From April 6 to April 17, the Studio Art program’s 2019 graduates will present the annual SUMMA exhibition. Entitled Counterpoint, the show will be curated by Hamilton textile artist Hitoko Okada. For the first time in over 30 years, the McMaster Museum of Art will not house the show due to its ongoing updates. The exhibition will instead take place at the Cotton Factory.
McMaster Studio Arts is a small program, with the fourth year class consisting of only 19 artists. With instruction on a range of media and a focus on environmentally responsible practices, the program has produced diverse artists who care about the world around them. Counterpoint means “to combine elements” and is fitting considering the amalgamation of their various styles and the balance they try to strike within their individual works.
The graduates organized the exhibition themselves. While it gave them a chance to learn more about the lives of professional artists, it also taught them to work together. Coordinating among 19 people was not easy and after some bumps in the road to find the perfect venue, they are all relieved to see the show finally coming together.
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Fernando spends a fair amount of time in nature, drawing and photographing the landscape around her. Back in the studio, she takes the colours, textures and lines from the environment to create the emotional and abstract landscape paintings that she’ll be displaying at Counterpoint.
“For me, [Counterpoint is] about… this the balance between the organic and the artificialness in my work… [I]t's taking… different colors… , textures and mark making and creating harmony and balance between all those different things within one image and creating a sort of peacefulness in that work,” Fernando explained.
Throughout the process of organizing the SUMMA show, Fernando learned how to survive as an artist. She feels that she now has an art practice of her own and regards her peers as professional contacts. As she leaves McMaster to pursue teaching, she will take those skills and contacts with her.
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For Lee, Counterpoint refers to the way her class’s wildly different works complement each other. Having spent four years critiquing and supporting one another’s practice, the exhibition represents the harmony between their different themes and materials.
The Korean-Canadian artist explores traditional Korean materials in her work. She portrays these traditional materials in a modern, digital format and then incorporates threading to unite the two ideas.
“I always get confused between Canadian and Korean aspects of myself… [T]his sense of detachment, trying to attach to something or being porous, kind of like a sponge, absorbing a lot of different cultures in order to make up my singular identity. And just like maintenance of this traditional and modern form of art,” Lee said.
Currently aiming to go into interactive design, Lee feels she learned the reality of being an artist. She has been exposed to the business side of the art world by learning to solve problems creatively and produce even without inspiration. The program’s push toward using materials to convey subtle themes has evolved Lee’s art practice.
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Cooper didn’t have a lot of purpose behind his art when he entered the studio arts program. Four years later, he feels he is a more deliberate artist and currently explores ideas around memory and coming of age. At Counterpoint, he will be presenting acrylic paintings of Westdale, where he grew up.
“[W]ith my work, I just try and talk about what that experience was like… [D]ifferent places… might not necessarily be important to other people but I guess I have certain memories there,” Cooper said.
The fact that this is the last art gathering of his university career saddens Cooper, but he knows the entire class is proud of the show. Despite the challenges they faced, they demonstrated that they could accomplish anything with collaboration. The different backgrounds and art practices of the class would not seem to mesh, but Cooper feels a nameless common thread unites their work.
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McVeigh believes process and environmentalism brings together her diverse class’ work. A self-identified environmental artist, she explores interactions between living things with one another and with inanimate objects. Having grown up in a small town near Point Pelee National Park, she spent a lot of time in nature growing up.
McVeigh’s work for Counterpoint is a series of photolithographic prints. This long and old process of creating images is meaningful to her. She tries to present her dystopian and nonsensical images in an aesthetically pleasing way with vintage elements.
“I use a lot of vintage imagery in my work… [A]fter World War II… there was the baby boom and they created a very unstable environment where it was a throwaway society. Nothing was fixed, it's all just thrown away… And then it wasn't until the ‘90s when the environment became a very serious topic,” McVeigh explained.
Her work is personal, but the program has made her more comfortable with speaking about her art. By sharing these narratives with her classmates and professors, they all grew close. She anticipates that this graduation show will be bittersweet, but there is a lot from her time at McMaster that she will be taking with her. She learned to critique her own work and reach out for help, which will help her as she pursues a career in sustainable architecture.
After graduating with her Bachelor of Fine Arts with minors in theatre and film studies and music, Conti will be going into teaching. Her teaching program will focus on educational art programming in the community, something that Conti is an advocate for. She is excited about the fact that Counterpoint will bring her program’s work off campus and into the Hamilton community.
Conti will be showing a five-piece installation consisting of floating boxes with deconstructed paintings in them. Her work revolves around her experiences with depression and anxiety to open a dialogue about mental health.
“[S]o for this body of work, there's five different stories to which I'm telling, one of which is the story about my mother's cancer. Normally… they're more negative experiences that I'm trying to understand in a more positive way. So my strokes are colors that are brighter in trying to… accept these experiences and… learn from them but also move forward,” Conti explained.
With her theatrical background, Conti sometimes feels as if she is performing herself. There is vulnerability in her portrayal of her life and she explores privacy versus vulnerability in her work. However, her time at McMaster gave her the confidence to tell her story through theatre, music and art.
The graduation show will open with a reception at the Cotton Factory from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 6. The graduating class looks forward to sharing their work with the Hamilton community.