MEET GRAD EX 2013 MEDAL WINNER, ALEX THOMPSON (PRINTMAKING)

Alex Thompson at Grad Ex 2013. Photo by Christina Gapic.
Part of Alex Thompson's project, Self-Portrait. Image by Alex Thompson.

Alex Thompson’s medal award-winning project, Self-Portrait, took architectural renderings and made them personal. Here’s how he describes it:

My body of thesis work was entitled Self-Portrait, and consisted of architectural renderings of institutions that I felt had a significant impact on my personal development. These were laser engraved onto layers of transparent acrylic, which were suspended from cable to create floating structures. The works drew heavily on my personal memory of the sites, critiquing the generic nature of Modernist structures while drawing upon their aesthetic to communicate the idea of the institution.

What inspired you and motivated you to do this project?

My work has, over the last few years, been moving into a very industrial, architectural territory, and going into my thesis year it really struck home that for the entirety of my life I had existed within educational institutions. The realization was paired with an awareness of the continuous relationship that we as a culture share with some form of institutional environment, and that really got my brain going and motivated me to pursue the idea for my thesis.

What part of the process of creating this project did you learn the most from?

The entire process was a learning curve for me. This was the first time I had focused so much time and energy into a single project for such an extended period, and it was incredibly rewarding. The technical requirements of the project required a lot of trial and error, and I had an excellent support network in the form of the printmaking technicians and my thesis advisors who were on deck to answer questions and lend opinions.

What part of the process of creating this project are you the most proud of?

Working in three dimensions with plastic and cable was new for me, and I am very proud of the final aesthetic the project took on. I had a good idea of what I wanted the piece to look like, and had done many, many tests, but wasn’t exactly sure how the final product would actually look. I got the final components back from rapid prototyping the day before installation at the gallery.

How did you react to the news that you won a medal for your work? 

I had dropped in to the Faculty of Art Office to drop off a form, and Winston Tulloch informed me I had won. I was pretty shocked because I didn’t think I was going to win. It took awhile for it to sink in.

What’s your fondest memory from your studies at OCAD U, and what will you miss the most?

It’s hard to pinpoint a single memory. The studio environment is a great atmosphere, and has a really collective, collaborative feel. There are tons of great, creative, helpful people in the printmaking studios at OCAD U, and they helped make the studio a home as well as a workplace. I’m definitely going to miss that element of OCAD U.

What are you planning to do next? 

I’m currently working as a drama instructor at Theatre Ancaster, and have a number of ideas for upcoming projects simmering on the backburners. I want to try to get into an assistant position at a gallery in Toronto, and maintain my personal artistic practice. Further schooling may happen, but I need to get out into the “real world” first and get an idea what I want to do with my life.

Find out more about Alex Thompson:

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MEET GRAD EX 2013 MEDAL WINNER, TARA PAASHUIS (ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN)

Tara Paashuis at Grad Ex 2013. Photo by Christina Gapic.
Part of Tara Paashuis's project, The Bath. Image by Tara Paashuis.

Tara Paashuis’s medal award-winning project, The Bath, is a design concept for an inclusive, socially responsible recreational centre. Here’s how she describes it:

My thesis project is called The Bath, and it centers around the adaptive re-use of a vacant 1930’s incinerator on a 5.5-acre brownfield site in the Junction. By reintroducing a variety of social bathing traditions, the design focuses on the senses and activities unmediated by digital technology. Accessible, inter-generational programming, and exchanges of “waste” or surplus (water, heat and revenue) helps to establish beneficial and sustainable relationships between buildings and within the community. 

What inspired you and motivated you to do this project?

I knew that I wanted to focus on a public bath, and I feel strongly that re-using existing buildings is far more sustainable than tearing down old ones or developing precious greenfields. The task was to locate an urban site that was underutilized, then figure out how to get Torontonians into the idea of a communal bath. The programming combines the accepted notions of recreation centres and luxury spas, and the complementary activities one might enjoy before and after, like a great meal, a walk in the garden, crafts or seasonal events. I really wanted to transform a forgotten area into an accessible, memorable place.

What part of the process of creating this project did you learn the most from?

