As the world went into lockdown during the pandemic, many turned to various forms of art to express their emotions. Photography proved a powerful medium for Grade 12 student Steven W. during this uncertain time he began looking for different ways to express his ideas and creativity. Being an observant person, Steven noticed the emotional changes in himself and those around him. It was then that he began exploring how to physically capture these emotions by using photography. The results of his work were recently on display at the Grade 12 Art Exhibition, where his audience was left spellbound by his emotional pieces.
“The theme of my exhibition is ‘emotion’ which mainly focuses on depression, loneliness, hopefulness, and hopelessness. Some of the emotions were from personal experience, but another half was from the stories of people around me,” explains Steven.
Using his artistic pieces and photographs, he also wanted to draw attention to something else.
“I want to bring awareness to a child’s perspective; that the chaos we are experiencing will eventually pass on to the next generation. I truly wished that their innocence could be preserved.”
The Sky Painter
In Steven’s The Sky Painter, we see his yearning to raise awareness of children’s perspectives.
“The symbolism of painting a sky reveals my desire to clear the negativities for young children. The different child-like drawings and scribbles in the sky illustrates the view of children throughout these times. The bold text in red emphasizes the theme and title of each crisis. I wanted to use symbolism and imagery to generate a surrealistic setting of ‘painting the sky’ to express the wish of peace,” says Steven.
Steven’s skills and expertise in conveying unspoken emotions through symbolism in photography and his art is a natural talent. Though Steven will be pursuing mathematics in his post-secondary studies, he says photography has changed his way of thinking and perceptions of looking at the world from a purely academic environment.
A substantial amount of work, lots of drawing- his sketchbook /process portfolio pages are worth looking at because they are extensive and show his deep interest in investigating different styles and media, but also the intense practice and experimentation he did (especially with pen and ink, and photography- in photography he knew nothing, but taught himself through independent research of books and videos) He was also good at managing his course load/ art load in DP- his strategy(ies) are definitely worth highlighting.
Can you tell me about your journey as an artist? When did you get into art? How did you find your preferred medium(s)? Were there any challenges along the way and throughout your journey as a student artist?
I have always been exposed to arts in many ways such as music, movies, literatures, and paintings. However, I have never thought of expressing myself through art, but I always consumed them as way to relieve my own stress. Right before DP, Ms. Laurie encouraged me to take a step forward and try out expressing myself through my artworks. Although I did not have much experience or technical skills, I decided to challenge myself and pursue my interest. My personal preferred medium is definitely photography.
I began my journey in photography since the middle of Covid. At the beginning I was only taking photos to record my surroundings and capture moments in my life. As I began desire to express more things, new ideas and creativity comes along in photography.
Most challenges I met throughout this process is on thinking how to describe abstract ideas into specific physical objects in real-life. Symbolism is a big part of my photographs, but coming up with a symbol was not always easy. After I had an idea, taking into action is also difficult. Usually, I have to spend days trying to find location to match the ideal setting, then looking for models or finding stores to buy the objects I needed for the photo. Communicating with the model as well as setting up the scene also take enormous amount of time. Photoshop was also a completely new tool for me, and I would spend hours trying to accomplish the effect I planned. Thus overall, I would say the easiest moment in photography would be clicking the shutter.
What is the theme of your exhibit? What themes do you often pursue or explore?
The theme of my exhibition is “emotion” which mainly focused on depression, loneliness, hopefulness, and hopelessness. Some of the emotions were from personal experience, but another half was from the story of people around me. I usually use the platform 500px and CNU to explore photographers, and more specifically I look into photographers that have a strong technical skill to express emotions.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your artwork? What motivates you to create?
Some artists such as Kyle Thompson and Luka Khabelashvili gave me a lot if inspirations in the early stage. However, my motivation of creating photos in an artistic way was mainly from my strong emotions and feelings. Ms. Laurie also encouraged me to use it as a medium to express, which eventually led me to start the process of creation.
What lessons do you want people to take away from your work?
I never tried to teach a lesson. My artwork was only a way to express my own emotion and standard. However, I want to bring awareness to children’s perspective, that the chaos we are experiencing will eventually pass on to the next generation. I truly wished that their innocence could be preserved.
What role do you think student artists (and artists in general) play at the school and in society?
A role of a student artists may seem very insignificant, but from my perspective it is exactly opposite. As art is being used as a way to express, younger generations should also use it to express their perspectives and standards. The influence on the school community is more direct since viewers are most close on distance wise as well as relationship wise. Therefore, the student artist could easier transfer their ideas among a school community. I would also encourage more people to join artistic contest where these contests usually have no age limits. By participating, student artists could express their standard of the society to a larger population.
How do you know when your art piece is “finished”?
An art piece could be never finished. As many of my pieces, when I look back after a while, I could always bring new changes or what I call “improvements”. However, imperfection is a way to show the reality of the past. Each decision made in the past whether is right or wrong judging from the perspective of today, they represent my mental state or understanding at that moment of time. Thus, creating a piece is like a self-reflection for me, once I feel this reflection is enough by that moment of time, I would stop working on it. If I decided to change my standard, I will continue this reflection in my next artwork.
Will you be pursuing art at university? If not, will you continue to express yourself through the arts? If you are pursuing a different study path at university, what is it and where will you be studying/will art still be a part of your life?
Although I wanted to pursue further study in arts, I think that once I spent too much effort in one area, soon its natural interest will seem to be lost. However, I will keep photography as an important passion and continue to participate in all sorts of photography contest. Since I have decided to study in the field of mathematics long ago, I am certain that photography can change my mindset and the way of looking at the world from a purely academic environment.