Find your breath is a video installation that responds to the stress and insecurity that can build up from rapid and mindless consumption of images, fed to us by online media platforms. From tense politics to superficial advertisements, each wall of the virtual gallery space presents a video of fast-scrolling pictures which imitate the visual content that flood our newsfeeds and timelines on a day-to-day basis. The circle of shifting light and colour that emerges from the floor, along with the title, act a prompt; a call to mindfulness – to locate and draw attention to your own breath while acknowledging the stimuli in your mind, body, and environment.
The following videos contain fast-moving imagery that appears to flash/flicker, which may be harmful to individuals with photosensitive epilepsy. The video’s do not play automatically and settings are available withinthe media-player window to adjust the video speed. Below the videos is a gallery of still-images taken from the videos.
Colleen Alcorn is a queer, non-binary, Guelph based artist who creates work that focuses on the tension and space between lines. Working primarily with wood, metal and ink in various combinations, her multi- media sculptures aim to create a push and pull for the viewer’s eye. When working on a 2 dimensional scale, she aims to create balance through the use of repetition whilst exploring themes of identity, upbringing and the weight of existence.
Nevan Hinks is a Guelph based artist who uses her work to document and build the ever changing relationship with herself and her own identity. Although she works with multiple different mediums, she makes all of her art with the purpose of expressing a piece of herself. She aims to bring viewers on a story through her experiences, and to take what they feel they need from it.
This collection invites the viewer to examine the subtle nuances over a generation between two image makers. Laura’s curation of scanned slides from her father’s collection with the pairing of her own images illustrate the similarities and differences in composition, subject matter, and formal execution. These images comment on the notions of family, the inheritance of creativity, the thankfulness for one who went before, the acknowledgement of who is looking and what are they seeing, the formal elements of photography and prolific subject matter.
Daniel Vautour began his career in photography in his father’s studio at a young age. He then went on to teach the medium while working as a commercial photographer. His images show a rich interest in composition, colour, and include a variety of landscapes and portraits. Laura Vautour, his daughter, enrolled in a University photography class to better communicate with her father as he ages. Here she learned the technical processes of the medium, and her images often blur subject matter, order the image, include line work and explore the materiality of the image.
In this series, I used photography to capture both the beauty and struggle I have witnessed in different countries I have travelled.
The social hierarchies of humans and animals vary greatly from culture to culture. In Greece, donkeys are used as beasts of burden to carry tourist luggage, whereas in Istanbul, animals run free and can find refuge in local shops. London is similar to Western societies where animals are heavily domesticated. As for the other residents of these countries, the energy is entirely different in each city. London’s high energy brought in crowds everywhere you went. A more reserved and simple lifestyle of fishing, playing music in empty streets, and selling food from small carts could be seen in the less wealthy countries I visited.
The attitudes towards life in these very different countries each offer something unique that should be implemented into our own lives. By looking through these small windows there is an opportunity to reflect on our regard for other life, slow down and find joy in the everyday, and accept new curious cultures.
Farhad Omarzad is a published Guelph lifestyle photographer. In his personal practice, Farhad’s experience with both rural and urban environments provides him with a unique perspective on the natural and undiscovered world around us. Travelling and meeting new people has been an opportunity to expand his understanding of different cultures beyond his own. Being of Afghan heritage, he is inspired by photographers like Steve McCurry who document vanishing cultures of places the viewer has never visited.
As the natural world becomes infiltrated with digital technology, human perception of nature will inevitably be affected, for better or for worse. My interests in nature, ecological preservation, and systems of memory stem from my upbringing in Muskoka and Algonquin Park; the foundation for my location-based practice. Using my background in biology, environmental science, and botany, I aim to shed light on the climate issues and anthropogenic impacts that threaten the species, ecosystems and places that inspire my art. My work examines the ambiguity of memory, the dichotomy between nature and technology, and the disenchantment of humans with the environment. Through drawing, painting, and printmaking, I aim to explore how experiences grounded in physical versus digital interactions support different ways of knowing an object or space.
My body of work, along with this gallery space, aims to address the disconnection between humans and the environment by encouraging appreciation for and reconnection with nature. Recently I have been working in collaboration with natural elements and allowing nature to be the artist. This involves frottage and use of live specimens to create lines and shapes that represent nature as truthfully as possible. Other works included in this space are reflective of photographic distortion and examine how technology can both enhance and obscure one’s experience in nature.
