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Keita Morimoto's large-scale triptych painting of Toronto, entitled Garden of Light.

Courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery

Toronto artist Keita Morimoto notes that New Yorkers all love New York but Torontonians always complain about their city: He is the rare painter to romanticize this place.

His Garden of Light, a large-scale triptych showing the downtown skyline at three stages of night, turns an undistinguished section of the growing city into the stuff of Old Masters. Looking east over the Allan Gardens and Dundas Street with the lakeshore and the rise of Scarborough just visible on the horizon line, the painting meticulously reproduces every condo tower and every street light. It reads right to left – perhaps reflecting Morimoto’s Japanese roots – beginning around 6 p.m. on an early spring evening as the light begins to fade and then proceeding from dusk to dark.

The painting, with its acute sensitivity to the blur of fading daylight and the glamour of twinkling night lights, is inspired by Claude Monet’s Impressionist views of Rouen Cathedral at different times of day. However, Morimoto, who graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design University in 2012, is honing a photo-realist technique here. He painted Garden of Light from photographs shot from the top of a condo tower last April and sketched onto the canvas from projections before he began painting in oil and acrylic. (It took him three months.)

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Previously, the 30-year-old artist caught the art world’s eye with paintings of street youth lionized by dramatic effects of light and colour, but he is now also producing nighttime views of corner stores and fast-food joints that tip their hat to the early 20th-century American realist Edward Hopper.

Perhaps it takes an outsider to consider Toronto through such a dramatic lens: Morimoto left Japan as a teenager, and completed high school in Belleville, Ont., before arriving in the city he now depicts as mysterious and majestic.

Garden of Light is on show at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto to Feb. 29.

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