Announcing our 2024-25 RBC Emerging Artists in Residence!

With thanks to the RBC Foundation for their ongoing, generous support, the RMG is pleased to welcome Ioana Dragomir, Vanessa Godden, and Niya Abdullahi to the RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program in 2024-2025. In the coming year, these three artists will develop exciting new projects in our residency studio, then present that work in solo exhibitions at the RMG. We look forward to sharing their work with you!

Ioana Dragomir


Residency Dates: February 26 – June 9, 2024
Exhibition Dates: June 15 – August 11, 2024

Ioana Dragomir is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in Montreal, Canada. She holds an Honours BA in studio practice from the University of Waterloo, an MA in Art History and Curatorial Studies from Western University, and is currently an MFA candidate at Concordia University. Her artistic practice combines her interest in writing, literary analysis, and curation with drawing, printmaking, textiles, ceramics, and installation. In particular, poetic methodologies of juxtaposition, metaphor, and slippage are important to her practice.

Ioana Dragomir, ginny, insulation foam and dressmaker’s pins, 2023. Installed at Support in Montréal. Courtesy of the artist.

Vanessa Godden


Residency Dates: June 17 – September 29, 2024
Exhibition Dates: October 8 – December 1, 2024

Vanessa Godden is a queer Indo-Caribbean and Euro-Canadian artist, educator, and curator. They are a sessional lecturer at universities across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and a cofounder of the curatorial collective Diasporic Futurisms. Godden holds a PhD from the Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne, Australia; 2020), an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, USA; 2014), and a BFA from the University of Houston (Houston, USA; 2012). Their transdisciplinary practice explores how the relationship between the body, personal histories, and geographic space can be conveyed in multi-sensory performances, videos, and installations.

Vanessa Godden, Bite Your Tongue, live performance, curry powder, flour, eggshells with personal journal entries written on them, 5 pomegranates, 35 minutes, 2019. Performed at the Fiona and Sidney Myer Gallery. Photograph by Kelvin Lau.

Niya Abdullahi


Residency Dates: October 21 – December 22, 2024 and January 6 – February 16, 2025
Exhibition Dates: February 22 – April 20, 2025

Niya Abdullahi is a multidisciplinary artist, technologist and the founder of @Habasooda, a collective dedicated to sharing the richness of the Muslim experience. Themes of identity, liberation and resistance inform her work in film which have screened at TIFF Next Wave, Nuit Blanche Saskatoon, Breakthroughs Film Festival, and Gallery 44. She was a 2021 Hot Docs Accelerator Fellow and sits on the Advisory committee for the Nia Centre of the Arts BLACKOUT project and the City of Toronto’s ArtworksTO program. Her art is personal, often drawing from her experiences as a first-generation Harari woman raised on Turtle Island, to tell stories through analogue and digital video, photography, and poetry.

Niya Abdullahi, in the whiteness, video still, 2022. Courtesy of the artist.

Learn more about the residency program here.

Interview with Art Lab artist in Residence, John Di Leonardo

John Di Leonardo is our Art Lab artist in residence from June12 until September 3, 2018. During his residency in the Art Lab, John Di Leonardo will be researching the nude theme within Canada’s artistic history, and also will be drawing to create a body of work that explores questions of the nude image as a contentious landscape whose tradition of object of desire and shame informs our social constructs, values and identity.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am a Brooklin based artist/poet. I received my Hon. BFA from McMaster University with a specialist in figure drawing and painting. I have been a visual arts educator until retirement in 2010. Since retirement I have been a full time artist and loving it!

2. Please tell us more about your exhibition in Gallery A.

While at The RMG I will be working with graphite/pencil medium and the human figure.

My installation at the RMG will explore questions of the nude image as a contentious theme in the history of Canadian art, how its tradition as object of desire and shame informs the trajectory of our social constructs, values and identity.













3. Why did you apply to exhibit in Gallery A?

The RMG has a wonderful library and archival collection. I will continue my archival research from artist’s files, catalogues, newspaper clippings to glean our attitudes about the nude as a theme in Canadian art, specifically in the early part of the 20th century when Canadian identity and modernism in art and culture were being shaped.

Also, I am currently working on a large format triptych series and need a space in which to work. My current studio space is a little claustrophobic!

Lastly, I was interested in working in the Gallery A residency because I wanted to interact with the public and engage them in conversations about themes in Canadian art and how they might shape our sense of identity.

4. What inspires you? Is there a particular artist’s work that has influenced your practice?

The figure has always been a central element in my studio practice for the past three decades, whether working in a realistic, abstract or conceptual vein.

I have always been attracted to artists who reveal a sense of rhythm and energy, or what the Chinese call the CHI a word meaning aliveness, life force inherent in all things. You see this in Botticelli, the German Expressionists, and of course many Chinese painting masters.