Rachael Cary McMunn is a U of G Studio Art BA(H) alumni and a VFX student at Toronto Film School. She assists in the creation of digital shows for Zavitz Gallery and is always happy to chat about digital exhibitions and art.If you’re curious about a digital show, reach out to Rachael!
Great! First things first, it’s going to feel like a lot of work. Especially if your comfort zone is in the realm of paper and charcoal pencils. I won’t sugar coat it. Making art digitally can be frustrating and difficult. The jargon that animators and effects artists use can be enough to make any timid interest in digital work disappear right away. But you can absolutely make the leap and have a ton of fun working digitally. I would argue that learning digital skills is just as important as nailing the 30-second gesture drawing. Stay with me now! I’ll give you hand on getting started.
But what counts as digital art?
Honestly, I’m sure there’s a great reading out there on this exact topic somewhere, and I’m even more sure that Nestor Kruger has assigned it to me in the past. Regardless, I’ll tell you what I think. Digital art is pretty much everything. Very few processes exist without modern technology. You may say, “Whatever do you mean Rachael? That’s impossible.” Right? In my opinion, wrong. Technology is so ingrained in the way we work and live that I find it hard to believe it doesn’t change the way we art (yes I meant to use art as a verb). Even if a technological world didn’t fundamentally change art practicum, I’ll give you this example. If I was sitting in a park drawing a sparrow on a tree branch, I would probably put this up on my Instagram or website sometime soon (#artist #bird #sundaysatthearborteum)! Just because I didn’t make it with a computer, or camera, or some sort of tech, doesn’t mean it isn’t or doesn’t in some way become digital art. Even if you made every attempt to consciously avoid digital influence in your art practice, I’d say it’s still in some way digital art. Our choices, what we use as subject matter for our art, or how we collect our materials (thank you Jeff Bezos, but also no thank you Jeff Bezos), are often digitally influenced. Let me know if you’ve got a scenario where the digital world wasn’t at all present in your art process. I’d love to hear it (and make an argument against it)! The point remains, you’re already making digital art.
Okay but you said it would be hard, now you say I’m already making it. Which is it?
Right, you caught me! Let me explain. You are already making digital art, but you can expand your skills. This is where the digital world can get overwhelming. Almost anyone can make an Instagram post. My Nana does bi-weekly. But can you start opening up the possibilities? You might have to dedicate some time.
So get acquainted with the possibilities!
One of my favourite aspects of working digitally is the potential for revisions. Layers baby! Done well, a digital format has the potential to be worked and reworked until you are happy. This is not unlike a painting, but can be unlike processes such as hand-carving a wooden sculpture. Resources for the wooden sculpture are not infinite. At some point, after carving down, you will run out of wood and you won’t be able to add it back. In contrast, it is often very easy to undo past actions in digital work (I see you Monica Tap and Martin Pearce, I hear you in my thoughts right now. Yes, I think painting is uniquely akin to what most people see as digital art. For example, you can layer, change, and even subtract with a rag). If you’re a painter, I bet you’ll quite like the crtl-z (or command-z, for those Mac users) “undo” option in almost any program out there. It’s undoubtedly less effort than wiping with solvents but performs a similar function. If you’re a printmaker, imagine not wasting that sheet of 11$ BFK on flooding your screen like a fool. Push Crtl-z, fresh canvas, fresh sheet of BFK! Of course, you won’t have a print, you’ll have a digital file. I’m not calling them the same. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m simply saying that you might like the playfulness of working in layers and find it strangely similar to the ways you are already working.
Layers are not the only possibility a digital workflow provides. Let’s talk wildest art installation dreams. For example, one of my very first sculpture 1 projects would have been a heck of a lot more impactful if I could have just made more. Of course I simply just didn’t have the time or the energy for that. We’ve all been there. But what if I could have copied and pasted my object into a virtual environment? Suddenly I have as many of my objects as feels right, as many as my computer can handle. Now, what if I made them all ten feet tall? Now, what if I put them in the Mojave desert? Did I just make an exhibition I could never have afforded in real life? Yes. Is it the same as the exhibition could have been in real life? No. In fact, it’s completely different.
Lets pause on our art dreams for a second and talk art philosophy because we just touched on something I think is really important.
