OCAD U Photography Program

News about events, our community & opportunites

Month: April 2017 (page 2 of 3)

Career Launcher: Artscape Youngplace Due Apr 24!



Friday #ArtCrush: Zhao Yu

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University. This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Zhao Yu, a fourth year photography student in thesis.

In this issue, Zhao and Morgan talk about deconstructing the landscape in photography,  the relationship buddhism has in their work, and working as a transnational artist.

Who or what are your main artistic inspirations?

Olafur Eliasson is my favourite artist, he is a Danish-Icelandic artist known for sculptures and large-scale installation art employing elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience.

I also look into Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism thinking to embody my research.


What subject matter do you tend to spend the most time working on?

I create mixed media artworks, photography, performances, and installations in the recent months. By emphasizing Neo Confucianist and Buddhist ideology, I intend to investigate the dynamics of the landscape in my works. Including the manipulation and minimization of its effects and challenges the limits of spectacle based on our assumption of what landscape means to us. Rather present a factual reality, I like to create an illusion of landscape that is fabricated to conjure the realms of our imagination.



Do you work in any other mediums and how does that inform your work?

I think I produce mixed media artworks quite a lot. I see the mediums as links between the landscape’s reality and that flux in its conceiver’s memories. I like to develop forms and performance that do not always include logical criteria but are based only on physical associations, formal elements, and the action of recognizing landscape from the body, which incite my acknowledge to the meaning of landscape with my personal connections.


You use a lot of different types of paper or fabrics when printing your photographic work. Why do you choose to engage with these fabrics and papers, and how does that tie in conceptually or aesthetically to the work you do?

In Buddhism, there is something called the “elegance of imperfection”. I guess that’s why I am just obsessed with handcraft papers and fabrics. I seek the imperfect in my photographic process, to create an eternal contradiction in every image. From the handcraft object’s  roughness and disordered details, I can feel the joy to be an “imperfect artist”. The warmness in handcraft papers and fabrics is what I find the most physically connected in the photographic process. After all, we are just imperfect creatures, I think the imperfections in art just speaks out to our nature, and the ever-changing spirituality in every art creation.



What do you think the value is in being a multi disciplinary artist and interweaving multiple mediums into your art practice?

I like to try new mediums, explores the new possibilities. I think sometimes i just got the idea that I have to try it, try to performance, try to do installation etc… even I don’t know what the outcome would be. it is one important part of my practice, experimentation and create new possibilities.


Why do you use photo installation to show some of your works? What is the value or significance in breaking the ways viewers typically see photographs?

I guess I see photography as a very edged medium, and photo -installation is my way to create new opticals and spaces. I like my viewers to actually go into that optical I created. I do not intend to photograph or create anything that is “physical”. I see the dimensions as a tool. The photographs, sculptures, and installation that in my works are just inputs of an equation, and I think the outputs are versatile that has many interpretations depending on what viewers think.



What body of work are you currently working on?

The discovery of Sunyata (emptiness) in art is a passionate approach in my current works. Buddhists believe that wisdom and enlightenment will be achieved through the realization of Sunyata. Sunyata stresses the necessity for voidness of self and existence, an objective defined as observing things or  regarding things. In this body of work, I start with deconstructing photography, to be aware of the most basic foundation of light, air, and space. I create installation work by using camera obscura, direct reflection, and projection, creating photography in visual, acoustic, and spatial ways. This project is a way to look inward and meditate. The deconstruction of photography is the process of decreasing complexity and turns the medium into emptiness. I guess it is an opportunity for change and renewal in photography, both visually and conceptually; afterward, Sunyata is born.



Through your thesis work, themes of landscape and the artist’s relationship to land are evident. What is your experience working as a transnational artist? How is using images from your home in the Yunnan Province, China, and merging those with images and video from Toronto significant to you?

When I was growing up in Yunnan, a province in China situated at the far eastern edge of the Himalayan uplift, I saw the most devoted Buddhists who walked for years on pilgrimages to the holy mountains. Among the high mountains, they sought self-discovery and redemption through Buddha’s teachings. Walking and pilgrimage in the lap of nature have become their meditation, which seeks the truth in this ever-changing universe. Whenever I have created my series of works in Toronto, I see the landscape and people of my hometown as the most precious memory and I have also been inspired by them. In Toronto, I re-discover these memories and re-construct it in my work.

