Ghost Ship and other works showcase grad students’ artistry

The activities and accomplishments of graduate students in the Department of Visual Arts in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts are as varied as the media in which they work.

Ghost Ship, an imposing, six-foot-tall window installation by Lisa Neighbour, is the newest addition to the Faculty of Fine Arts’ Samuel Sarick Purchase Award collection.

Right: Lisa Neighbour with Ghost Ship

Toronto philanthropist Samuel Sarick established the Purchase Award in York’s Graduate Program in Visual Arts in 1976 – just two years after the program was established. In every year since, one or more works have been selected for acquisition from the thesis exhibitions of students graduating from the program.

The result is an outstanding collection of Canadian contemporary art, created by then-emerging artists, that reflects artistic expression and style over three decades. It also serves as an important component of the historical record of the visual arts graduate program and its alumni.

“It was a surprise and an honour to be selected,” said Neighbour (MFA ’09), who created Ghost Ship for her thesis show last year.

At the time, Neighbour felt her monumental vinyl cut-out of a pirate ship might be a little too alternative to be considered for the prize. When it was originally installed for her thesis exhibition last spring it was in a window gallery downtown with a bright light shining behind it. Passersby would walk through the artificial shadow cast on the sidewalk, effectively crossing “through” the ship.

Back on campus, with the encouragement of visual arts graduate program Director Michel Daigneault, Neighbour decided “to allow the sun to do all of the work,” installing the piece in a bright, south-facing, third-floor window at the east corner of the Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts. The work is visible from outdoors as well as from the corridor inside. You can see Ghost Ship floating near the top of the building if you look up from Atkinson Road.

“I look forward to seeing the shadow at different times of day and in different seasons,” the artist said. “This ship will travel!”

Recent works by other alumni, as well as current MFA students will be on view until February 2011 at the Miles S. Nadal Management Centre in the TD Centre, the downtown campus of York’s Schulich School of Business. An innovative partnership between business and the arts, Art @ Suite 500 is an annual juried exhibition presented collaboratively by the Graduate Program in Visual Arts and the Schulich School of Business.

By coincidence, in this, its 13th year, the show features 13 artists: Jaime Angelopoulos, Ian August, Eshrat Erfanian, Zev Farber, Melissa General, Colwyn Griffith, Lauren Goldman, Rodrigo Hernandez Gomez, Alex Kisilevich, Anthony Koutras, Catherine Lane, Julieta Maria and Dustin Wenzel.

This year’s submissions were adjudicated by Daigneault; Professor James McKellar, director of the Schulich’s Real Property Program; art consultant Judy Schulich; and Paul Petro, director of Toronto’s Paul Petro Gallery.

At the close of each annual exhibition, one or more works are selected for Schulich’s annual Purchase Prize and inclusion in its permanent art collection. The prizewinners this year, chosen from the participants in Art @ Suite 500 2009, are Lauren Goldman and Zev Farber.

Left: Zev Farber’s mixed media installation Seven Years, Two Months & Six Days

Farber’s mixed media installation Seven Years, Two Months & Six Days sets a pair of golden handcuffs inside a custom-made wooden shadowbox. Farber came up with the idea in response to the MBA program, thinking about how a high-powered career in business could be compared to a sort of gilded shackle. Resembling emergency boxes found throughout many offices or other institutions, the work features a ball-peen hammer hanging on a chain, suggesting the breaking of the glass. An engraving below the handcuffs bears the phrase: “a dream aspired to darker dreaming.”

Goldman’s Hygiene Painting I is one of a suite of paintings that depict figures engaged in mundane daily activities such as brushing teeth, dressing and showering. As the viewer peeks into these intimate yet ordinary scenes, the tension between the private and the public self is highlighted. Through the use of colour, shape and texture, the artist endeavours to make the areas in-between objects and figures as interesting to the viewer as the objects and figures themselves.

Right: Lauren Goldman’s painting is one of a suite of paintings. Pictured right is Hygiene Painting I

Many of the graduate students participating in the current edition of Art @ Suite 500 also presented their work in two exhibitions on the other side of the globe earlier this spring. Australia’s University of Sydney and the Victorian College of Arts at the University of Melbourne hosted the shows, which featured the work of Jaime Angelopoulos, Eshrat Erfanian, Zev Farber, Rodrigo Hernandez Gomez, Anthony Koutras, Catherine Lane, Julieta Maria, Cheryl Rondeau and Dustin Wenzel.

The Australian exhibitions were part of a reciprocal agreement arranged by York visual arts Professor Yvonne Singer, which brought work by doctoral candidates from the Sydney College of the Arts Graduate School at the University of Sydney, to York in 2008 (see YFile, February 26, 2008).