A Picture of Success
George Brown Fine Arts students reveal winter work in a new exhibition
Gallery F in The Fine Arts Building at George Brown College played host to All Together 32, an exhibition of works created in the winter semester by students registered in Fine Arts courses offered through Continuing Education. The collection featured the work of 32 students and ranged from representational to abstract and utilized different techniques and media.
Some of the pieces in the exhibition drew on iconic works. Sara Machin’s final assignment in the Contemporary Painting and Illustration course was influenced by the work of American Joseph Cornell. His boxed assemblages, the simple boxes fronted with a glass pane that feature an arrangement of photographs, ornaments or other miscellaneous items, include Soap Bubble Sets, the Medici Slot Machine series, the Hotel series, the Observatory series, the Aviary series and the Space Object Boxes. As Machin presents her vision of the project, Cornell’s influence is clear.
“My inspiration for Queen and King Dreamscape was born from the objects I found,” Machin says. “The elements seemed to find each other. It certainly also helped that both the teacher and the class itself were very inspiring.”
Chandi Jayawardena, whose work has been featured in three previous student exhibitions, including one solo exhibition, drew on iconic personalities for his five works (including Che, Ali and Brando) created in the Foundation Design course.
“The initial impetus was an interesting class assignment where we took one image, did a grey scale, enlarged it and added warm or cool colours, then did it again,” Jayawardena says. “I enjoyed it so much that I ended up doing more than one piece. Choosing my subjects was easy: Che Guevara led a very interesting life, but there’s a personal connection for me as my father had lunch with him in Sri Lanka; Muhammad Ali is a fascinating person and I wanted to capture the moment when he became heavyweight champion of the world; and, to me, Marlon Brando is the greatest American actor.”
“The Fine Arts Building is an inclusive environment where anyone who loves to draw and make art can do just that.”
But inspiration wasn’t limited to iconic pieces of art or iconic figures. Susan Middleton’s triptic, created as her final project in the Pastel in Mixed Media course, featured the image of Eleanor of Aquitaine – the only woman to have been queen of both France and England and one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages. The three images explore three different stages of her life, which included two marriages (to King Louis VI of France and Henry II of England), 10 children, a 16-year imprisonment and a role as queen dowager and regent for her son when he went off on the Third Crusade.
“Eleanor of Aquitaine has been an interest of mine since I photographed her effigy at Fontevraud Abbey in 2002. She was an intelligent and strong woman who encountered many challenges,” says Middleton. “Her grandfather was the first troubadour, so poetry and music were an informative part of Eleanor's early life. She is holding a book in her effigy and that, to me, is an indication of how much she was revered for her contribution to the arts. She was a leader who had to navigate in a world where women had little voice over their own lives – yet many men wrote and had opinions about her. It is said that Chretien de Troyes, a medieval poet at the court of Eleanor's daughter and the first to write of the romance between Guinevere and Lancelot, was inspired by Eleanor’s life.”
Many of the students are currently registered in spring classes at the Fine Arts Building and have begun work on the projects that will comprise the next student exhibition. For others, the process of creating art is part of their routine.
“I have completed my certificate in fine arts and I’m as proud of that accomplishment as I am of my PhD,” says Jayawardena, who is the Associate Dean at the Centre for Hospitality & Culinary Arts at George Brown College. “I’ve been painting for more than 50 years, and have studied art a lot, but never earned a certificate. It felt great to have that validation – and I continue to take a new course each semester.”
“Classes at George Brown are part of my ongoing education, as studying and doing art since 2005 is a pivotal dimension of my life,” Machin says. “Connecting with teachers and students that love what I love gives me a sense of community. This is my second exhibition and it is really encouraging to be validated and supported by the school.”
“George Brown College offers affordable and accessible drawing opportunities which have allowed me to do what I really love in a welcoming environment,” says Middleton. “The Fine Arts Building is an inclusive environment where anyone who loves to draw and make art can do just that. The classes focused on drawing from life and observation and have helped me develop my skills and fulfill my dreams.”