As a transnational artist, of course, i experienced two very different cultures and values in art and life. I immigrated to Canada when I was fifteen, In the West, I saw the human spirit shine brilliantly in the expression of the creative will and in the pursuit of individualism. In the East, I learned that the human will and expression fall under the principles of nature. I have spent a long time to understand, and to merge these two together. I think my works are just the significant documentations of the discovery of a new identity.



To see more of Zhao’s work visit his website.

See Zhao’s work at the

102nd Graduate Exhibition at OCAD University, May 3rd-7th.

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

About the writer: Morgan is a fourth year photography student 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 spaces. She is the Art Director for The RUDE Collective, a student representative on the Photography Curriculum Committee and has done workshops on intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.

Apply to ART CAMP 2017


Call for proposals: Due April 30th, 11:59pm (midnight)

Art Camp 2017 brings together 12 emerging artists from OCAD University and Ryerson University to build community and create art. This opportunity is open to artists in their 2nd year of study through to recent graduates (up to 2 years post-graduation) who are enrolled/alumni from a program within OCAD U’s Faculty of Art, Indigenous Visual Culture or Ryerson’s School of Image Arts. Participants will be selected through an application process in May 2017 that is based on artistic merit, availability and interest in collaboration.

Art Camp recognizes the profound and essential value that diversity brings to the creation, reception and circulation of creative practices and discourse. We encourage applications from members of equity-seeking communities including women, racialized and Indigenous persons, persons with disabilities, and persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions. We encourage members of equity-seeking groups to self-identify within their letter of intent in their application.

Working alongside faculty supervisors Robyn Cumming (Ryerson University), Jennifer Long & Jennie Suddick (OCAD U), the selected artists will create a group exhibition at Ryerson University’s off-site gallery Ryerson Artspace at the Gladstone Hotel in August 2017.

This year’s exhibition theme is RAISING/FALLING. Potential participants are not required to submit work on this theme but will create work during the course of the residency that engages with this theme for the resulting exhibition in August.

Participating in the residency will involve May & June access to OCAD U’s Photography Production Facilities, professional practice workshops, studio visits, talks, film screenings, brainstorming sessions, critiques and learning new artistic skills from May to August 2017. All participants will receive a budget towards the production of their exhibited work.

Note: The level of Photo studio access will vary depending on the artist’s familiarity with photography.

Residency Sessions: Participants should be available for the following sessions (evening sessions and special events may be added):

-Friday, May 12th 1-9pm: Introductions, sharing of work, welcome dinner
-All Wednesdays in May-July 9am-5pm

How to Apply
In a Google Drive/Dropbox link or single PDF document, include the following:

Applicant information:
• Name, Email address, University & Program of Study
• The year of study you will be entering in Sept 2017 / year of graduation
• Confirmation of your availability on the above dates (some
exceptions can be granted)
• Note: past participants are encouraged to apply, but
preference will be given to new applicants.
• A letter of Intent expressing your interest in this residency, what inspires your practice and how you might approach the exhibition theme. (max. 400 words)

Portfolio of work
• Include 10 images from 2 to 3 different series. If your work is time-based, please include web links for up to 3 works. NOTE: All pieces should be edited down to 3 minutes. You are encouraged to include a secondary link showcasing the entire piece.
• Images should be JPG format, approx. 8”x10”, at 72 dpi
• Include an image credit under each visual detailing the title, year, medium and scale or provide an accompanying image list.

Email the completed PDF or Dropbox link to jlong@faculty.ocadu.ca before APRIL 30th, 11:59pm (midnight). A jury will be struck to review the applications and applicants will be notified by May 5th of their acceptance.

Jennifer Long – jlong@faculty.ocadu.ca or
Robyn Cumming – robyn.cumming@ryerson.ca

Congrats TAM + KYT


Congratulations to 4th year photo duo Jessie Kitchen & Tamara Leger (TAM + KYT) for being published in the Spring issue of PhotoEd Magazine!

