Fine arts graduates showcase talent at Owens

Annual exhibition a bittersweet finale.

The upper level of the Owens Art Gallery is currently filled with the best and brightest work of Mount Allison’s graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts class. The grad show exhibition is made up of pieces from each member of the class, and fully represents the diversity, ingenuity, and creativity of the program and its students.

Like many group exhibitions, the initial impression of the exhibition is varied and charmingly disunited, reflecting the unique approach of each artist. The mediums range from the traditional, like Maddy Hill’s large-scale conceptual portrait, Madoka Naito’s abstract painting and Brianna MacCormack’s striking film photographs, to installation work, such as Sally Hill’s projection of her performance art, to an illustrated storybook by Ruthie Payzant.

Although each student only displayed a small selection of work, their carefully curated pieces aptly showcased the themes, aesthetics, and mediums they had been working with throughout their time in the program.

Maggie Higgins displayed a sculptural piece that reflected her ongoing interest in reusable materials, the use of physical space, and “Canada’s natural industrial landscape.” Her piece was a stunning yet deceptively simple piece of wood that Higgins “sanded and stained to bring out the beauty of the grain.” Four fluorescently-coloured silkscreen prints of branches are featured beneath a window cut out in the wood, and serve as the compositional crux of the work. According to Higgins, the prints speak to “the forestation industry and the process associated with harvesting and milling the wood.”

Higgins’ sparse decoration and composition renders the piece easily digestible to the viewer, while still remaining endlessly evocative and aesthetically intriguing. The combination of the wood and the silkscreen prints illustrates the complementary relationship between natural material and human production, and serves as an effective commentary on the creative process and an artist’s debt to nature and its materials.

Katrina Zidichouski also exhibited an eye-catching sculpture, entitled “The God of Flowers,” reflecting her recent fascination with sculptural reduction carving using Styrofoam.

“Sculpture I find makes a work more visceral and have a much more satisfying physical presence for me,” Zidichouski said. “It is imagination I can touch with my own hands and I find that fact incredibly exciting.”

Zidichouski’s sculpture is a wildly imaginative meditation on life and death, and ephemerality and immortality. Made primarily from styrofoam and flowers, the sculpture is an effigy of a wolf-headed deity made with artificial materials, so that as Zidichouski explains, “it will never gain divinity.”

Another standout piece of the exhibition was Aislin MacDonald’s series “Head Space.” She displayed a series of diary sketchbooks completed during her study abroad program in Australia that detailed meditations on international experience, as well as personal and artistic growth. The diaries were displayed alongside a series of small abstract paintings, and an intimate audio recording of MacDonald reading overlapping excerpts of her writing. MacDonald’s recordings interact with each other to simultaneously catch the listener’s attention while dividing it in multiple directions. The effect expertly captures the process of an anxious yet inquisitively wandering mind.

As a whole, the exhibition is engaging, accessible, and representative of the accomplishments and growth of each artist. As is the case every year, this particular exhibition brings with it an inherently bittersweet quality as the graduates prepare to leave their studios at Mt. A and pursue their practice through new avenues. And while the work of the students is particularly impressive this year, their pieces also speak to the influence of their professors and the program.

The exhibition also features the impressive work of Hilary Cantin, Joe Chamandy, Kyle Henderson, Jonathan Linkletter, Ruthie Payzant, Stephanie Pringle, Alyssa Proctor, Samantha Thebeau, Lisa Theriault, and Julie Whitenect.

The viewing public can see the grad show at the Owens Arts Gallery until May 25.

Originally published May 8, 2014.

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