The Ontario College of Art & Design’s tag line confidently declares, “Imagination is Everything.” This may even be true. Within the university’s walls, it may be the most important thing to have in great supply. On the outside, not only is it not everything, it’s simply not enough. At school, the goal is to make art. When the end goal shifts to making a living by making art, the process and the path become significantly more complex.
Last Thursday, OCAD opened its doors for its ninety-fourth annual graduate exhibition. This year’s show, “OCAD+,” once again transformed every available square foot from work space to gallery space. It has to, to accommodate more than five hundred participating students. The exhibition, overall, was quite similar to previous years, with a rather immense range of talent and skill. Again, as it has been ever since the building expansion in 2004, it was far too much to take in in one day. There’s something almost alarming about five hundred graduating artists and designers. Their sheer mass provokes the question, what now? Does optimism pervade? Is the future an unknown?
Torontoist spoke to the creators of twelve of the most interesting, thoughtful, or just plain lovely artworks at the show about life after OCAD. We asked each of them: “what comes next?”
Andrew R. Hutchison’s Beaver Tales.
Andrew R. Hutchison’s painted series Beaver Tales dusts off the icons of our historic Canadian identity. He says that “Canadian history is a little like an attic. Sometimes it’s forgotten, but when you enter it, you quickly realize it’s filled with wild and fantastic stuff.” With a bit of irreverence and a good balance of affection, he writes satirical but quite plausible descriptions of some of the main characters in our national narrative.
What comes next?“Well… it’s a little nerve-wracking of course, but the ideas are flowing. I’m painting a lot, exploring new work, and working hard at it. I’m also very much welcoming, to be honest, a bit of a break. A chance to travel again and develop further shows and relationships with galleries and clients is something I’m very much looking forward to. Grant applications and researching my grad school choices are all on the horizon as well. I’m glad to be done school for now and the next step, I suppose, is scary, but oh-so exciting and filled with opportunities.”
Ryan Livingstone’s The Crow’s Nest.
Ryan Livingstone plays out contradictions in his work. He references the domestic aesthetics of quilts and patterns, but operates on a scale that is more monumental than familial. He describes his work as “personal and private,” but then creates this massive mixed-media piece using illuminated birds and candy colours. The Crow’s Nest is at once irreverent and yet somehow haunted.
What comes next?“A two-week visit home to New Brunswick to see family, I will be making it back there early this year, just in time to pick and eat some fiddleheads. There is talk of a year-long exhibit with Daimler Financial Services, where I will be installing one of the pieces shown during the OCAD graduation show. I am also in the middle of finalizing a large public art work that will be installed here in Toronto next spring….I hope to spend the summer here in Toronto collaborating with friends on some new and exciting art projects.”
Kirk Wynter’s Eating Out.
Kirk Wynter is photographed eating soup on a folding chair and TV tray-table in some of the least accommodating places imaginable in his series Eating Out. He realized that he is “opposed to many of the daily rituals in modern society implemented to increase efficiency in a fast paced world.” This includes the way we tend to eat…often in a strange sort of public solitude, consuming the quickest and easiest thing we can find. His photographic multiples and videos tell a story of someone simply incompatible with the world around him.
What comes next?“Well, more than anything, I am excited to begin making art outside of the institutional constraints that I found often stifled my creativity. It’s going to be wonderful to be free of critiques, and deadlines, trends and relevance. I’ll finally be making art that is truly my own, and I couldn’t be happier!”
Jen Mann’s I-thou series.
Jen Mann’s I-thou print series takes a look at our tendency to define ourselves through the objects we own and the things with which we surround ourselves. This quiet suite of eleven copper-plate etchings makes the weight of our belongings seem suddenly too much to bear.
What comes next?“I hope, and I have always hoped to continue making art as the major focus in my life. Since classes ended at OCAD and the graduation ceremony quickly approaches I have had a bit of time to relax and think about things. Thought generates action and I have already started to really expand with my artistic practice and start working in different mediums, bigger formats and really enjoying the freedom of painting and drawing. The laborious process of making multiples can be frustrating to say the least, and after working in printmaking for four years its very liberating to finally paint again. The idea of multiplicity has had a great effect on my art making process and has motivated my current series of paintings based on twins. My only limitations in the future will be money and I am not too sure how I will afford to continue making art, to be honest. The drop in the economy, cutbacks in funding to the arts, and loss of jobs when there were already so few jobs in the arts to begin with certainly makes this a stressful time to come out of university. I think though, if you love something enough, and you are true to yourself, everything will work out in the end.”
Taliya Cohen’s Spatial Construction.
Taliya Cohen’s installation, Spatial Construction, creates a kind of forced interaction with the viewer with its sheer scale and presence in the room. Concerned with the way we navigate the structures that dominate the urban experience, she hopes to make us aware of the give-and-take relationship between architecture and people.
What comes next?“My next step is to get a job and a studio. My intention is to create site-specific proposals for multiple locations in the Toronto area so that I can start showing my work around the city. I would love to take over an entire room with my constructions and really explore the experience I started to create in the Grad-ex.”
Michelle Galletta’s The Penitent Flesh.
