A Malvern grad has won Ontario College of Art and Design University’s graduate medal for sculpture and installation.
Alex Beriault’s thesis combined performance and sculpture, exploring her interest in societal boundaries and the vulnerability and control aspects of placing herself in the centre of her own work.
What interests her about the work?
“What I learn about myself and what I learn about people in the process,” she said. The work “attempts to investigate fluctuation between intimacy and distance, and how we situate ourselves between one another.”
That investigation was centred around Head Study, the kinetic sculpture Beriault strapped her head into for three hours while nude in a gallery space. While the movements of the sculpture were uncomfortable, to say the least, she found herself fascinated by the reactions viewers had as they entered the space.
“It slipped between performance and self-torture,” she said.
Even the title of the work is a statement to Beriault, who also works as an art model.
“The word study to me implies a way of seeing someone as ‘other,’” she said. In her artistic statement she discusses the balance between intimacy and observation, and asks how someone confronted with such a provocative scene would “carve out their social space when faced with the counterpoint of the other.”
Part of the foundation might have come from her years at Malvern, where she was heavily invested in both the art and drama departments.
Sean Matthews is an art teacher and heads up the art department at Malvern. He said he’s not surprised to see Beriault finding success with this sort of work.
“There’s kids who you can almost picture having chalk and charcoal up to their elbows and just loving it,” he said. “Other kids are like, ‘Aach!’ and they’re maybe more destined to become architects or designers. Alex was one of those kids who loved getting her hands on stuff.”
Aside from the performance/installation of Head Study, other aspects of Beriault’s thesis project include unconventional photographic portraits. A person would be strapped into the machine, and Beriault would take a long exposure photo of the resulting movements, which would blur the subject’s features beyond easy recognition.
“They’re all sort of everyone and no one at once,” she said.
Though she does create ‘traditional’ art – she met with Beach Metro News at a Yorkville gallery that was showing one of her paintings as part of an OCAD U group show – Beriault said she prefers to work in a variety of mediums, not sticking with any one in particular.
“I’m not fully satisfied with something fixed,” she said. Beriault prefers a multi-disciplinary practice so her ideas “can be expressed through appropriate methodologies.”
Despite the confrontational aspects of Head Study, Beriault said her greatest satisfaction comes from the same thing most artists are looking for in their audience: making a connection.
“It’s a rare and special thing to have that happen,” she said.
Liz Russ will be exhibiting her latest series of paintings, titled Frenzy, at Cobalt Gallery from June 4 to 29.
Russ said in a statement that the acrylics could be windows of escape, but that they also urge the viewer to consider “the many tangents of the human condition.”
Her statement’s closing lines may best describe her approach to these works: “Some time ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. But I am certain it had something to do with the joy of painting.”
An opening reception will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 7. Cobalt Gallery is at 870a Kingston Rd.