Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Lakehead University Fine Art Department Faculty Show

  Now showing at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery, in all three of its exhibition spaces, is the work of fifteen Lakehead University Fine Art Department Faculty professors and instructors. They are: Roly Martin, Sarah Link, Alison Kendall, Mark Nisenholt, Ann Clarke, Mavourneen Trainor, Kasia Piech, Julie Cosgrove, Sam Shahsahabi, Quentin Maki, Janet Clark, Peter Wragg, Heather Cranston, Caitlyn McMillan, Dr. Andrea Terry and Hannah Guthrie.
     Although there is a mix of individual explorations of styles, styles accrued over time requiring lots of thought and experimentation, these works also represent a variety of contemporary/modern visual styles influenced by the fine art world, a world most frequently seen in the big galleries and museums of bigger city centers.
     Most of us, the public, get to peek at these works in big coffee table books. This is a great opportunity to see this kind of work live and up close.
     For anyone interested in the visual arts as a hobby or career choice, this is also an opportunity to get a sampling of the philosophical directions that the Lakehead University Fine Arts department takes towards the visual arts. There is here, as the very nature of “Fine Art” implies, the avoidance of the commercial and popular arts. It’s pretty clear that if a student of visual art were looking to illustrate a graphic novel, work in the movies, or get involved in commercial design, Lakehead Univervisty might not be the place to go. However, it is still possible to be inspired by the different approaches, no matter where your interests lay.
     Judging a show like this on its own merits is a bit like judging the dance of another tribe. One has to understand the language the tribe has developed for itself. Although the public still has some difficulty with the translation, the public is more and more accepting of it.
    This show represents pure gallery art, which is collectable and predominantly about personal artistic statements, or art itself and/or its history, like an intellectual onion with lots of layers rather than obviously sporting any contemporary political or social subject matter. However, for artists leaning more towards popular and commercial art, there is great value in seeing a variety of approaches to creating pictures and sculptures whatever the subject may be.
     For instance, Quentin Maki’s painting “Undertow” has a wonderful surface of texture and glazes that is rich and vibrant. Imagine if entire walls were created with this surface and pillars and costumes for an elaborate theatre production. It would be awesome.
     Mark Nisenholt’s Sproing series of digital prints employ great crosshatching and other technical skills beautifully employed to create imaginary landscapes. Similar to his series of globes, the approach could have multiple uses for other fields of art – rock album covers, book covers, posters, etc.
     Caitlin Jean McMillan’s collage works for “Irrational Body” are both a bit repellent and attractive. Imagine these as backdrops for a graphic zombie novel or The Walking Dead. Images like these could represent the state of mind of a character or play as a background while main characters discuss the morality of conquering a neighboring town.
     Mavourneen Trainer’s “The Deconstrution of a Dragonfly: A Maximalist Approach,” is an acrylic work that in its beauty immediately conjures up feelings of the adventure of finding new places. The images are of both landscape and mindscape and could be used for an alternative approach to creating children’s book illustrations, or making delightful posters, etc.
     And this can be done with all works in the gallery. It’s a great show. For with a bit of imagination and with a spirit of play, one can read the works for their own inherent merits and/or get inspiration for their own approach to art. Such is the history of art, where much of art’s value lies in the never-ending use and reuse of multiple approaches to creating interesting work.

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