Long-distance art project

Students take their art to new, collaborative levels at The Artel

Amy Uyeda and Aly Ogasian conceived Today I Lost My Bagpuss Bracelet last year as a way to keep in touch and make collaborative art.
Amy Uyeda and Aly Ogasian conceived Today I Lost My Bagpuss Bracelet last year as a way to keep in touch and make collaborative art.

Today I Lost My Bagpuss Bracelet, the art installation on display at The Artel, is ostensibly about travel and separation, but you won’t find many postcard-worthy images of places visited and sights seen. Instead, the space confronts you with a mosaic of people, objects and pop culture, drawn and painted in anything from pencil to watercolour, building on an exhibit the artists shared at the Union Gallery in the fall.

But these seemingly random assortments of drawings carry with them an overarching concept, envisioned by fourth-year fine art students Aly Ogasian and Amy Uyeda.

In February of last year, Ogasian and Uyeda conceived a unique way of keeping in touch while away from Kingston for the summer. One artist would send a simple sentence to the other, who would then draw a response that reflected the perceived meaning of the sentence. The medium of drawing—limited to pencil, pen, ink, marker and watercolour—was chosen because both Ogasian and Uyeda “like the technicality of drawing.” “Drawing is the most immediate art form,” Ogasian said. The method allowed for the artists to draw many of the pieces on found objects as soon as the other sent a message or sentence. An example of this style can be found most notably in a small watercolour done on a Styrofoam board found by Ogasian at the beach.

This loose process, coupled with the rigors of producing a drawing every day, allowed the artists to experiment, producing an exhibit that looks, at first glance, like a disconnected patchwork. Many of the drawings are detailed pencil studies of faces, but abstract watercolour landscapes—such as “May 6”—and works that combine the hardness of ink with the softness of watercolour—such as the untitled guitar player—vie for attention. The drawings take over the space, and it takes more than one look to fully absorb them.

The subject matter varies, but themes and figures from popular culture—from Andy Warhol to Buster Bluth—intermix. Although not designed to be a comment on pop culture, Ogasian and Uyeda found those themes crept into their work. Even the title of the exhibit, Today I Lost My Bagpuss Bracelet, references pop culture—specifically Uyeda’s distress at losing a bracelet featuring an iconic British cartoon character. These images add a familiarity and sense of shared experience to the work, perhaps unintentionally but nonetheless resonating. The work is striking and overwhelming, but the artists strive to bring as much cohesion and purpose to the installation as they can. The pieces are arranged by month, with each artist’s work clustered together on alternating brick and white walls.

What’s particularly interesting is the drawings and their scattered connections between the sentences. Some drawings include the sentence that inspired them, some are dated and some simply aren’t connected to words at all. To Uyeda, this was a deliberate act designed to emphasize the “process of looking” and to allow the drawings to speak for themselves.

The dissipating relationship between the sentences and the drawings has been a common thread throughout the entire process. Ogasian admitted that on one occasion she didn’t pick up on the meaning of the sentence “We’re up to our balls in jugglers,” a quote from the film Hot Fuzz and instead depicted something that resembled a ball pit. The Artel website describes the installation as an exploration of how “a shared sentence [can] yield different results.” Perhaps Ogasian didn’t miss the point at all.

Today I Lost My Bagpuss Bracelet is on at the Artel until Feb. 4. A reception will be held Saturday at 7 p.m.

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