the Juno Video Of The Year Award, and Drop The Needle, which won the Much Music Best Video Award in 1988. The success of these early Canadian rap videos created a “street graffiti artist” identity that opened up opportunities for Kurt to art direct TV commercials for such products as Post Honeycomb and Fruity Pebbles.
Still from Let Your backbone Slide by Maestro Fresh Wes, 1987. Directed by Joel Goldberg, set design by Swinghammer
Kurt’s work also appeared as murals in Toronto dance clubs such as The Dance Cave, Lee’s Palace, and Nuts ‘n Bolts. He illustrated the campus radio station CKLN fundraising T-shirt for 5 years in a row and designed many of their posters in this period. Other projects of note were posters, shopping bag design, and in-store font for Sam The Record Man chain, the Canada Booth for the New Music Seminar in NY, the CASBY Award logo for CFNY, a logo for CBC’s The Entertainers, promotional material for the Music Gallery, The Art Gallery Of Ontario, and Environment Canada, “talking book” covers for Coach House Press, statio ID animations for MuchMUSIC, in-store 3-D signage for HMV, the Jell-O Pudding Shaker Cup, the children’s illustrated book My Stompin Grounds – The Songs Of Stompin’ Tom Connors, and the Yuk Yuks board game.
Illustration for Sam The Record Man, 1988 used as print ad and T-shirt design
In 1987 The Canada Council Art Bank purchased the large-scale painting titled King And Jarvis (1986, 117cm x 274cm, mixed media on paper) . It is in the permanent collection in Ottawa. The painting depicts the interior and view from Swinghammer’s studio in Toronto where he lived and worked from 1984 to 1991.
Musicians and bands that have hired Kurt for his graphic illustrations include Barenaked Ladies, Don Ross, Molly Johnson, Jane Siberry, Suzie Vinnick, David Wilcox, The Supers, Mo, Sho and the Monkey Bunch, and African Guitar Summit.
12:34 by Don Ross. Swinghammer CD cover design 2014
Kurt was honoured to design campaign material for Member of Parliament Andrew Cash, Mayor of Toronto Barbara Hall, and leader of the NDP, the late Jack Layton.
Postcard illustration for Jack Layton and Olivia Chow, 2006
By the 1990’s Kurt creative energies were completely focused on these promotional and commercially oriented projects, along with scoring music for film and TV. In 2006 he returned to painting personal imagery and created a body of work for a solo show at the Queen Street West design space Inside Modern Living. He is currently fully engaged again in painting.