Always looking for a new way to present work, the Department of Visual Arts has changed the format of their annual exhibition by graduating students of their MFA program. Rather than presenting one large exhibit featuring all the graduating MFA students, this year’s exhibition will instead offer a rotating Solo Series. The first of these week-long solo exhibitions will happen throughout March in the Audain Gallery in the Visual Arts building, wrapping up with three further solo exhibitions in late April following the annual BFA exhibit. Artists on view in this first Solo Series include Tristan Zastrow, Ryan Hatfield and Rachel Vanderzwet.
“This series will be beneficial for our undergraduate students and the public to directly experience the rigorous individual studio practices that our grads are engaged in,” says Visual Arts professor and grad student supervisor Jennifer Stillwell. “Their solo exhibitions are milestones in their research and practice as they publicly display and celebrate the work they have developed through their two-year Master’s degree.”
First on view is Tristan Zastrow‘s “Emerge,” running 9am to 5pm daily from March 14 to 19. His installation references the notion of “putting one’s self into another’s shoes”, and the inherent impossibility to fully do so. “It contends with the impact of story on identity and experience by creating an immersive environment that seeks to turn the viewer’s attention back toward themselves,” says Zastrow. An American artist who has lived in Canada since 2007, Zastrow’s practice primarily considers identity and behavioural influence.
His focus in the MFA program has dealt with his analysis of narrative as a self-proclaimed “story junkie.” Noting that he has been greatly inspired by “the experiential turn,” which has become increasingly prevalent since the 1960s, he says he arrives at his work through a conceptual process of research and investigation. “I like holding a topic up close, and trying to extract some part of it which might translate best to a dynamic encounter.” Zastrow’s interactive works seem to carry a thread of playfulness with an undercurrent which encourages reflective pause. “I want to make accessible works that people of all walks of life can come to with whatever mood or foreknowledge of fine art, and be able to get something that sticks with them.”
Listen to this interview with Zastrow on the CFUV Radio show Beyond the Jargon. Also running simultaneously with his MFA exhibit is Zastrow’s “Circle Makers”, March 12-29 at the fifty-fifty arts collective. All are welcome to join Zastrow at the “Emerge” reception, 4-7pm Thursday, March 17 in the Audain Gallery.
Next on view is the ironically titled “I Didn’t Understand it, or Enjoy it, but I’m Sure it’s Profound” by Ryan Hatfield (9am-5pm March 21-25, with a 4-7pm reception on Thursday, March 24). In his series of large-scale oil paintings, Hatfield uses jarring intersections of visual interruptions and contradictions to mess with art historical and contemporary art tropes. “Throughout my process, the work is constantly challenged by throwing off and teasing composition with various visual elements including text, brightly saturated colour, representational still life and figures,” he says. “A montage of extraneous, competing elements explore the relationship between visual balance and chaos.”
With an aim to articulate our environment’s complexity, Hatfield’s works stem from a frustration, fascination, ode and ridicule of how we search for meaning through images and painting. Hatfield holds a BFA from the University of Denver, a post-graduate diploma from the Cyprus College of Art and has exhibited work internationally in Scotland, Cyprus, Israel, Australia, and USA.
This first series rounds out this month with Rachel Vanderzwet’s “Mooning Over Feathered Tutus” (9am-5pm March 28-April 1, with a 4-7pm reception on Thursday, March 31). Vanderzwet’s thesis work is ripe with the desire of a manufactured lifestyle torn fresh from the pages of contemporary visual culture. Her paintings burst with recognition and humour while flirting with abstract gesture. “Each painted mark comes about from a process of reacting to the one laid down before it,” she explains. Her layered and spatial pictures are alive with energy and colour that seduces the viewer into a state of close inspection and investment. There is a sense of curiosity and freshness to the work which reflects an earnest appetite to explore kitsch and the everyday as the unexpected allure of our material lives.
“Rachel Vanderzwet’s new paintings readily bridge the cleave between the realms of abstraction and representation,” notes Visual Arts professor Robert Youds. “Her canvases ooze with gesture, colour, pattern, becoming visual choreography with all the reciprocity and speed of fashions best sociological/cultural bites.” Prior to her enrollment in UVic’s MFA program, Vanderzwet received her BFA in Studio Art from University of Guelph and a Diploma in Graphic Design and Art Fundamentals from Niagara College. She has shown work nationally in Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Victoria and Guelph.
Coming up at the end of April are exhibits by this year’s remaining MFA candidates: Victoria Murawski, Breanna Fabbro and Kerri Flannigan.