OCAD U Photography Program

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Faculty Spotlight: Meera Margaret Singh

When I first had Meera as an instructor at OCAD U, she was teaching a “Reconsidering Documentary Photography” course in my third year. I was looking for direction within my own artistic practice, which is rooted in documentary practices, and I needed a course that would – for lack of a better phrase – kick my butt. This course quite literally changed my view of documentary practices, ethics, aesthetics and foundations. As anyone who has had Meera as an instructor would know, she will push you into spaces you couldn’t conceive of. She won’t let you off the hook, and in the end you will end up with work that you didn’t know you could create.

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In this series of Faculty Spotlights, we chat with Meera Margaret Singh about her practice and her approach to being an artist, an educator and how those two collide.

 

How would you describe your art practice?

My lens-based art practice (photography and video) has always revolved around a negotiation and exploration of intimacy and displacement. This has predominantly been examined through individuals and their landcape, be that physical or psychological. I often construct and examine various relationships between body and environment, while further exploring the suspended space that exists between the real and the fabricated, the historical and the contemporary.

As a mixed-race Canadian of South-Asian descent, I am negotiating identity as shifting and malleable through both my daily life and my artistic practice. I have created numerous works that attempt to reconcile ideas of ‘home’ in both space and body by exploring ideas of displacement; often as physical or gestural manifestations that serve as metaphors for cultural displacement.

Of key importance to me while presenting my work is creating an intimate, minimalist and accessible space; one that is not as didactic as it is an invitation for diverse viewers to question what is happening in each work and to allow the space for them to insert their own experience.

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What is your favourite course or theme/topic to teach?

I really love teaching studio/seminar courses that allow for discussion about photography and representation, power dynamics at play in the relationships between subject/photographer, the complexities of the gaze, and feminism/intersectionality and its relationship to the lens. Courses like “Reconsidering Documentary Photography”, “Contemporary Issues”, “Current Practice” are wonderful for allowing for these discussions. I’ve been teaching INTAC (International Art Collaboration) with Peter Sramek for 4 years now and I adore teaching this class, as it takes a specific student to be interested in collaborative work and cross-cultural experience. It’s a very special space for learning. I am also teaching Colour Photography this semester which is so rewarding, as I get to share and witness the magic of the colour darkroom with students who are using it for the first time. 

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How does teaching arts affect how you approach your own art practice?

Being in a teaching environment where people are dedicated to sharing their diverse perspectives and experiences as expressed through their art definitely inspires both my teaching and my art practice.  The classroom is a unique space where everyone makes themselves vulnerable in some capacity: professors and students alike. I always feel it’s a very privileged space to occupy: one where a group of individuals can discuss intention and output, particularly when most other disciplines focus solely on output. This dialogue and expression of intention is really profound for me. While actively listening to students describe their intentions, I am constantly checking in with myself about my own.

My work is also deeply connected to my interest in human experience and various levels of intimacy. I work closely with people/communities in my practice. This isn’t dissimilar to the classroom: creating safe and generative spaces for art to connect diverse individuals or communities.

 

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What do you think is valuable about having a fine arts focused education?

I came to Fine Art in a very unplanned way after completing a degree in Anthropology. I actually aspired to be an archaeologist. When I was introduced to photography, I never imagined the need for more schooling. While I did learn a lot of technique independently, I quickly realized that I needed a community around me to grow: for critique, community, support and critical dialogue. Once I made the decision to return to school, my professors really encouraged the need for using art (and, specifically, photography) as a means of transforming and communicating one’s experience and ideas. I can’t speak for everyone (because a formal fine arts education is not for everyone), but I can say that a fine arts education improved my problem solving skills, assisted me in editing my words and ideas to clarify meaning, granted me permission to dig deeper and further inside of myself. It introduced me to mentors I am forever grateful for. It provided me with a stronger sense of community and a space to figure out where I fit in in terms of theoretical/critical/historical/contemporary photographic frameworks. It also granted me the structure I truly rely upon to create my work.

