Friday, May 6, 2011

OCAD's 96th Annual Graduate Exhibition (Part I)

Yesterday was the start of OCAD's 96th Annual Graduate Exhibition.

Industry professionals gathering for the big unveiling of OCAD's new logo.
I've been at OCAD for three years now, but this spring was the first time that I've been to the exhibit. And wow, it was amazing. Amazingly loud. And claustrophobic. But no, seriously, it was great: I loved it, and I'm going back tomorrow to take a better look at the pieces (sans noise).

There have been various reasons over the years as to why I haven't gone. At the end of first year, I was so worn out and frustrated with the school system that I didn't want to be anywhere near it, but I'm not really sure why I stayed away the second time around. I may have been sick, or I might have had prior engagements. I might have been in the process of moving out of Toronto, actually - I honestly can't remember. Point is, I made a special point to attend this one, and the ones after, not only to support my friends and see what the competition is like, but because I have a genuine curiosity as to what goes on at the show.

Yours truly, in all my sickly glory.
(Shot by Nancy Zhang)

It takes me just under three hours to commute down to Toronto, and my bus only leaves at certain times, so I arrived at OCAD about a hour before the show. I've been sick all week, and I'm still sick, but I dragged myself down to the city, migraine and all. My fellow OCADers and I had time to kill before the grand opening, so while half of us went off to run errands, the other half stayed behind and fiddled around with our various over-priced cameras. I think I'm the only one out of the group that doesn't own some sort of DSLR.

When we arrived at the show, the school was already crawling with people, and the venue only got busier as the night went on. They were unveiling our school's new logo, so there was a big gala opening/cocktail party for it on the second floor in the Grand Hall, complete with booming music, tables decked with champagne glasses, and even a VIP lineup. It was way too crowded, and way too loud, so I didn't go to the unveiling, but I managed to snap a shot of the gathering before things got really packed. Fellow OCADer and good friend Nancy Zhang commented that the entire event looked like a funeral procession. And she's right: designers are very prone to wearing black. It helps to slim down the figure, and does wonders for making a person look professional; actually, I wouldn't be surprised it was industry standard. And I'm only half-joking when I say that.

There was an exhibit on every floor, from painting and sculpture to industrial design and illustration. I managed to take a few pictures of the exhibits early on, but the show got so crowed that it became nearly impossible to take a decent shot. I did manage to take some pictures of the painting exhibit, although I wasn't able to get the names of the artists (with the exception of one). I plan to go back and get the info tomorrow.
The painting above was really small in comparison to most of the work that was displayed. I loved the texture in it, but what struck me about the artwork the most was the difference between painting and illustration. In the fine art world, there seems to be a sort of "anything goes" attitude.

I never really visit the 4th floor at OCAD, which is the home of the drawing and painting students, and I don't keep up with news and events originating from the fine art world. All I know is that they have wider "boundaries" in place when it comes to what is acceptable in terms of content for their finished work. And wide I say wider boundaries, I mean almost none. I went to this gallery in New York last year, down in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, and selling for around $3000 was a display of a paper towel roll. And when I say "display", I mean "paper towel roll placed asymmetrically on the ground". I was so angry. But that's a discussion for another time.

One of the larger paintings from the OCAD Grad Exhibit, Painting Thesis

In Illustration, these artistic boundaries are much more rigid. You need to have a reason behind everything you do, from the colors you pick to the concept behind your piece, to the simple act of how things are composed upon a page. All these factors have to resonate not just with you, but with your intended audience. And I agree with this sort of reasoning, for the most part. 

With the painting exhibit, I really loved a lot of the fine art pieces that were on display; they were quite beautiful, and showed a lot of skill. But that was it; they were aesthetically pleasing, but not much else. There was no greater meaning, no greater purpose. No practical use behind them, no way to market them to a larger crowd. I mean, I know there was a purpose behind the work (as expressed in the artists' statements), but for a lot of the fine art, there was a huge disconnect between the artist's statement and what was being seen by the audience. The meaning of the piece was just too exclusive, and most of the content got lost in translation. At least, that's how I felt.

The painting below was one of my favorite pieces from the exhibit when it came to technical mastery. I've seen this painting before in another show, and I was really impressed at just how realistic it was, and on such a massive scale. I'm not sure what to make of it beyond it's aesthetics, though.

OCAD Grad Exhibit, Painting Thesis

One sculpture that I absolutely loved were the Rococo cupcake heads; I forget their real names, but I'll get it by tomorrow. I'll admit - up front - that I'm biased, because I've got a love for all things Rococo and anything remotely fashion related. But in the case of these sculptures, the artist's purpose and the artwork actually matched; the idea was simple, made sense to the public, and worked well as a thematic body of work. I was much impressed. Also, I would wear these. Without a doubt.

Below, the only paintings I managed to snap a picture of and find out the artist's name before the crowds got too thick. They're by Haejin (Jimmy) Kim. Unfortunately, he had no business cards with a website that I could be re-directed to, so I can't post a link. If anyone does find a link, however, let me know!

And to end off Part I of this two-part post, a close up shot of another painting from the fourth floor exhibit. I was really attracted to the graffiti-like quality of the piece: unfortunately, I still have no clue what it represents.

OCAD Grad Exhibit, Painting Thesis
Until tomorrow, folks!

UPDATE: Part II of this entry will not be posted due to prolonged illness. Sorry everyone.

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