Michelle Galletta is the 2009 medal winner for printmaking at the graduate exhibition. Her work, The Penitent Flesh, looks at the attempts of the devoted to seek grace from God through craft and votive offerings. Her small constructions are mysterious and emotional, with unknown hopes hidden within them.
What comes next?“I’m off to Italy in the fall to work for the American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (!!). Enjoy winter & make art in a warmer climate and find my way back into printmaking when I eventually come back to Toronto.”
Megan Speers’s Wanderlust.
Megan Speers has compressed her teenaged experiences in northern Ontario into the story of “one long, full night.” She tells this story as a wordless narrative, a book called Wanderlust that uses only the visual language of wood-cut prints. Her memories are filtered through this highly graphic medium, which lends a playful honesty to her tale.
What comes next?“As for what comes next for me, I’m currently working on getting my book published as part of a series of wordless graphic novels by Porcupine’s Quill—it may be in publication as soon as 2011. I’ve been working on a couple of new wordless stories as well, which should keep me busy for a while. I’m also going to continue to sell my work at book and zine fairs as well as showing in galleries whenever the opportunity arises. A couple of my prints will be shown in a group print show later this month…at Whippersnapper here in Toronto.”
Teresa Aversa’s The Catholic Goods Sale.
Teresa Aversa won OCAD’s 2009 medal for Criticism and Curatorial Practice. Her installation, The Catholic Goods Sale, puts on display the aesthetic language of mass-produced faith. Commodification and consumerism collide with the icons of the church in a sea of red velvet, revealing the unholy marriage of marketing and spirituality.
What comes next?“I am constantly pursuing artists and projects that interest me while developing my mixed-media studio practice. I plan to apply for curatorial residencies around the world, and eventually complete a masters program. I’m excited for the future, further exploring our media and consumer saturated world in my art practice and being able to facilitate the work of artists that I admire.”
Dani Nash’s Just Say “OV.”
Dani Nash was the subject of a March interview in NOW, where she describes working on her piece, Just Say “OV”, for the graduating exhibition. While the title references a vintage Old Vienna beer campaign, the scenes depicted in her work are derived from old family photographs that she found in a box. Her layered installation suggests the aesthetic of a museum diorama, putting her family history playfully on display as the archetype of life in the Canadian north.
What comes next?“I am currently working on a commissioned portrait for Morgan Mavis, Director of the Contemporary Zoological Conservatory of Toronto. In August, I will be installing work at Relative Space at Dupont and Spadina. Other than that, my country band The Sure Things will be going on tour around Canada beginning in September. I will be taking my art with me, in hopes that I can get into some galleries across these vast lands!!! The world is my oyster, and I’m gonna eat it with some butter and salt.”
Karolina Malek’s Structures.
Karolina Malek approaches her Structures paintings in the formalist tradition, focusing on shapes, colour, and space. She allows her medium, working first by drawing and then by painting, to direct the development of the composition. The result is layered works that are at the same time logical and complex, rigid and expansive.
What comes next?“Continuing to observe, to discover, to paint. Propelling the ideas I have begun to scratch at the surface vigorously forward, unearthing the relationships between painting and drawing, abstraction and representation. Catching up with the pile of books waiting by my bedside to be read. Travelling to Europe, visiting the paintings I have learned so much about through lectures and slides in person. And eventually, returning to school, to homework and sleepless yet gratifying nights to work on my masters.”
Adrian Forrow’s Harmful If Not Swallowed.
Adrian Forrow’s installation of illustration and sculptural works, Harmful If Not Swallowed, is like an animated daydream. He states that his work deals with “the common trials and tribulations encountered during adolescence,” and his subject matter of choice includes unicorns, rainbow stripes, and fluffy clouds. It is as if the symbols of the young mind have broken through into adult life.
What comes next?“Keep on trucking! I haven’t had much time to stop and reflect on the grad show because I’ve been super busy preparing all new work for an up coming group show with two other OCAD thesis grad students (Kellen Hatanaka, Jim Mezi). The show is called “TRANSPORT” and is based around the theme of transportation and how it affects our human existence. The show is taking place at a gallery called Keep Six Contemporary….The opening reception will be on Friday, May 15 and run until May 30. It should be a lot of fun! And if that wasn’t enough: I am also in another group show called “MADE it yesterday”, which has its opening reception on May 30 and runs to June 13 at The North Liberty Center….After these shows I’ll probably pack up the canoe and head to Algonquin for a much needed recharge and some fun in the sun.”
Katherine Farnworth’s O’Canada.
Katherine Farnworth uses a medium traditionally associated with craft to make portraits of the provinces in her series O’Canada. Suggestions of nostalgia and location-based pride dominate these patterned, embroidered maps.
What comes next?“I’m not sure: mostly art, work, and hopefully some travel. Two summers ago I hitchhiked from Toronto to Vancouver, and each canvas has one of those provinces embroidered on it. I’d really like to continue this piece so some day I’ve got to make it out east of Quebec and through the Territories.”
At top: A collection of work from previous years by the graduating class of designers. At bottom: A visitor to OCAD+ and Caylee Alzner’s photographs.
Even if imagination is no longer everything, the goal more complex, and the steps unclear, there are artists and designers among this graduating class with the deep well of determination and creative intuition to make whatever they want of what comes next.
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.