East York fine arts students shine at ‘Mercurial’

Centennial College students celebrate their work at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

Friends, family and art lovers alike flocked to the Toronto Centre for the Arts for the opening reception of Mercurial, an April art show put on by second-year fine arts students from the East York campus of Centennial College to celebrate the work and achievements of the artists.

David McClyment, Centennial College’s fine arts program coordinator, explained that in addition to the technical and conceptual aspects, an important focus of the fine arts program is professional practice. McClyment said the show was not only a celebration of their artwork, but also a glimpse of what to expect “out in the real world” following their graduation from the program.

“It makes the fine arts program really unique. This show is an extension of that whole process. These folks organize it themselves, with some help,” McClyment said.

According to McClyment, the name of the art show was inspired by the idea of change and individuality.

“You can see in that room there is high-end realism through to full-on conceptual pieces through total non-representation, and the artists know this about themselves and they all respect each other. So the overriding characteristic will be change. They know that the work they’ve got in there is not the work that they were doing last year at this time, and I know it’s not the work they’ll be doing in two or five years,” McClyment said.

Liliana Vera is one of the artists who was featured in the show. Vera, who holds a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, started calling herself an artist after she began studying fine arts at Centennial College. She drew inspiration from Lichtenberg figures, as well as from her own personal losses.

“I wanted to explore what it means to have something scar you and how they may not be visible like literal scars but it’s something that you carry with you everyday,” Vera said, explaining that Lichtenberg figures are scars that occur when a person is struck by lightning and survivors are forever marked by the burns in their skin.

“I had a show back in February and I also talked about the connections that we have with those that are gone. It’s really weird how you’re loving something that’s not there and once you figure that out, it’s very powerful. Photographs played a part of that show and now that translated into the Lichtenberg figures so they have been themes that have been repeated in my art but done differently,” Vera said. Vera’s series consists of two pieces made of five wooden panels, featuring photos of her grandfather and uncle who have died.

“We never expect those things but it was very difficult. I’ve been struggling with it but never really knew how to get it into the art. I’m really happy with the result because I wanted to get it out and talk about it, and hopefully it’s a strong visual for people to appreciate and to connect with,” Vera said.

Victoria Grzincic, a competitive swimmer for the last nine years, has been an artist professionally since she was in high school. She is inspired by the freedom she feels when she’s in the water.

“Due to my disability, I find freedom in the water. So generally because most of the time I’m in a wheelchair I find it easier to be out in the water because I have the freedom and mobility I don’t necessarily have on land,” Grzincic said. Her featured piece depicts a mermaid.

Grzincic’s work in the show is a continuation of a series she created the previous year. She draws a great amount of inspiration from both water and her own life experiences.

“Similar to swimming, art was one of those things I could do independently and for me, my independence is huge because I often need a lot of help otherwise. So to have something like art and swimming where I can do it pretty much independently from start to finish is really great. You get to express your creativity and you don’t really follow any rules. You can kind of pave your own way,” Grzincic said.

Jesse Hall has been an artist professionally for almost two years.

“I decided to pursue a career in art because that’s the only thing that I’ve been passionate about. I’ve had a lot of different jobs in the past but I wasn’t satisfied with the direction that my life was going in and I decided that I would go back to school to pursue being an artist,” Hall said. Hall is inspired by his own life experiences, as well as those of his friends and family. His pieces featured in Mercurial will also be part of his future solo show.

“The best part of being an artist is being able to express myself through my artwork and to hopefully inspire others. The topics that I’m going to be touching upon are going to be important moments in our lives that shape us to be the individuals that we are today,” Hall said.

Vera, Grzincic, and Hall all have high hopes for the future and offer their own advice to aspiring artists to follow their passions.

“Just do it, do it, do it. Get it out of yourself. You’ll probably have 20 pieces lying around that in your eyes are worth nothing but somebody will walk by and say ‘I understand,’” said Vera.

Grzincic added: “Don’t give up. Keep going. As long as you keep working, your work is going to grow with you, it’s going to evolve with you. You’re going to look back years from now and realize how much you’ve grown and changed and how much your work has grown and changed with you, and it’s pretty amazing to see.”

“Just keep on going, no matter what. You’re going to run into people who are going to tell you ‘You’re not going to make a good living as an artist,’ but if it’s something that you’re really passionate about, you just have to make it work,” Hall said.