5. Why Drawing?

I truly enjoy sketching and drawing. After having worked on mixed media/conceptual series for about eight years, I felt the need to go back to the basic pleasures of art, the physicality of mark-making and the challenges of drawing the human figure.

Drawing helps me to get to the core of a thing, it’s an act of meditation, it is an artist’s most direct and spontaneous form of expression revealing better than any other visual art form the artist’s true personality.











Mirror/Mirror # I : After the Garden, Graphite, 4’ X 9’, 2018

6. What do you hope visitors will feel when they visit your exhibition?

I hope that the exhibition will engage viewers in dialogue and reflective contemplation about our uncomfortable relationship with the nude in art, as they view their own reflection as an integral part of the installation. I hope questions will be explored as why the nude as a theme never took hold in Canada while celebrated in Europe.

Though the nude has never had the capacity of the landscape to become an icon of Canadian identity, it is a very important theme in the evolution of Canadian modernism and a reflection of a changing society in the inter-war years.

That being said, I hope viewers will also simply enjoy the formal and aesthetic qualities the works offer. I would like to end with a quote by Francis Bacon;

“ The greatest art always returns to the vulnerability of the human situation”

Exploring the process: An interview with Anastasia Hare

By: Raechel Bonomo

Interview with Anastasia Hare
RMG Art Lab Residency: What Arises in the Process, December 6 – 30, 2016
Gallery A Exhibition: In Time, January 5 – 29, 2017
Participating artists: Katie Bruce, Jennifer Carvalho, Rob Nicholls and Sarah Sands Phillips

The relationship between the curator and the artist is one of complexities and involves an understanding of one another as deep in significance as the work itself. Art is vulnerable and often lends itself as an outlet of a deeper message hidden within the layers of its creator. When cultivating a collection of work, the artist must surrender themselves fully to a curator. Like many other relationships, the rapport between the artist and curator is a process; one Anastasia Hare is well-versed in.

Hare’s residency at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) Art Lab looks to explore the progression of art to exhibition. The results of her residency took the form of an exhibit titled In Time, displayed in Gallery A from January 5 – 29, 2017.

I spoke with Hare about the intricacies of the relationship between curator and artist and how the process can be just as beautiful as the finished product.

Take me through the progression of curating a room.

My curatorial projects begin with encountering works of art at galleries, in magazines and online. If the work interests me I’ll usually pick up a card or save an image to refer to, or just remember the experience of the work and the themes resonating from it, and I’ll start to make connections between the artist’s works and the works of other artists. The premises further develop through research and dialogue with the artists, which frequently centre on their processes – an interest that stems from my own artistic experience. I might then explore topics related to the ideas behind the works.

I also consider the exhibition space, and look at the room overall as well as in detail with regard to each work and body of works, how the room is used and moved through, and envision views from various areas of the gallery. I arrange works illustrating their connections with adjacent works, and contextualize the grouping through my writing in didactics and essays.

Is there a difference in your methods when it comes to different mediums and style of work?

If it’s a medium that might not be widely familiar, I’d provide a brief explanation in the exhibition materials. When it comes to installing an unconventional medium or if there is a conceptual reasoning behind a particular display decision, I’d have more detailed conversations with the artist to ensure that the work is handled and displayed appropriately. I also consider series and distinct works in multiple arrangements – separately, in grids, pairings and groupings.

What was the most challenging exhibition to curate in your career thus far and why?

I think this residency exhibition may have had the most challenges because my focus on current works in progress meant a tight timeframe and the possibility that the work wouldn’t be complete for the exhibition. In some cases the artists may have been working on several projects at the time of our initial studio visits, and my selection of works needed to change based on what had been completed or the direction of the works.


Describe the relationship between the curator and the artist. Has there ever been a time when you and an artist had completely different interpretations on how their work should be displayed? How do you find common ground?

The relationship between the curator and the artist depends on the project and setting, but mostly I see my role as thoughtfully selecting, caring for and displaying artists’ works for public engagement. My approach is to get to know the artists’ practices as much as possible without preconceptions, I familiarize myself with their work before meeting but try to be open to different perspectives and actively listen to avoid misunderstandings.

Does the artist ever impact the way you curate their work? Did your methods in curating In Time change from artist to artist?

Absolutely, it’s important to me to discuss with the artists their individual wishes about how their work is displayed and care for each appropriately in my handling, as well as in my writing and presentation.

What was something you were surprised to discover while watching the process of these four artists unfold?

The artists were already quite comfortable with showing stages of their work, having participated in group critiques and actively using social media so I wasn’t surprised about their willingness to participate in a residency where I’d be showing bits of their processes, but I anticipated that perhaps the artists might be uncomfortable exhibiting work that was so recently completed or potentially still in its final stages. I wondered how this approach to an exhibition and the timeframe of the residency might encourage or restrict their work. Fortunately the artists responded positively when I invited them to participate, explaining that they were just starting a new body of work, had been thinking about trying to work with new media or techniques, had just moved or reorganized their studio.