The spatial requirements and recommendations for swimming pools, diving boards and universal design are quite complex. I researched these areas heavily. I also visited as many spas and pools as I could in Toronto, New York and Montreal. I learned to listen to the mechanical aspects of the space, and I became quite fussy about these details. Things like the water returns in the pools, the ventilation noises and the dripping of water had the capacity to either delight or disappoint.

What part of the process of creating this project are you the most proud of?

I am most proud of the fact that I just kept pushing — continued researching, refining my design, exploring the possibilities of my site, trying new ways of model making and learning new techniques for digital rendering.  

How did you react to the news that you won a medal for your work?

To be honest, I had been working so hard and hadn’t slept much and thought that I must have dreamed the phone call. I didn’t let myself believe it until I saw the email too. It was really overwhelming in a positive way!

What’s your fondest memory from your studies at OCAD U, and what will you miss the most?

Certainly the support of some really great teachers! I loved the camaraderie of the open studio, and will really miss all of our workshops. Having access to ceramics, wood, metal, plastic and rapid prototyping under one roof makes all the difference in the type of work you can explore and complete. 

What are you planning to do next?

I plan on getting my LEED credentials and furthering my education in architecture, but would like more practical experience first. I recently finished a design/build project with some classmates (portagecollective) in support of The Stop Community Food Centre’s annual Night Market. It’s great to have something actually built!

Find out more about Tara Paashuis:

Portfolio

MEET GRAD EX 2013 MEDAL WINNER, COLLEEN MCCARTEN (MATERIAL ART & DESIGN)

Colleen McCarten at Grad Ex 2013. Photo by Christina Gapic.
Part of Colleen McCarten's project, Fabricate. Image by Colleen McCarten.

Colleen McCarten’s medal award-winning project, Fabricate, is a multimedia textile investigation. Here’s how she describes it:

Fabricate is a body of work that investigates the intersection of textiles and assumed value. Across a variety of mediums, this project employs a recurring technique of line and repetition to signify the basic components of textile construction. Through these decontextualized representations of textiles, this exploration asks: “does changing the material, scale, or technique alter the value of the piece?” If so, is it a sexist devaluation of a medium, or merely about the ability to understand the time and effort put into another process? 

What inspired you and motivated you to do this project?

Textiles have always been a large part of my life — from working in a fabric store throughout high school, studying fashion design at college, and then finishing my undergrad in Material Art and Design at OCAD U. I have always found it interesting how important textiles are in our daily lives, yet they are so often unnoticed or under appreciated.

What part of the process of creating this project did you learn the most from?

Material exploration is usually a recurring theme in all of my work, and is typically the part of creating that I learn the most from.

What part of the process of creating this project are you the most proud of?

I was proud of my ability to have enough obsessive compulsive tendencies to be able to finish the Drawing/Weaving piece. Repetition is a large theme in my body of work and I am glad to have had the patience to follow through with the repetitive actions involved in creating each piece.

How did you react to the news that you won a medal for your work?

I received the phone call while I was walking in the rain, and I felt really honoured! There were a lot of strong artists in the graduating class this year and I was happy to be among them.

What’s your fondest memory from your studies at OCAD U, and what will you miss the most?

The 16 hour days in the studio with fellow class mates always lead to the goofy/loopy/sleep deprived nights filled with new creative energy and random spouts of laughter. I will miss those nights along with having access to all of the different studios that OCAD U offers.

What are you planning to do next?

I am currently working at the Design Exchange for the summer, and I will be showing some work at the Guild Shop in the fall as well as participating in Hard Twist at the Gladstone in January. 

Find out more about Colleen McCarten:

Portfolio

LinkedIn Profile

2014 MEDAL WINNER MIKE BADOUR, DRAWING & PAINTING

Mike Badour at GradEx 2014. Photo by Christina Gapic.
Juggler by Mike Badour.

Mike Badour’s medal award-winning paintings explore the self as a metaphor of post-production, examining how difficult it is to make finite conclusions about subjective choices. Here’s how he describes his work:

The final body of work is titled Content Control. I created a modular language that was implemented into symbolic diagrams of informational systems. These are illustrated systems of interactions between humans and content in the age of information.