This is about your role as an artist. In making work, we make choices. These choices, then change the work. Working digitally as a replacement for real life is not possible since working digitally is both already real-life and a fundamental shift in working. Recall that I told you you’re already working digitally. Your work is already digital, but the conscious choice to plunge a sculpture you once moulded with clay by hand and instead 3D model it in Blender is something else entirely. The decision between the two mediums fundamentally changes the work. Furthermore, now exhibit this work in digital Zavitz Gallery. This too fundamentally changes the work. As close to reality as we can come with digital spaces, they are still a different type of reality. The virtual space can and does defy the logic of reality however we want it to. It is manipulatable in a way that our everyday world is not. It’s important to acknowledge and understand that virtual spaces and digital art exhibitions are not simply meant to imitate what can be done in reality. I hope you followed me on that. Here’s a quick summary of that little philosophy. Yes, you are making digital work already, since the context of our world is inevitably digital, however, the decision to make in one way versus another inherently changes the work. Using a digital medium over a classic painting changes the work fundamentally, in the same way that running a print versus making a drawing fundamentally changes a work. Exhibiting work in a virtual space has the same effect. The context of the work is fundamentally changed, and the work is different. Consider the choices you are making with your work.
You want the visuals, I know. My essay is almost over. I’ll tell you how to get started now and then throw in the pictures for good measure.
If you really want to get into it, there are essentially two parts to creating digitally for me. I want to specify that you can actually do whatever the heck you want. But this is how I work and how most visual effects artists work.
The first is 3D modelling, so you can create things (I don’t knowwhat they are because they can be anything. They are things. Apples, unicorns, people, planes… just things okay?) and the other part is compositing, where you put those things into place and apply makeup. It was once described to me like this: animation is like drawing and modelling from clay, visual effects and compositing is like applying makeup. Compositing is a part of visual effects where we put things together and make them look good. (Hold on, I’m hearing Monica and Martin again). It’s the same as composition guys. Compositing and composition sound the same because they are. The laws of composition physics will apply to compositing too.
So what the heck do you use to do this modelling and compositing?
Step one, Adobe. Step two Blender. Step three, stir. Use Adobe at the University for free, or get yourself a creative cloud subscription and use Blender at home also for free (#notsponsored).
Adobe is full of stuff you want. Full. I mean it. Full. If you can, I recommend spending the money on Adobe and I highly recommend getting the whole Creative Cloud, not just one program. Photoshop is invaluable, but when it comes to composting video and basic animation, After Effects is the key to making great work. If you are an artist who makes video work, or who is interested in starting, I highly recommend getting started with After Effects and, of course, your choice of editing software. Conveniently, Creative Cloud will also come with Premiere Pro.
Click here to go to blender’s website and download blender, a free and widely used 3D modelling software. Check out BlenderGuru on YouTube to get started building cool sculptures (or really anything you can think of). Anything you make here can be brought into our virtual Zavitz Gallery. Even better, anything you make here can be brought into almost any space you can think of, build, or take a picture of. They can also be composited into an environment using After Effects or Photoshop. Even cooler, 3D models can often be 3D printed!
One last little resource! If you need a quick 3D model for a project but can’t build one, check out Turbo Squid and Pixel Squid. These are both great resources for working with 3D models that are free or low cost and don’t require you to build models yourself. I use both of these resources all of the time and worse case they provide lots of reference material.
Alright, now for the pictures! Here are some visuals to show you what all this means.
Don’t forget to check out some of the archived exhibitions we’ve created in the past! Click here to find them.
Art Store is a student run art store featuring items created by students at the University of Guelph. For more information on an individual item or artist, click on the image below or send a message to @zavitzartstore.
Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan once argued that it is not the content of a message that holds importance; but instead, the characteristics of the medium itself. In other words, “the medium is the message”.
In his essay, Neo-Materialism, Part I: The Commodity and the Exhibition, Joshua Simon points out that the world is full of commodities that influence how we interact with the world. There is no better example to use here than the technology that is currently allowing me to write this statement and currently allowing us to communicate with one another from our homes and through our screens as we survive a global pandemic.
In this exhibition, I am interested in exploring the potential of photographic technology beyond its intended use and its capability to imitate real life. More specifically, I am interested in creating photographs that speak to their own creation. Technology and Failure is an installation that consists of scans of corrupted images that were misprinted, scratched, and covered in dust and fingerprints.