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Meera Margaret Singh is a visual artist based in Toronto, Canada. She holds a BA in Anthropology, a BFA in Photography from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg in Canada and an MFA from Concordia University, Montreal in Canada. Singh has been the recipient of numerous residencies and awards, most notably several Canada Council for the Arts production/creation grants, an Ontario Arts Council mid-career grant, and a Toronto Arts Council visual arts grant. She has been a selected artist at the Banff Centre for the Arts; artist-in-residence at The Art Gallery of Ontario; artist-in-residence at 1Shanti Rd in Bangalore, India; artist-in-residence at JACA Residency, Brazil; selected artist in an international residency with German photographer Thomas Struth at the Atlantic Centre for the Arts, Florida; scholarship winner and participant in the Magnum Workshop with photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti; visiting artist/instructor at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India; McCain Artist-in-Residence at the OCAD University, Toronto. She has exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions throughout Canada and internationally. She is currently an Assistant Professor at OCAD University.

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

Morgan is a photo alumni and runs the Friday #ArtCrush series on the OCAD U Photography Blog. She loves speaking to other artists about social justice, how to break barriers within artist communities and nurturing the arts in alternative non-institutional spaces. She is the Art Co-ordinator for The RUDE Collective, and has done workshops on photography basics, intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.

Simon Glass: Project 31

Photo Faculty, Simon Glass, is directing Project 31’s auction proceeds from his work to fourth-year awards for Photography students.

Simon Glass, Sunset, Metzuqeh Dragot Giclée print, artist’s proof 2008, 24” x 30” Courtesy of the artist Estimate: $1,600

Simon Glass, Sunset, Metzuqeh Dragot Giclée print, artist’s proof 2008, 24” x 30” Courtesy of the artist Estimate: $1,600

This photograph was taken in 2008 at the edge of the Judean Desert. It was inspired by a short text from
the Book of Jeremiah in which the prophet sees birds eeing and the skies darkening. The lighter sections of the image were shot about 20 minutes before sunset, and the darker section about 20 minutes after sunset.

In his artistic practice, archival and original photographic imagery is combined with mystical, biblical and liturgical Hebrew. Recently, his work has gravitated toward installation and examines prophecy in the context of the possibilities and impossibilities of translation, the philosophy of language and the conflation of future and past.

Simon is currently an Artist in Residence at the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.

The live auction will happen:

Thursday, March 24, 2016
OCAD University, Great Hall, 100 McCaul Street, Toronto
Reception & Silent Auction: 6 p.m., Live Auction: 7:30 p.m.

“We, The Heartland” by Kate Schneider

Kate Schneider, A completed puzzle in the Senior Centre in Atkinson, Nebraska. May 2013

Kate Schneider, A completed puzzle in the Senior Centre in Atkinson, Nebraska. May 2013

Congratulations to OCAD U Photo faculty Kate Schneider for the recent reviews of her series We, The Heartlands.  To find out what Kate has been up to, check out  AINT-BAD MAGAZINE and feature shoot!

Bio:  Kate Schneider is a Toronto-based photographer and educator. Her work is based in the traditions of documentary storytelling and ethnography, and her most recent works focus on the impact that land – and the socialized landscape – have on individual and cultural identity in North America. 

Kate was recognized by the Magenta Foundation’s 2013 Flash Forward competitionand was published in The National Film Board of Canada’s Highrise project, The National PostPhoto District News, and The Advocate. She received her MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University (2009) and her BS in Photojournalism from Ohio University (2004). She is an Instructor of Photography at OCAD University and the University of Guelph-Humber.

Kotama Bouabane: Project 31

Your Photography Faculty supports OCAD University’s Project 31  auction. Over the past five years, this event has been a tremendous success, raising over $400,000 for OCAD University projects and programs, including student scholarships, awards and bursaries, program materials and equipment, and much more.

Over the month of March we will showcase the artworks being donated by OCAD U Photo faculty and alumni.  First up is alumni and faculty, Kotama Bouabane!  Kotama will be directing the money raised from the sale of his print to 4th year Photography Awards.

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The Project 31 auction will take place at OCAD U on March 26, 2015 and will be a ticketed fundraising event. Work will be on view in the Great Hall as of Monday, March 23rd. But if you are at the school on the evening of the event you can view the auction from the main elevators over looking the great hall with the auction running 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

 

Congratulations: April Hickox

Congratulations to Professor  April Hickox
on receiving an 
Ontario Arts Council: Senior Artist Grant!