How has this residency, seeing art being made in its most vulnerable stages onto its completion, changed the way you curate?

Aside from conversations with colleagues and perhaps posting an installation shot, I’d never shown the stages of development and artists’ processes creating the works leading up to an exhibition before. My ambition was to use the residency and exhibition as an opportunity to pursue an experimental project, while generating dialogue around creative processes and facilitating meaningful experiences with contemporary art. I decided to leave a booklet in the entrance of the gallery that includes a collection of anecdotes and excerpts of conversations with the artists, as well as photos of studio spaces, sketches, related earlier works and works in progress to reflect aspects of the processes involved, for visitors to peruse and make their own connections among the works featured in the exhibition.



Raechel Bonomo is a writer and Oshawa-native. As a journalism-grad, Raechel looks to tell stories in various forms about various topics. Her lifelong love affair with art fuels her freelance writing but, by day, she works as the editorial coordinator for a conservation organization.

In her free time, she can be found either wielding a paintbrush or trekking through the unbeaten path in a forest somewhere in sourthen ontario.

The RMG’s 10-year-old curator

Sigourney Baker is a 10-year-old junior curator at the RMG.

The junior curator program explores the world of art galleries and exhibitions. The program gives kids the opportunity to learn how to develop themes while given a behind the scenes look of how an exhibition comes together.

While exploring works from the RMG’s permanent collection, Baker was impressed with the amount of animals she came across. Her love for animals, paired with a paintbrush, gave way for Bakers focus while curating Gallery.

For this exhibition, Sigourney had the pleasure of browsing through the gallery’s permanent collection – her favourite being Barry Smylie’s, Pineapple Cat. The water-based painting features a white-pawed black cat, peering over at the tropical fruit to its left.

JrCurators_Sigourney_photosAJGroen (15)Baker says she would trade being a 10-year-old to join her feline friends sunbathing any day happily.

When she’s not appreciating the magnificent art work of RMG, Sigourney enjoys to paint herself. Bakers says her favourite animal to paint or draw is a peacock, allowing her to blend a collage of colours.

While looking through the gallery’s collection, Baker noticed one of the animals depicted in one of the pieces, is now a member of the endangered species list.

When speaking on the importance of saving animals on the endangered spices list, Baker says, “I believe all animals should have a chance to live. I want to highlight what humans are doing to our planet and this is a good way to show it.”


Jared Williams is a second year journalism student at Durham College. Jared is a reporter/photographer for the Chronicle. He is completing his placement at the RMG as the new Communications Intern.

Simplicity in Complexity: An Interview with Hillary Matt

by: Raechel Bonomo

Artist Hillary Matt has created a conversation about everyday discussions; how we converse with the inanimate objects we encounter daily and more importantly, what they say to us.

The multi-media works hanging in the Robert McLaughlin’s (RMG) Gallery A are a collection of recent, new and site-tailored pieces comprising the artist’s solo exhibition Chances and Dangers. Inspired by the 1881 novel The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, Matt takes you through the all-encompassing highs and lows of life, similar to those experienced by the novel’s protagonist.

I spoke with Matt about the chances and dangers of her exhibit, what speaks to her and the intricacies of life in both the 2D and 3D form.

Raechel Bonomo (RB):
Take me through your process. How does your work begin?

Hillary Matt (HM): Each work is kind of like a magnet that accumulates all the ideas and feelings I have at the time it is being made. How this begins is tricky to say, as it’s completely intuitive and is kind of always happening. I would say it usually begins with a feeling and that feeling is often a response to the music I am listening to or the stories I am reading or the movies I am watching. This is then followed by Google image searches, visits to Wikipedia, YouTube, Reddit forums and the library. I have referred to this process previously as art-based research and that sounds really professional but I think it is accurate.

RB: How long has this exhibition been in the works?

HM: I have been actively making work for Chances and Dangers since April of 2016, so about seven months. Having this length of time has taught me a lot about how I work. There was many times where I thought I was finished or had planned to be finished and then another idea would come up that seemed really necessary to follow through on. I think this speaks to the fluid nature of how I make sense of this exhibition and my work in general.

RB: How has the novel The Portrait of A Lady influenced this series of work?

HM: The quote from [The] Portrait of a Lady in the exhibition write-up is something I chose to reference because I feel like the sentiment it holds reveals a lot about the guts of the work in the show, which are really quite personal are more or less about the guts of life. The work was already rolling before I became interested in the novel so it didn’t really influence much of it but rather helped me to explain my thinking around it.

RB: What does “chances and dangers” mean to you?