What inspired you and motivated you to do this project?

My curiosity is my motivation.

What part of the process of creating this project did you learn the most from?

I have come to the conclusion that I have a lot to learn.

What aspect of this project are you the most proud of?

I am glad I have formulated some difficult questions that can act as a good starting point for rationalizing why I would want to bring objects into being.

How did you react to the news that you won a medal for your work?

I was at working at A/V HelpDesk and I received a phone call announcing that I won the medal. I was very pleased and shared the moment with my co-workers over a beer after work.

What’s your fondest memory from your studies at OCAD U, and what will you miss the most?

I have very fond memories of establishing a great network of new friends that include peers and faculty and times spent working at A/V Helpdesk. I will miss the fabrication studios, a handful of books in the library and picking the brains of a couple of my favourite professors.

What are you planning to do next?

My plans are currently in motion. Painting most days in my studio and organizing group exhibitions locally and internationally with Carrier Arts Organization.

 

2014 MEDAL WINNER RICKEE CHARBONNEAU, DIGITAL FUTURES

Rickee Charbonneau at GradEx 2014. Photo by Christina Gapic.
AmpGear prototype. Photo by Christina Gapic.

Rickee Charbonneau’s medal award-winning AmpGear is a crowdsourced prosthesis design project that goes beyond the limits of the human hand and can be made at home on a 3D printer. Here’s how Charbonneau describes it:

AmpGear is an online crowdsourcing portal that collects designs and ideas from amputees and their communities (i.e., AmpGadgets) to be then marketed and sold to the community.

The concept for this project aims to completely shift the paradigm of limb replacement from the current, strictly bound, and nearly obsessive aim to replicate hand function, towards an open discourse of prostheses as accessory tools.

This project involves the use of 3D printing technology to allow for the prosthetic hand and its attachments to be quickly and cheaply printed at home with a desktop 3D printer, such as the Makerbot, or through a local 3D printing service.

The components of my project are the following:
1. The prosthetic hand supporting multiple task-specific attachments
2. An online community that actively participates in innovating the product by designing new attachments
3. Makers, designers and inventors that are interested in creating solutions to various problems
4. Amputees, individuals with limb deficiencies and their peers

What inspired you and motivated you to do this project?

My inspiration for this project stems from the fact that limb loss has a wide variety of social and functional implications that have not been appropriately addressed. On the one hand, a wide variety of engineering projects have sprung up over the years with the goal of replicating limb function. On the other hand, emerging critical initiatives aim at challenging body aesthetics. Although some of these initiatives have been moderately successful, prostheses development continues to be a costly and unsustainable endeavour and its practical, commercial applications remain elusive.

Working with the inclusive design research centre has opened my eyes to a lot of large issues in design and this project is my response to some that I have been exposed to.

What part of the process of creating this project did you learn the most from?

The most rewarding experience in terms of learning new tools for me in this process was learning to use and maintain desktop 3D printers. As a maker, having this skill opens up a world of possibilities for my work.

What aspect of this project are you the most proud of?

I am proud of how innovative this project is and of how much potential it has. I worked very hard to produce a very strong concept that could translate well into a marketable product.

How did you react to the news that you won a medal for your work?

Although my cohort is a small one, the work we have produced as a small group was all very strong. Learning that I was the medal winner for my program (and the first ever medal awarded to the Digital Futures program) was really exciting! I told my close friends and family right away.

What’s your fondest memory from your studies at OCAD U, and what will you miss the most?

My fondest memory will always be the experience I shared with my two other Digital Futures “pioneers.” I won’t have to miss them much though, because we still spend most of our time tinkering on projects together.

What are you planning to do next?

I am hoping to take my thesis project to the next level in the coming months, and I will be attending OCAD again in the fall as I begin my Graduate studies in Inclusive Design.

Find out more about Rickee Charbonneau

Portfolio

2014 MEDAL WINNER MEGHAN HUNTER-GAUTHIER, CRITICISM & CURATORIAL PRACTICE

Meghan Hunter-Gauthier at GradEx 2014. Photo by Christina Gapic.
Water Log photos collected by Meghan Hunter Gauthier.

