Third and fourth-year students from McMaster’s School of the Arts program have spent months putting together every detail of the Coalesce Art Exhibition.

From selecting pieces and designing promotional materials to envisioning the installation of the entire exhibit, students in the Community Exhibition course, under the guidance of professor Sally McKay, have been learning to put together an exhibit from start to finish.

Students are not only involved in every aspect of the curation of Coalesce, but the exhibit also serves as an opportunity to showcase their own artwork and share their personal interests and areas of research with the community. For many students, Coalesce will be a chance to make a presence outside of campus.

The opening reception will take place March 23 at the Spice Factory and will feature live entertainment by Math Club, the Bandicoots and Jennifer Budd and the diverse work of 29 art students from the Studio Art and Art History programs.

Abby Nicholson

Nicholson will be graduating this year from the Studio Art program with a minor in Art History. Her work focuses on architecture, which she hopes to pursue after graduation. She grew up with a curiosity for the stories hidden in aging buildings and an appreciation for the historical value that can be found in Hamilton’s architecture.

Nicholson obscures her photographs by removing details and extracting more ornamentation in the architecture, sometimes even painting on top of prints, to create a more ominous atmosphere that is characteristic of historical photographs.

“I really like exaggerating the tonal values between black and white to contrast each other and just make it quite ominous. It’s a different perspective of the architecture that I see personally…. It’s finding beauty in the dark,” explained Nicholson.

Nicholson has created a diptych of the Spice Factory that will be displayed at Coalesce, the piece is an ode to the hosting venue, which has over a century’s worth of stories and artifacts. Before entering the Spice Factory, make sure to take in all the details, as Nicholson will have a unique perspective to show you.

Deeshani Fernando

While only in her third-year of studio art, Fernando already has her artistic vision defined. She creates landscape drawings inspired by her memories and experiences, while incorporating the vivid colours and motifs of her Sri Lankan culture.

Fernando creates organic ceramic sculptures that are used as a surface for her drawings, which are done in ink and acrylic paint. Recently, Canadian terrain and landscapes have etched their way through Fernando’s mark making in her drawings.

Hamilton’s eminent waterfalls and Fernando’s cultural background have inspired her artwork for Coalesce. The piece imagines a new landscape that merges and celebrates the beauty of two distant lands.

Fernando has built three plinths with carvings that mimic the flow of water. Each plinth will hold organic clay sculptures, which were fired in a kiln to create different surfaces and textures that inspired the overlaying drawings.

Audrey Pearson 

Pearson is a third-year studio art student who continuously pushes herself to explore new techniques, themes and research interests through art. Her recent work utilizes textiles and collage mediums as well as etching techniques to create dialogue around objects interrupting a space or landscape.

Pearson will be exhibiting UDWR, a soft sculpture installation of fabric goats hanging from the ceiling over a Utah landscape. The series was inspired by Pearson’s research into how the mountain goat population is maintained in Utah.

In order to control the population of goats, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources would bundle the goats in bags, tether them to a helicopter and fly them to sparsely populated ranges.

“Everything about this is fascinating to me, the way that they have to blindfold the goats to keep them calm, the way that this endeavour becomes a moment of transition from a familiar space to somewhere uncertain, and the way that humans create environmental problems that they must then intervene to solve,” explained Pearson.

Pearson’s artwork stirs a varied range of emotions. Some viewers will appreciate the piece at its surface value, acknowledging the skill of creating three-dimensional form from fabrics, and others will take a deeper look and resonate with the issues and concepts that the art conveys.


Emily Hamel

Hamel is a fourth-year student in the studio art program. Their practice centers around video art and they utilize techniques such as datamoshing, which is the manipulation of media files’ codes to create mesmerizing audio and visual effects.

Hamel has been exploring queer identity through video art and they’ve used their work as an attempt to show one’s multifaceted identity and breakdown the pressure imposed on genderqueer persons to perform gender in a certain way.

Freedom of self-expression is also a consistent theme throughout Hamel’s work and they’ve taken up an interest in ignorant style tattooing. They hope to take a stab at being a tattoo artist after graduation.

At Coalesce, Hamel will showcase their tattoo illustrations. One flat sheet is filled with illustrations of dogs, some panting, others wearing sunglasses, baseball caps and party hats. Another sheet is filled with illustrations of a baby cradling a strawberry, a kit-cat clock and a retro chatter phone.

Sheetal Prasad

Prasad is a multidisciplinary artist in her fourth year. Her practice explores cultural and religious identity while utilizing various mediums, such as paintings and book binding, depending on the direction her research takes her.

Since first year, Prasad’s artwork has been largely influenced by her Indo Fijian culture and the artwork she will be exhibiting at Coalesce is an exemplification of that. Her work focuses on celebrating customs and traditions through humorous anecdotes, while also taking a more historical approach towards shedding light on minority history and racism.

Prasad created a bronze installation titled Komagata Maru that symbolizes the often forgotten Komagata Maru incident. In 1914, due to anti-immigration sentiment and racism, hundreds of Indians onboard the SS Komagata Maru were denied entry into Canada.

In another series, Prasad uses humour to make learning about different cultural practices and memes more accessible and negate the fear of being offensive. Mission: Joota Chupai is one of three digital prints that shares a traditional Indian wedding custom where the sisters or female cousins of the groom steal the groom’s embroidered shoes and he must pay money to get them back.

Prasad hopes to continue exploring the history of minorities in Canada through her art practice after graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts this year.

Coalesce is a free admission exhibition that will open from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. on March 23 and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 24 at the Spice Factory located at 121 Hughson Street North.

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