HM: To me, chances and dangers is a poetic descriptor of the ups and downs of life. The line comes from the quote I used in the exhibition text which is a conversation between Isabel, the main character in the novel, and one of her suitors. She is realizing that happiness and suffering are inextricable; they are in a sense one in the same. To avoid the chances and dangers of life would be to avoid happiness, too. As humans I think we can all relate to Isabel’s realization.

RB: Your work plays on the simplicity and, simultaneously, the complications of life. How do you believe this comes through in your work?

HM: It fascinates me that you perceive my work in that way. I think perhaps the only thing that simplifies my work is its flatness, the ability for all parts to exist and interact on the same plane. After that things get pretty complicated. I guess using the text from the novel is a way to point out what it all boils down, these existential questions, which may in some way simplify things for people.

RB: How would you describe the relationship between 2D language (signage) and your work?

HM: Formally, I think most of the work in Chances and Dangers reflect a conversation between two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality. I am interested in flatness as a metaphor for how we interpret time, space and language. So much of how we represent and know our world is in 2D: photography, newspaper, film, painting, drawings, and yet we are 3D beings. I am always trying to engage with that notion in my work.

RB: What do you believe is the difference between sign and art?

HM: I believe there is a big difference between sign and art and by suggesting a comparison of the two with this exhibition I am trying to drawing attention to the possibility of language being just a pictorial symbol. As an artist, I struggle to use words to describe what my work is about, why I make it, or the most confrontational question: What does it mean? Breaking down and abstracting language and the written word is a way for me to confront the authority and meaning that language usually holds.

RB: You used various objects in a mixed media setting throughout this exhibit. What are some of the objects in particular used in the work?

HM: I used a piece of polished break-form steel that I retrieved from a local scrap metal yard as a support to hold up the two large-format prints in donno if it’s real but it’s what I feel, 2015. To me this work resembles some kind of ceremonial hanging banner you might find in the back of a place like the Lion’s Club. Dually, I imagine the piece of steel as the spine of a book and each print as a page in my diary. In another work titled score, 2016 I use a found towel rack presumably from the 90’s judging by its decoration that I repainted pink. I imagine the rungs of the rack as lines on a sheet of paper or on a page of sheet music. The objects I have created out of paper weave in and out. Other work in the exhibition uses textiles, a motorcycle mirror, and a plastic cable wire cover. Because I studied sculpture/installation I am forced to consider the implications of the materials I use. In using found objects I am forced to consider their past life, their role in consumer culture, and I value the challenge they present.

RB: What is one thing you hope people take away from your exhibition at the RMG?

HM: I hope viewers are inspired and take away something that is useful to them.

Interview with Art Lab Artist in Residence, Karolina Baker

You can see Karolina Baker in the Art Lab September 21, 2016 – October 30, 2016. 

Reception: RMG Fridays, October 7, 7-10pm
Artist Talk: October 16, 1-3pm

Capturing Whitby sound, Tuesday 2pm.

Capturing Whitby sound, Tuesday 2pm.

RMG: Please tell us a little about yourself

Karolina: I was born and raised in Ottawa and moved to Toronto in the late 90s. I made my way to Whitby because my husband had a job at the Oshawa airport and I’ve been here since. I’ve always had an artistic current running through my life. I studied acting in Toronto for ten years while freelancing in the film production world. I’ve always maintained that accidentally walking into the 2001 Biennale in Venice, Italy was a true aha moment for me. I was there for a wedding and we had a few days to discover the islands. Unbeknown to me, a whole section of the city was mapped out into these massive art installations. To see art on such a large scale was mind blowing and extremely exciting because it felt like I found my kind. I know that sounds funny, but I really felt like I found a group of people, despite my lack of Italian, who spoke my language and understood the ideas in my head. Since then I knew I had to create my ideas. Now add in four kids and it is a bit more difficult to tap into my creative current! Right now my time is primarily taken up by my kids, but when inspiration and time collide, I am thrilled to make my ideas come to life.


RMG: Why did you apply to the Art Lab artist in residence program?

Karolina: My studio space is in my house and where ever I can make my ideas happen. The Art Lab residence program is a gem of an opportunity for me to approach it like a job, leave my house everyday and go to “work”. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so there are always things to do around here and I seldom allow myself to work on my art projects.


Screen capture of book trailer video shot for author Nerys Parry’s Man and Other Natural Disasters. Published by Enfield & Wizenty.

Screen capture of book trailer video shot for author Nerys Parry’s Man and Other Natural Disasters. Published by Enfield & Wizenty.

RMG: What will you be creating during your residency?  What can visitors expect to find in the Art Lab?