Meghan Hunter-Gauthier’s medal award-winning project Water-Log is an online initiative to collect stories about the industrial past and proposed future of the lakes and rivers surrounding Témiscaming and Kipawa in Quebec. Here’s how she describes it:

Water-Log is an online archival initiative to collect audio-recorded stories, memories and sentiments about the lakes and rivers that surround the area of Témiscmaing and Kipawa, Quebec. The project functions as a space for contemplation and reminiscence about history of these territories, by way of personal stories told by their residents.

What inspired you and motivated you to do this project?

The community I am from has held a prominent place in the logging industry for decades. Natural resource consuming industries are blatantly familiar to Témiscaming and Kipawa — they are a fact of modern life and a source of livelihood, whether it be logging or mining. I am not saying that I condone all of the processes involved, but I acknowledge that I benefit from them and thus there is hypocrisy inherent in protesting them.

There is a trade off for everything our species does to the earth. A desire to frame this trade off and question it is what ultimately inspired me to develop Water-Log. The project operates as a space for locals to contemplate the region’s social and ecological history. Stories related to water, a prominent part of the ecological landscape, draw connection between the diverse population and the territory. Most importantly, the project functions as an introduction to a complicated conversation about the rural environment, as well as the role and agency of its human population.

What part of the process of creating this project did you learn the most from?

Probably the field work component. The process of collecting the eleven interviews and stories brought me closer to the project and my objectives. Everything became much clearer after that.

What aspect of this project are you the most proud of?

Probably the presence that it’s been able to hold within the context of my home community. I’m ecstatic that the project has been so well received in Témiscaming and Kipawa — it’s motivation for me to expand it in the future!

How did you react to the news that you won a medal for your work?

I was home alone when I found out, so I just stared at my laptop for a while. Then one of my roommates came home. Once I told her, the reality of it all began to sink in. Right after that I started to phone my family — including the ones living out west. I’m sure the ol’ cellphone company loved me that day.    

What’s your fondest memory from your studies at OCAD U, and what will you miss the most?

I’ll miss those moments of walking into a class on the first day of semester expecting it to be just OK, but then having it blow my mind! OCAD U has been filled with these unexpected gems and I’m so thankful for that. I would hate to have gone though university getting exactly what I expected. The unanticipated is so much better  — it requires one to be creative.

What are you planning to do next?

I will be going to Humber College in the fall for a Graduate Certificate in Arts Administration and Cultural Management. It’s the next step towards my career goal, which is to imagine arts projects and programming that are specific to rural communities. I also plan to expand the Water-Log project  —  hopefully with funding next time around (fingers crossed)!  

Find out more about Meghan Hunter-Gauthier

Water-Log // Registre de l’eau

LinkedIn

2014 MEDAL WINNER CECELIA LEDDY, PRINTMAKING

Cecelia Leddy at GradEx 2014. Photo by Christina Gapic.
Perpetual Paths by Cecelia Leddy.

Cecelia Leddy’s medal award-winning project Perpetual Paths is a series of etchings and prints on layers of transparent acrylic that explore the origins of personal identity and human connectedness. Here’s how she describes it:

Perpetual Paths consists of silkscreen and dry-point on overlapped Plexiglass structures, using light boxes to illuminate or accent the areas of interest. My work is an investigation of the origins of human identity and how we come to shape who we are.

What inspired you and motivated you to do this project?

Conceptually, I was driven by my curiosity towards what makes people so different or alike, so I began to focus on the development of our identity, using the philosophies of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari as a foundation for my research. I became fascinated by the thought that each individual person is an accumulation of their own unique experiences of the world and the people they encounter within it. The idea of accumulation stuck with me and I began layering and overlapping my prints until I created dense masses made out of individual segments. I continued to allow these clusters to grow until it became impossible to distinguish between the layers.

What part of the process of creating this project did you learn the most from?