LANDtalks – Apr 18th


This winter, 11 students, including Photo majors Natasha Hirt and Cass Smyth, were selected to take part in the 4th year Special Topics course Landmarks: Art + Places.  Lead  by faculty Min Sook Lee & Laura MillardLandmarks brings together educational institutions, curators, artists and students from across the country to engage in a multi-faceted dialogue about Canada resulting in the installation of public artworks in Parks Canada sites and in an online platform.

Come out and hear about the wonderful work being done by this engaged group:

LANDtalks Tuesday April 18, 2017

9:30 – 11:30 AM:  LandMarks students’ Presentations
(Room 284, 100 McCaul)

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM: Reception & Exhibition
(Ada Slaight Gallery, 100 McCaul) 

Congratulations Peter Sramek – Paris After Marville App


Congrats to Peter Sramek on launching version 2.2 of Paris After Marville  in the Apple App Store!   The new version,$3.99 CAD, solves an issue that blocked starting-up without a WiFI connection (thanks to Aquafadas’ constantly improving compiler) and a few navigation improvements that make the user interface more intuitive.

Friday #ArtCrush: Ava Margueritte

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.  This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Ava, a fourth year student majoring in Photography.

In this issue, Morgan and Ava talk about using the body as a tool for performance within photography, trauma and family relationships and the process of thesis.

Who or what are your main artistic inspirations?

Most of my inspirations are from film directors, Wes Anderson, Emmanuel Lubezki and Christopher Nolan.  A few photographers are Francesca Woodman, Elinor Carucci, Yoko Ono and Lisa Steele. Other non lens based artists such as Eugene Schiele, Andy Warhole, Henry Moore as well as The Arnolfini portrait by Jan Van Eyck has always stuck with me. So many artists have influenced me but what keeps me motivated to make art is seeing other people in my life make work. I am so inspired by the community surrounding me and that me excited to continue my practice.


What subject matter do you tend to spend the most time working on?

I have always been focused on making feminist artwork and I am currently focused on self-portraiture. This year I have focused on my series A Chair for My Mother, which discusses trauma within a familial context.


A Chair For My Mother, 2017


What drives you to work with that subject matter?

As I’m sure most people in photo know, I have several learning disabilities. I am dyslexic, I have CAP-D (an auditory processing disability) and ADD. My work aids me in communicating emotions that I have difficulties expressing verbally. I am mainly interested in advocating for equality and my topics are often revolved around taking a small part of society that I perceive could be better and voicing my opinion on it through my photographs. This year I focused on exploring how to reclaim myself from trauma.


Often I find your images similar to a film still with a specific narrative, character and mood. How do you use narrative strategies within image making to portray your intention?

Including clues into my personal life such as objects from my family as well as using images from a certain period of time in my life. I shoot in my own domestic space, using spaces that I’m comfortable to allow myself to perform private emotions. I use negative spaces to create a focus on my subject and the narrative that I want my viewer to pay attention to.


How does the use of natural lighting in your images connect to your conceptual basis for your series?

The most important thing for me to portray in A Chair for My Mother is the honesty that I want to portray. It is a very personal project and I expose a lot of my personal life in it. By using natural lighting I feel as if I’m giving my images the honesty that my narrative depicts.


A Chair For My Mother, 2017
What body of work are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my series A Chair for My Mother which is about finding a way to give myself a voice in a situation where I am not being heard within familial relationships. I explore how to reclaim my body from trauma, addiction, domestic abuse as well as sexual assault.


As your thesis explores familial relationships, how do you navigate working with a topic that is so personal? How has your relationship with your work evolved over the course of the year?

I really had to push myself, at the beginning of my thesis year I didn’t really understand what my work was about. It was driven by anger, hurt and sadness, so I continued to put myself in situations that made me uncomfortable and paid attention to the trigger signals that my brain was sending to my body. I put myself in spaces where I had endured abuse year after year and just simply let my body direct my work.

A big thing that has come from my work is pushing myself to trust my decisions. Confidence is something that due to my upbringing hasn’t come naturally to my project and me has forced me to rely solely on myself. It is a very heavy subject and unfortunately might change my relationship with my family for me in the future but I know that it is important for me to do nonetheless.