Karolina: I want to record sound and manipulate it. I’ve done audio for short videos I’ve shot, but I haven’t worked in sound alone.  I’d like to record sounds, manipulate them, loop them and amplify them. What sounds will people stay and listen to? I’ll have my laptop, speakers, a recorder and microphone. My initial proposal was to record my daily surroundings, but I would also like to record voices and items in the lab. Having said all that, it is a lab so maybe I will have to let go of my ideas and go down the rabbit hole. I will plug in my speaker into the common room across from the Art Lab and play my experiments. I will write my daily thoughts on the wall so people can follow my journey. I understand it will be hard for people to look in the window to “see” what I am doing, so I welcome any visitors into the lab, to listen and have a chat. We can always learn from each other and that is exactly what I want to do with the art lab; discover a new way to communicate my ideas.


RMG: What inspires you? Is there a particular artist’s work that has inspired your practice?

Karolina: I don’t text or use my cell phone (my husband would add here that it is because I usually don’t know where it is). I do not like anything to take me away from observing. I am a fierce observer of life around me: patterns, old things, kindness, quietness, order, underdogs, movement and colours.

Artist Janet Cardiff absolutely inspires me. I discovered her in 2001 and she has resonated with me since. I walked through one of her sound installations at the Power Plant in Toronto and visitors were sitting listening to her piece, crying, drawing, dancing, meditating. It was remarkable to see how moved people could be by someone’s idea. Douglas Coupland is another Canadian artist I love to follow. I love his artistic diversity. He writes, makes films, visual art, public art and observations. He uses anything he can to convey his idea and he’s an observer.



Interview with Gallery A artist Laura Madera

Laura Madera ‘s exhibition in Gallery A “The Angle of the Sun’s Rays” runs until July 24. We caught up with Laura to ask her a few questions about her exhibition and practice.

The RMG: Hi Laura. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Laura Madera: I was born in Ajax Ontario and grew up in the pavement dominated suburbs of Toronto. Growing up I spent a lot of time seeking out wilder natural places within the city. We lived close to the Don Valley and I would explore that beautiful, stinky, overgrown, (then) polluted area with friends and family any chance I got. It’s abandoned orchards, mills and woods had an affect on my imagination and ways of negotiating the world. I still draw on some of those experiences today.

In my adulthood I’ve had an itinerant life – moving almost every year. Often ping ponging back and forth from British Columbia to Ontario. Until three years ago, when I settled in Peterborough to paint full time.

In terms of artmaking, I’m an oddball watercolourist.  I have bachelors and masters degrees in fine art and mix that critical head space with engaging directly with experiences, both in the natural world and with the material qualities of watercolour in the studio.

RMG: Please tell us more about your exhibition in Gallery A.

LM: In this exhibition I use painting to poetically explore the natural world, it’s primal energies, and to approximate something of the wonder of it. I was curious what it would be like to make work from a place of interconnectedness – as a way to embody the creaturely aspects of living in a place. I wanted to paint not from a position of masterful dominance and control, but from a conversational, reciprocal position. I spent much time listening to my materials in the studio. Water, pigment, air, latex, gravity became valuable collaborators for creating diverse forms, qualities and meaning. The result is a kind of painted document of the negotiation and flows of my imagination and body with the body of work.

laura selfie

Laura Madera Selfie

RMG: Why did you apply to exhibit in Gallery A?

LM: Gallery A supports the exhibition of new and experimental work. This exhibition is the culmination of a project grant from the Ontario Arts Council to push my practice into the scale of history painting. This scale is new territory for me. Gallery A seemed like a great place to mount the work.

RMG: What inspires you? Is there a particular artist’s work that has influenced your practice?

LM: Direct experiences with light, water, weather, plants, soil, rock, natural processes and the qualities of watercolour. Poetry. Thinkers such as Wendell Berry and Ursula K Le Guin. Artists Georgia OKeefe, Charles Burchfield, Bill Jensen, Anne Truitt, Landon MacKenzie. Anyone who is curious about the world and open. Love. Vulnerability.

watercolor laura madera

Fishing, Laura Madera, 2016, watercolour on canvas, 30.5 x 35.5cm

RMG: Why watercolor?

LM: Watercolour lends itself to conversation. It’s unruly, tenacious, run run running quality is a force to invite and reckon with. It’s transparent and works with available environmental light to create colour by refracting and reflecting it back through layers of pigment. In this way it is sensitive to its environment. It’s transformative, much more than oil paint, in that it’s main ingredient needs to transform into thin air in order for the painting to be made. I could go on and on. But for these qualities and others I feel it suits my project of being with and exploring natural phenomenon. It’s as much a letting go as a building up in the studio. I’d like to think my choice of watercolour as a gesture that creates another layer of content in the work.

RMG: What do you hope visitors will feel when they visit your exhibition?