Through creation of my work I really challenged myself to apply printmaking techniques to other materials, which allowed my practice to grow in a way I never expected. I explored alternative methods to expand printmaking beyond ink on paper and used this opportunity to take advantage of some of OCAD U’s facilities (the woodshop, plastic shop and rapid prototyping center). I learned how to make each piece as I went, through trial and error, and through the support of the technicians and class assistants. I learned to not be afraid to ask for help.

What aspect of this project are you the most proud of?

I am most proud of how it stands on its own and doesn’t need me there to defend it. I am proud to have created the evidence, which shows my development as an artist. Perpetual Paths reflects the creative and conceptual growth of my practice, and it is very rewarding to see how far I’ve come.

How did you react to the news that you won a medal for your work?

I was ecstatic! I was already very proud of the work I had created regardless, but to be recognized out of all the talent within OCAD U is such an honour. Second to my excitement was a sense of extreme gratitude towards all those who helped me along the way.

What’s your fondest memory from your studies at OCAD U, and what will you miss the most?

I have such a deep love and appreciation for the faculty, staff and students who make up the community of the Printmaking program. I had such support from everyone, making it such an enjoyable and conductive work environment. It’s strange to say, but I’m going to miss getting to the studios at 8 a.m. and not leaving until 1 a.m., feeling sore, hungry and exhausted. I’m going to miss laughing in the studios, printing for hours on end, and spending all day doing what I love with my friends. OCAD U was my home away from home, and if it were open 24 hours, I would have only ever left to go as far as The Grange.

What are you planning to do next?

I’m working hard to create a studio environment at home where I can begin my next set of projects that I have planned. I’m really excited to begin assembling plastic structures and continue creating print-based light boxes. I would love to expand with this direction and begin working much larger — my goal is to overwhelm walls with my masses.

Currently, I am focusing on applying to printmaking opportunities within Canada, however I also intend to pursue a Small Business Certificate program in order to gain the skills to become an effective entrepreneur. In the future, I would love to have the opportunity to pursue a Masters program in Printmaking and potentially be able to inspire and help other young artists reach their goals.

Find out more about Cecelia Leddy

Website

Blog

LinkedIn 

2014 MEDAL WINNER CONNOR OLTHUIS, INTEGRATED MEDIA

Connor Olthuis at GradEx 2014. Photo by Christina Gapic.
Conditioners by Connor Olthuis.

Connor Olthuis’s medal award-winning project Conditioners is a an abstraction of the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and plumbing systems that enable us to thrive in artificial spaces. Here’s how he describes it:

Conditioners is a sculptural exploration of the facilitative infrastructures that influence our habits and structure our behaviours within a highly networked environment. I created a set of cyclically redundant yet functional systems that are a result of a co-opted authority from engineers and designers.

What inspired you and motivated you to do this project?

I wanted to take the two most basic human needs (air and water) and to redesign their common delivery systems into useless forms. I was in a civil engineering program for two years, and I wanted to go back to the methods and materials from my time there: concrete, metal — and to explore different processes of filtration.

What part of the process of creating this project did you learn the most from?

Reading and writing.

What aspect of this project are you the most proud of?

This work resolved some fundamental questions that I have about infrastructure, and conveyed those questions through a tangible set of systems for others to question also.  

How did you react to the news that you won a medal for your work?

I had just come from adopting a one-eyed cat when I got the call, and then I hugged my girlfriend.

What’s your fondest memory from your studies at OCAD U, and what will you miss the most?

I will miss talking with a few excellent professors, and being surrounded by like-minded students.

What are you planning to do next?

Continue making work.

Find out more about Connor Olthuis

Website

2014 MEDAL WINNER OCEAN FUKUDA, INDUSTRIAL DESIGN

Ocean Fukuda at GradEx 2014. Photo by Christina Gapic.
Wolf Door Light from Symbolic by Ocean Fukuda.