I didn’t fully understand how much my work would impact me. In my final critique I felt so many emotions, I was overwhelmed and hurt by the emotions I had channelled but after my presentation and looking around to see how many people I had impacted with my story and struggle I was astounded. My work has made me stronger and confident, I am proud of the work I have done and proud of how far I’ve come.


A Chair For My Mother, 2017


Self-portraiture is a common theme among most of your work, what do you think is the value in inserting yourself into your images? 

It is especially important in my current series [A Chair for My Mother] to work with my body because it is about me and the best way to represent myself is by performing for the camera. I like to think of my body the way a painter would think of a paintbrush, I use it to compose my image. I know myself best and can use that to my advantage to frame my image. After spending so many years behind a camera it’s interesting to put myself as my subject because I know what I am looking for. What I mean by this is I know what feeling I want to express and how to obscure my body to relate to my theme. There have been a few times this year that I have taken an image and known immediately that I already love that image, however there is a ton of trial and error. Inserting myself in my images gives me the same excitement that shooting with film does, in the sense that I have less control and I have to rely on myself as the subject. Something that has really become apparent to me is my body’s natural reaction to feelings and thoughts I have. I started paying attention to my body a bit more during a shoot that I had in the fall. I was at my cottage where my dad now lives and I was in his room and I just started taking pictures of me in his space. I was sitting on a dresser with my feet on the bed and my body just collapsed, I didn’t cry, my body just gave up. It was then that I became interested in what my body language had to say versus my facial expressions.


There is a long history within feminist image making and using the body as a tool to express a concept. How do you use your body and performance to express your concept?

In my series I explore the male gaze, growing up with a narcissistic father, I saw how he treated women. In A Chair for My Mother I decided to try to turn myself into an object by placing myself in obscure positions within the domestic space that I grew up in. By doing this I wanted to challenge the gaze and how women are perceived. By doing this I wonder if I turn myself into an object, a literal object, will the male gaze still objectify me?


A Chair For My Mother, 2017


Are their any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?

Lee Henderson has mentored me since my third year at OCAD and has always pushed me to think more conceptually. He has always pushed me to try strange projects and helped me work through a lot of my own insecurities about my work.

Course wise I think I have taken every single class that allows me access to everything in the photo centre and it’s amazing there are so many different ways to go about photography. Also trying things outside of the photography program, I have taken printmaking classes which are really cool, as well as I took an animation course and I kind of wish I took more animation courses but drawing is, unfortunately, not my forte.


Do you have any advice for students beginning to study at OCAD?

Persevere through that first year of general arts is the main thing wanted to quit so many times and I’m very glad I didn’t. In regards to profs take everything with a grain a salt. One thing that really changed the way I worked was looking at things from my professors perspective, what were they looking for, what interested them. Not because I necessarily cared about what they wanted but it allowed me to think about different subject matters and ways of working.


You can see more of Ava’s work on her website and instagram

See Ava’s work at the

102nd Graduate Exhibition at OCAD University, May 3rd-7th.

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

About the writer: Morgan is a fourth year photography student 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 spaces. She is the Art Director for The RUDE Collective, a student representative on the Photography Curriculum Committee and has done workshops on intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.

Information session: Gibraltar Point: A Living Lab: April 11th


Want something different this Summer/Spring Term?
Consider CROS 3003 – 
Gibraltar Point: A Living Lab
May 17 to June 3, 2017

Gibraltar Point: A Living Lab, is a unique interdisciplinary course open to students in all program areas including graduate studies. This week long residency embraces collaborative and community building methodologies within studio production. Students taking this course will live and work for one week at the Artscape Gibraltar Point Arts Centre, located in the Toronto Island Park, 230 hectares of unique and diverse Carolinean forest, with a community of 750 residents, located minutes from downtown Toronto by boat.

Students interested in finding out more about this unique opportunity should come to the Information Session on Tuesday, April 11th from 12 noon to 1:30. The session will take place in room 284 of 100 McCaul.

     Some subsidies are available for assistance with the accommodation fees, please enquire!

For more information Email: April Hickox, Course Leader  aprilhickox@gmail.com   


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