LM: If there is one thing I’ve come to understand about exhibiting art is that I can’t hope for a particular response. I enjoy the varied responses that occur. But if I were to hope for something it is that people take this exhibition as an opportunity to slow down, to stop, to look and feel whatever comes.


Interview with Art Lab artist Jessica Field

Jessica Field is our Art Lab artist in residence from April 25 until July 10. During her residency in the Art Lab, Jessica Field will be experimenting with relational aesthetics and drawing to create a body of work that focuses on the influences that technology and science have on the way people socially develop their identities. Through her performance research, she will be creating fictional spaces and developing relational encounters with participants to create maps of how they relate to technology and science and attempt to place how their subjective values and feelings are connected. Most of Field’s works are parodies on the scientific methods, gender issues and the tension between subjective values, feelings, prestige and how these function in the technological complexity of our current culture. We sat down with Jessica to learn more about what she has been up to in the Art Lab…

The RMG: Hi Jessica! Please tell us a little about yourself.

Jessica Field: I am an artist who has lived in the Durham region for most of my life. Growing up in Pickering and then starting my own family here in Oshawa. I am a very curious person who enjoys spending an exorbitant amount of time trying to answer big questions. I am most fascinated by human nature in how complicated we are, on one hand we can be very dismissive and selfish, yet vulnerable but we have the capacity to choose to be very empathetic, imaginative and offer a safe unbiased space for others depending on how life is effecting us.

Jessica Field

Jessica Field in the Art Lab. Photo by Lucy Villeneuve.

RMG: Why did you apply to the Art Lab artist in residence program?

JF: I applied to the Art Lab to experiment with new materials and interact with the public to create interesting conversations and learn more about how we are programmed. I am also very interested in doing research in the RMG’s library and with the collection to assist in informing my work. I am also very excited about working in a large gallery to be inspired by a space designed for exhibiting work and becoming more involved with the Oshawa art community.

RMG: What will you be creating during your residency? What can visitors expect to find in the Art Lab or during one of your performance events?

JF: I will be creating a series of drawings that will attempt to grapple the impossible question of “how we are programmed.” Visitors can expect to see a room full of large format drawings that address these questions. In the coming weeks, there will be glass markers and chalk available for visitors to contribute their impressions of the drawings in the studio. Any visitor will be very welcome to interrupt my work and offer their insights into this impossible question of “how we are programmed” as these interactions are a crucial part of my residency. In this upcoming month, my focus is in the collection of information. Then the work will become about editing and fine tuning the drawing content, this is a space for visitors to enjoy viewing complicated maps and moving or adding their interpretation of what these drawn landscapes could represent.

RMG: Tell us a bit more about your artist workshop on June 12. What will students learn?

JF: The workshop on June 12 will be offering a technique for students to use to help them learn about creating systems and see how a system or methodology can eliminate such creative challenges as creative blocks, the stress of how strong an idea is and to find methods of expanding a personalized idea into something that becomes larger than the person who imagined it in the first place. The strategy of the workshop focuses on utilizing the student’s imagination, ability to empathize and drawing attention to the importance of developing impartial judgment. These values allow people to think in larger terms then their individual selves and thus learn an ability to create artworks that speak to the larger picture of what life is all about which is something everyone has invested interest in understanding on some level. The workshop will offer an activity to help students engage in this space to find their own important contribution to this large discourse that others will value and have the added effect of enriching their own creative goals and interests.

Photo by Lucy Villeneuve

Photo by Lucy Villeneuve

RMG: In a nutshell… what is “relational aesthetics” and how does this principle impact your practice?

JF: Relational aesthetics is rooted in a dissatisfaction in the art market where art is bought and sold. Those who work in this practice are really focused on the experience of art, the experience of seeing something that has qualitative value and can be enriching to a persons life whether this is an experience of awe, revelation or a strong emotional experience that becomes a lasting memory. The art as an object is always in danger of being superficialized by popularity or become convoluted and intimidating by our stress of how the art institution values the work.

Relational aesthetics is an attempt to bring a genuine and meaningful experience between the artist and the viewer where the viewer becomes a collaborator in the experience of the work and integral to its validity. There is an equitable exchange between the artist and viewer where the viewer in their participation receives an experience of value that they should feel compelled to cherish and the artist is given material to assist in creating a project that is larger than themselves and not limited by their personal biases and experience.

The use of relational aesthetics in my project is an honest art practice that can allow me to grapple an impossible topic like “how are you programmed.” I can set up a performance which is really a collaborative exercise with the people who wish to participate and in these actions we carry out together. The objective is to really become aware of human diversity and celebrate these differences as being something valuable and important rather than peculiar or unusual. This creates a space for people to feel comfortable with enjoying the pleasure of imagination, empathy and impartial judgment in a safe space to do so which is my responsibility in executing the performance.


Jessica Field. Photo by Lucy Villeneuve.