Ocean Fukuda’s medal award-winning project, Symbolic, is a result of a collaboration with an industrial woodworker/spiritual leader from Six Nations. Featuring clan symbols on wooden doors, the work aims to strengthen pride and promote awareness of the Six Nations community. Here’s how he describes it:

Symbolic is a project for the Six Nations of the Grand River. Six Nations is the largest First Nations Community in Canada and is located just outside of Hamilton. I collaborated with an Industrial Woodworker/Spiritual Leader from Six Nations to gain insight to the community and its unique needs. Together, we arrived at the primary project goals: to strengthen the visual identity of Six Nations, to encourage pride within the community and to promote awareness outside of the region. Symbolic, therefore, aims to create culturally representative objects with the Six Nations community.

What inspired you and motivated you to do this project?

Feeling moved and overwhelmed by the many complex issues facing First Nations communities, I asked myself if design could make a difference, even on a small scale or to a single community.

What part of the process of creating this project did you learn the most from?

The collaborative problem refinement process of this project was the most enlightening. I learned a critical lesson as a designer that I needed to listen and uncover the real needs and problems versus my initial ideas and proposals.

What aspect of this project are you the most proud of?

I’m proud of the unique visual integration of culture into a seemingly ordinary everyday object but more importantly the potential of the project.

How did you react to the news that you won a medal for your work?

With a lot of surprise, and then an excited phone call to my better half.

What’s your fondest memory from your studies at OCAD U, and what will you miss the most?

My fondest memories are being able to work with and be inspired by some truly talented faculty. I’ll miss the ability to experiment in all of the labs.

What are you planning to do next?

Up next is work on a few web-based startups and laying the groundwork for my own agency.

Find out more about Ocean Fukuda

Email

2014 MEDAL WINNER AARON MACDONALD, PHOTOGRAPHY

Aaron MacDonald at GradEx 2014. Photo by Christina Gapic.
Sunset photo from Fixing a Hole by Aaron MacDonald.

Aaron MacDonald’s medal award-winning video installation Fixing a Hole uses sunset photographs as a theme to subvert the desire of photographers to fix images to something over which we have no control: the passing of time. Here’s how he describes it:

Fixing a Hole is a video installation work that uses the ubiquitously photographed sunset as a theme to rearrange our relationship with a sublime landscape and our expectation of photographs to fix time. Sunset photographs found online are continuously cross dissolved and projected onto a large ground glass focusing screen, creating a fictive unfolding of light, time and colour within the installation space.

What inspired you and motivated you to do this project?

There’s a sense of anxiety that comes along with specializing in photography as an artist, considering the volume of digital photographs currently being produced by everyone else in the world. I found inspiration in rejecting that anxiety by working with photographs instead of taking them. I wanted to find a way to open the sunset images’ dimensionality so the more sunsets I saw and collected the more I was driven to do so. I had this idea that the steady rate at which photos are being taken these days almost keeps pace with life.

What part of the process of creating this project did you learn the most from?

Balancing the immaterial elements of found digital photographs (light, time and colour) with carefully considered material choices (ground glass, wood, black suede) taught me a lot about working with photographs as formal entities that can exist beyond the surfaces of prints. Most of my previous work has been executed from behind a camera or in front of a computer, but to resolve this work I needed to spend a lot of time in the studios mulling over materials and configurations. Only then did I feel like I was getting anywhere, refracting the glaring beam of the sunset cliché by transforming it into something people might look at more closely.

What aspect of this project are you the most proud of?
I’m proud to be recognized for my multidisciplinary (and multidimensional) approach to photography using “mass produced” found photographs. I’m also proud of the looks of curiosity, wonder and smiles that appeared on people’s faces as they entered a room where warm “sunlight” emanated from my work. But more so I’m proud of the faces that twisted up and the arms that flung into the air as if to say, “This is nothing new!”

How did you react to the news that you won a medal for your work?

Startled, proud and grateful.

What’s your fondest memory from your studies at OCAD U, and what will you miss the most?

I will miss the long meditative hours spent making colour analog photo prints. I think it’s a very special thing that OCAD U is home to a traditional colour processing machine and technicians that keep it in great shape.

What are you planning to do next?

I’m doing a residency at a ceramics studio in the country for the summer. I’ll be doing a lot more work with my hands while thinking hard about and researching new photo-based projects.

Find out more about Aaron MacDonald

Video documentation of Fixing A Hole and previous works can be viewed at Cargo Collective.

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