Axe Head is a program of exchanges and exhibitions between Basque and Canadian artists and art institutions.

Toronto artist Jim Verburg will exhibit his work at Bilbao Arte, a art production centre in Bilbao. Concurrently Mercer Union, an artist-run centre in Toronto, will feature an artwork by the Spanish artist Taxio Ardanaz.

Taxio Ardanaz

Nerve (2015), Acrylic on paper, 42 x 29,7 cm

The physicality of Taxio Ardanaz’s artworks is felt in the body. His paintings and sculptures confront the spectator formally, taking solid and uncomfortable counterpoints in space. The notion of monument founds his practice, and it is evident from the architecture of his sculptures through to the rough textures of his paintings. The physical is palpable and, through the sensation of touch, his artworks enable us to feel the weight of memory and how it changes and reforms in its repetition. Memory reminds us of the pressure of ideologies that adapt over time, through the beliefs of every person. However, despite the psychological load of every history, in the artworks of Taxio we also find a liberating faith in the unfinished, and the possibility of change that the future promises.

The images that Taxio uses as references in his paintings are chosen, though not limited. They usually represent bodies, landscapes or culture in and of itself, and they are normally exhibited in group compositions or in layers. On this occasion, the present image is abstract, offering liberty for its significance. We see a cascade of blue energy combed over a dark background, with the last light of the day hanging above, burning as sparks dance around. The light seems internal, powered from within, but it’s flow is threatened by the darkness. It’s torcid movement demonstrates a constant struggle, negating any final position.

Taxio Ardanaz was born in Pamplona in 1978 and currently lives and works in Bilbao. He received his Fine Arts degree from the University of the Basque Country in 2004. Since then he has participated in several workshops and courses with Miroslaw Balka, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Peio Aguirre, and Asier Mendizabal, amongst others, and has received residency grants in MA Studio (Beijing, China), Oficina de Arte (Mexico City), and BilbaoArte (Bilbao, Spain). He has held solo exhibitions at various places, including the Ateneo Español de México (México City) and Galería Raquel Ponce (Madrid, Spain), and the highlight group exhibition Entornos Próximos at Artium (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain). This is his first exhibition in Canada.

Jim Verburg

Untitled (2013), Risograph colour print on paper (ed. ⅜), 28 x 35.5 cm

The circle is one of the earliest shapes known to Humankind. Our pre-historic ancestors, of course, looked at the sky and saw two - the sun and moon. Of all the basic shapes, the circle became the most-weighted with symbolic meaning as millennia passed. It is difficult to look at a circle and not think about such concepts as wholeness, perfection, infinity, unity, protection and “the circle of life”.

Toronto-based Jim Verburg’s series of prints using single and interlocking circles feels straightforward, but, despite the shapes’ visual buoyancy, they become freighted with all of these meanings. The results of Verburg’s multidisciplinary practice often feel spiritual – not necessarily in a religious sense, but in a way that speaks to how we are all connected in intangible ways. In previous, larger installations of work, Verburg combined photo-based representational images (landscapes, figures) with abstractions, creating visual topographies that register as emotional narratives rather than literal ones. His installations are like lyrical puzzles in which we are invited to make our own connections between the pieces.

As well as VOLTA New York, Verburg’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at Access Gallery (Vancouver), Luciana Caravello Arte Contemporaneous (Rio de Janeiro), Art Basel Miami (Art Metropole, Toronto), The Power Plant (Toronto) and Oakville Galleries (Oakville). In 2011, he received the Dazibao Book Award during Montreal’s annual photography festival La Mois de la Photo, which resulted in his producing the book Divided/Defined: Weights, Measures and Emotional Geometry. He is represented by Galerie Nicolas Robert (Montreal) and widmertheodoridis (Zurich).


Bilbao Arte is a centre for artistic production belonging to the Bilbao City Council. It provides creators with the means and infrastructures required for the development of their artistic proposals, such as studio spaces, engraving and silkscreening workshops, digital imaging, sculpture, photography, a film set, documentation centre, and projection rooms. In addition, Bilbao Arte awards artistic grants, and administers courses, expositions, exchanges and artistic evaluation for the development of projects. The objective of Bilbao Arte is to provide an outstanding professionalization for creators, achieving high technical levels and making available modern infrastructures for artistic practices within the art community. The centre therefore offers the ideal conditions so that artists are able to develop their creative work with all of the necessary means for contemporary artistic practice.

Established in 1979, Mercer Union began as an artist-run centre through the collective efforts of artists who believed in alternative art production and presentation. Throughout its thirty year history, Mercer Union has maintained ambitious programming, exhibiting national and international artists and presenting cultural professionals both in formative and established stages of their careers. Mercer Union pursues its primary concerns through critical activities that include exhibitions, lectures, screenings, performances, publications, events and special projects. Located in downtown Toronto, Mercer Union’s primary audience is made up of local art producers. Its objective is to inform its local and international audiences and stimulate artistic practice by producing and presenting challenging work and by creating ways for local audiences to participate on an international level, while promoting Canadian art and artists internationally.



Taxio Ardanaz

Jim Verburg

Bilbao Arte

Mercer Union


Bill Clarke

PDF - Axe Head #03 pamphlet