RMG: What inspires you? Is there a particular artist’s work that has inspired your practice?

JF: I have many references that inspire me and my inspirations are always changing and are very fluid. For this residency, I am focused on Yoko Uno’s drawings and instructions from the RMG library, the pilgrimage drawings mapping the roads of life, illustrations of human life created by Christian artists in the 1800s, the Zen Ox herding drawings, and the youTube channel the School of Life. In looking at these very diverse sources, I hope to find commonalities and create maps and flow diagrams. I am also very curious in receiving input from the public on how they relate to these maps and will hopefully offer insight into what this landscape could look like.


Interview with Gallery A artist Ruth Read

Ruth Read was our Art Lab artist in residence from March 30 until April 22. She began her project Nine Empty Rooms during her residency and now is transforming the space of Gallery A with an immersive installation project. We sat down with the artist to ask her about her practice. Join Ruth for an artist talk on May 15 from 1-3pm and learn more! 

Ruth Read received her BFA (sculpture) from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. Since then she has exhibited in both group and solo shows at The Station Gallery, Whitby, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, the Visual Arts Centre, Clarington, and the Latcham Gallery, Stouffville, as well as other galleries in Ontario and St. John’s, Newfoundland. She has taught art classes at The Station Gallery, the Haliburton School of the Arts, the Visual Arts Centre, Clarington and for Fleming College.

installation in gallery

Nine Empty Rooms, Ruth Read, installation progress

The RMG: Hi Ruth! Tell us a little about yourself – when did you start making art?

Ruth Read: I started drawing seriously when I was about nine years old. My best friend liked to draw too. We took Saturday morning art classes from local artist Molly Greene Mitchell.

Later, when I was in high school, I went to the Doone Summer School of the Arts, the former home of Canadian artist Homer Watson. A working scholarship allowed me to take classes from professional artists in the afternoons when chores were done. Here I was introduced to artist quality watercolours. I worked predominately in w/c for the next 20 years.

After high school, I went to Queen’s U, Kingston where I received my BFA, sculpture major. And learned to drink coffee and beer.

art installation

Nine Empty Rooms, Ruth Read, installation progress

RMG: Who influences you and your work?

RR: I have continued to study drawing and painting between and around various jobs. Artists such as Peter Kolisnyk, Akira Yoshikawa, Joan Krawcyk and Ted Rettig have had great influence on my practice.

RMG: We’re so excited about your installation in Gallery A! How’s it coming?

RR: I started putting ceiling frames together. My brother lent me some corner clamps- fantastic, they really make the job easier.

art installation

Nine Empty Rooms, Ruth Read, installation progress

Interview with ArtLab Artist Sally Thurlow

Sally Thurlow is our Gallery A ArtLab Artist in Residence from March 2 to 27. During her residency, she will be working on a series of sculptures and paintings exploring subconscious themes on major change, dislocation, and relocation which have personal meaning and may also relate to the universal, continuing, and recurring theme that refugees are always on the move. However, this project is only just getting underway, so it is open to huge change…

In an earlier Reclamation sculptural series she stated “Memory is embedded, the process of ageing ennobles. From being tossed away or lost, then washed up, then recovered and restored to dignity and purpose, these driftwood forms represent a deeply human longing for reclamation. Like us, they are simply travellers through time, looking for meaning. How have we come here? How do we react to our environment?” Her attention now is more toward envisioning forms that speak of intense emotional states – making visible the invisible, allowing for new possibilities. She has moved from placing her figures to blend into the environment to making them stand out. Consequently, Thurlow started working with paints, stains, and manufactured additions to her figures. Here she will be working on the second sculpture of a trio.

As a member of the IRIS Group, Thurlow’s residency in the ArtLab is completed in conjunction with the Gallery A exhibition IRIS at 20. We sat down with Sally to learn more about what she has been up to during her residency.

The RMG: Hi Sally! Please tell us a bit about yourself?

Sally Thurlow: I was born and raised in Toronto but moved to the lakeshore of Newcastle 30 years ago with my young family and now live by the Whitby lakeshore. Observing daily such a great body of water has been very influential on my life and work. I received my BA majoring in Fine Arts from U of T in 1999 finishing at Trent U for some Environmental Science and Cultural Studies courses, also very influential, plus earlier significant studies at OCA. In 2006 the RMG gave me my first solo show called Canoe Dreamings and helped me get it to travel to five other galleries in Ontario. The Ontario Arts Council awards were very helpful for this exhibition from a starting boost to crating expenses for shipping. I have been fortunate to be part of the Iris Group in Durham Region and The Red Head Gallery in Toronto. Both are great groups of artists to collaborate with. I have since had solo shows at The Visual Arts Centre in Bowmanville and The Red Head Gallery, and have been involved in many group shows. I am very pleased that the RMG now has one of my works in their permanent collection.

studio set up

Sally Thurlow: Day 1…where I started from, a pruned and stained evergreen,
fresh cut cedar branches

RMG: Why were you interested in Gallery A’s Art Lab residency? What will you be making while working as an artist in residence?