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This funding will help support the continuation of April’s series ​Invasive​ Species.   Following is an excerpt from her artist statement:

“Human intervention within a natural landscape is a central theme of my work. Through photography, I begin to examines issues of site and place as linked to the constructed landscape and its various uses. This latest body of work is inspired by lifelong connection to Toronto Island and its immediate environment.  Like most urban parks, the Toronto Island Park, has been constructed over time as a stylized wilderness environment for the public. Here, as elsewhere, there has been a movement away from formal parks towards more naturalized landscapes which allow for pockets of “urban wilderness.” As the population of Toronto grows, and the waterfront becomes home to a large community of people, the Island Park is being used in different (and sometimes more intense ways). This work documents the traces and interactions of park users abandoned objects and remnants, ranging from a hammock suspended over a lagoon to Christmas trees hung from a linden tree.”

AGO’s Artist-in-Residence: Meera Margaret Singh

Congratulations to Meera Margaret Singh (OCAD U Faculty)!
Meera will be participating in the 2015 AGO’s Artist-in-Residence program.

Meera Margaret Sing, "Patricia", C-print, 30" x 40"

Meera Margaret Sing, “Patricia”, C-print, 30″ x 40″

Bio:  Meera Margaret Singh is a visual artist based in Toronto, Canada. She holds a BA in Anthropology (1997), a BFA in Photography (2004) from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and an MFA (2008) from Concordia University, Montréal, Québec.

Singh has been the recipient of several residencies and awards, including Canada Council for the Arts production/creation grants (2009, 2011), Toronto Arts Council Visual Arts Grant (2010), and an Ontario Arts Council Mid-Career Grant (2011). She has been selected as participant in an artist residency at the Banff Centre; as the McCain Artist-in-Residence at OCAD University  in Toronto; as the summer resident at the Centre for Innovation in Culture and the Arts in Canada in Kamloops, British Columbia; as a scholarship winner and participant in the Magnum Workshop with international photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti; as a selected artist in an international residency with German photographer Thomas Struth at the Atlantic Centre for the Arts in Florida. Her work has been included in numerous exhibitions and festivals throughout Canada and the United States. She is currently an instructor in the Photography department at OCAD University in Toronto.

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Peter Sramek Exhibition

Piercing Time Paris after Marville and Atget – 1865 –2012
by Peter Sramek

PSramek

From January 7 to January 31, 2015
Opening Wednesday January, 7th – 7pm

Spadina Galerie Pierre Léon
24, Spadina Road
Free entrance

This exhibition compares different photographs of Paris from the nineteenth century to nowadays: photographs from Charles Marville, who worked under Georges Haussmann; from Eugène Atget, talented photograph from the early twentieth century; and from Peter Sramek himself. This project highlights the wealth and history of Paris’ urban planning, its continuity as much as its shortages by juxtaposing 183 contemporary “rephotographs” taken by the author with images taken by Charles Marville and by Eugène Atget.  Learn more

Peter Sramek’s exhibition will be preceded by a lecture in English at 6pm about Parisian urban design, hosted by Keith Bresnahan, teacher at OCAD University.

Alliance Francaise Toronto
24 Spadina Road
TorontoON, M5R 2S7
Canada

Bio: Currently Interim Dean of the Faculty of Art, Peter Sramek has taught photography at OCAD U since 1976 during which time he has also assumed various administrative roles including Acting Head of Photography, Acting Chair of Technological Studies, Assistant Dean and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Art. He has been Co-ordinator of the Florence Off-Campus Studies Program 3 times, most recently in the fall of 2007. He was a founding member of Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography and carries on an active practice in both photography and book arts which encompasses film-based and digital processes, as well as excursions into video installation, audio and sculpture.

April Hickox Exhibition Extended!

April Hickox’s exhibition at Katzmen Contemporary
has been extended until Jan 10, 2015

April Hickox, "Invasive Landscape" (OCAD U Photo Faculty)

April Hickox, “Invasive Landscape” (OCAD U Photo Faculty)

Katzmen Contemporary is located at: 

86 Miller St  Toronto  M6N 2Z9
Tuesday-Thursday 11-5
Friday- Saturday 11-6
or by appointment

To get to the gallery via TTC, take the 168 Symington bus north from Dundas West Station to the stop at Osler and Davenport; the gallery is one street west of the stop.

 

 

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