Fanshawe students art show best yet

An art show that started three years ago because students were being “assholes” is now turning out some of the best student work.

“I had a bit of a problem group...and I thought, ‘How can I make them grow-up?' So I approached the Arts Project for a second year show,” explained Tony McAulay, fine arts coordinator.

Jessica Conlon admires her self portrait during the second year art show called Standing Up with Earthly Delights at the Arts Project in London. Conlon took home first prize.This year's exhibit, Standing Up with Earthly Delights, has been touted as one of the best.

“It's probably the most effort I've ever seen in a student project,” said McAulay.

Those who came to the Arts Project to see it agreed.

“I thought it was a wonderful exhibit,” said John Young, operations manager for the Fanshawe Student Union. “The overall quality was one of the best exhibits I've seen.”

It was also one of the biggest exhibits — literally.

The students were asked to paint a life-size self-portrait, and given that one student was well over six feet tall, each canvas was six and half feet high by four feet wide — almost larger than life in some cases.

The project was to be based on Peter Blake's self-portrait for 1961 — a pop artist who went on to do the Sergeant Pepper album cover. In the piece, Blake is standing holding a book in his right hand, clad in a denim jacket with band buttons and jeans, standing in front of a fence.

The students followed similar criteria. They were to paint themselves wearing whatever they want and hold a book. The setting would be the second year studio and there needed to be an object on the wall and on the ground, as well as a section from Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights but with a different colour scheme than the original artist's.

The final creations revealed interesting results, said McAulay. Many students opted not to hold a book like Blake, but instead held a skateboard, or an iPod, which was a popular choice. But jeans were still the main clothing choice, demonstrating the lasting popularity of the piece of clothing, while the rest of the portrait represented other trends in technology, interests and ultimately the personality of the painter.

The scene from Bosch's painting also represented lasting “trends,” so to speak.

“Young people are still interested in horror and escapism,” said McAulay, referring to some of the paintings themes that are “still alive in today's pop culture.” He's seen it in everything from the continued popularity of horror movies and even students' doodling of skulls and other macabre images, he added.

But what's most apparent from the pieces is the amount of effort put into them, as a result of an “enormous amount of time,” said McAulay. Many students stayed in the studio until closing time at midnight and many even came in during their March breaks.

The detailed self-portraits provided a glimpse into who the students are.

“When you're looking at paintings, there's something happening between you and the painting,” said McAuley. “A bit of electricity. You're looking at the illusion of a human being, a flat representation.”

“You're looking into that person's eyes, what kind of shoes they're starting piecing it together and you start analyzing the personality and how you relate to them even though you've never met them.”

Jessica Conlon took home the first prize at the exhibit.

While the self-portraits have been taken down, the graduate exhibition is coming up at the Arts Project from April 14 to 24 with the opening reception on April 17 at 7 p.m. There will also be a fine arts open house in the studios on campus on Thursday, April 29 and Saturday, May 1.