ST: I thought it would be interesting to see and hear the flow of visitors through The Iris Group’s Iris at 20 anniversary show while I worked around the corner. I enjoy engaging with people about all the work and if they come in to the studio space, we can talk about my process and some may even critique it. Beyond this, the RMG is a great gallery to work in.

I decided I would work on a sculptural piece that I hope will be going in to the Bluseed Studio Gallery in Saranac Lake – a 5 person show curated by Margaret Rodgers, former Visual Arts Centre curator and director, and Iris Group founder/member. Also it will be part of my Red Head Gallery show in September. At my own studio I am presently beginning to paint again and I wanted to separate the painting from my messy sculptural process but I have had to bring it home a couple of times when I needed to use stains or to clamp it in my vice for intricate work. It is a sculpture that is intended to relate to two other sculptures.

studio work

Sally Thurlow: Day 3 …pruning branches… still more pruning to do

RMG: What materials do you work in?

ST: I work in a multi-disciplinary way to make the work in whatever way I feel suits, using whatever kind of materials relate to the work. For this sculpture I will be using a discarded Christmas tree trunk which I had already worked on for another idea but have decided it could be better used for my present idea. Also, freshly cut cedar branches (from my hedge) that I am denuding of the cedar greenery and I am steaming, staining, and attaching to this tree in a particular form which has already been viewed as insect-like because of the way I have pruned the branches bringing out innate equivalences between all living things.

bending branches

Sally Thurlow: Day 4 …bending branches after soaking them in very hot water

RMG: Can you please tell us a bit about your artwork in IRIS at 20, on view in Gallery A?

ST: This exhibition is highlighting numerous “souvenirs” which women have offered over 20 years of International Women’s Day events we have held in various community places. The artists have each chosen a souvenir to respond to and since I had given a little extra paper canoe from my solo Canoe Dreamings show, and had shown this fibreglass vessel earlier empty, I decided to show it with my new work in it. The environment, and a sense of responsibility to its well-being has been a constant part of my life, and art-practice. Since I have long been exploring the dynamic range of natural shapes using driftwood, I spend considerable time on beaches and they all have plastic debris. While I pick driftwood, I pick garbage. Other life forms are also attracted to these appealing colours and forms, ingesting the broken down bits and absorbing their poisons. Within this illuminated translucent boat form, its lacy edges mimicking the frothy tide, the plastic debris placed inside may simply remind us of pretty kaleidoscope bits. But in a personal narrative written on disposable plastic wrap (part of the dilemma), I question our cultural and environmental practices reflected in our exploding throw-away societies. The abundance of plastic bits in my vessel functions to partially obscure the message just as the monstrous plastics problem is partially hidden by being out in the middle of the oceans, even though some of these giros of plastic are twice the size of Texas. They are often brought there by enormous container vessels.

cutting branches

Sally Thurlow: Day 7 …having cut the trunk in segments and drilled into each to fit a dowel

RMG: What inspires you? Is there a particular artist’s work that has influenced your practice?

ST: Walking beaches, experiencing life and death in the raw, the power of the water, what it hides and exposes, my children… so much inspiration. There are many artists whose work I admire. I grew up across the road from Elizabeth Wynwood Hahn and her husband Emanuel Hahn – both important Canadian sculptors whose work can be found at the AGO, the National, other galleries and in public places. Elizabeth wrote “Sculptural form is not the imitation of natural form any more than poetry is the imitation of natural conversation… It is the juxtaposition of masses in space,… a clarification of experience.” That speaks to me as my work comes from my gut, my experiences. Louise Bourgeois, Andy Goldsworthy, Betty Goodwin, Jenny Holzer, Anselm Kiefer, Suzy Lake, Gerhard Richter, and many more, all have such different, brilliant artistic expressions that I admire.


Sally Thurlow: Day 9 …branches stained and inserted, shortened branches to spikes, still lots to do, mostly details


Artist Biography:

Sally Thurlow is a multidisciplinary artist based in Greater Toronto. For some years she has been exploring the dynamic range of figurative forms using driftwood, within a wide range of other media. The questioning of our cultural and environmental practices is a constant focus of her work. She holds a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Toronto, with courses in Cultural and Environmental Studies at Trent University and significant earlier studies at OCA. She has given numerous artist talks and workshops at educational institutions and public galleries.

Her work has been shown internationally and she has been the recipient of various Ontario Arts Council awards. She is a member of the IRIS Group and the Red Head Gallery artists’ collectives. Her work is held in private collections across Canada, and at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario.

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