‘Inspired by life’

Artist David Urban begins his first residency as the new Koerner Artist in the BFA

Queen's new Artist in Residence David Urban is already putting his new studio to use in Ontario Hall, displaying his latest paintings.
Queen's new Artist in Residence David Urban is already putting his new studio to use in Ontario Hall, displaying his latest paintings.
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For professional artist David Urban, taking on the responsibilities of an artist residency was a daunting thought.

“I was very apprehensive about being able to do it,” Urban said. “The idea of getting away from my daily practice of painting was quite frankly kind of nerve-wracking.”

Urban’s new role as the Koerner Artist in Residence at Queen’s is the first residency for the artist. The Fine Art program offers the position to a professional artist every year.

His studio — scattered with art textbooks, drop clothes and drying canvases — proves Urban hasn’t stopped painting since he arrived in Kingston last Sunday.

“I saw that the studio space was good and I’ve had a lot of help from faculty in making sure that everything is okay,” he said of his Ontario Hall studio.

Urban is known for his abstract and figurative artwork. He said he was intrigued by the idea of the residency and the prestige that accompanies it.

“Many distinguished artists have done their residency here and I admire that,” Urban said.

During his term Urban hopes to create a body of work that he can bring home at the end of his stay. He also wants to have positive interactions with students.

“I want to see what students are up to and hopefully they will learn something from my way of thinking and my approach,” he said.

Along with his Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of Guelph Urban holds a Master’s in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor.

“Most people are artistic in their nature, but sometimes they lose contact with that side of themselves,” Urban said, adding that he always enjoyed music and writing, along with painting.

“Pursuing art seemed like a very natural evolution.” As Artist in Residence, Urban has certain responsibilities to fulfill and the array of student signatures on the sign-up sheet outside Urban’s studio shows one of his greatest jobs — mentorship.

“My responsibilities are really divided between making work, talking to people, and helping students with their work,” he said, adding that he has allotted a portion of time everyday for his own studio work.

Urban describes the inspiration for his studio work as two-fold.

“I’m inspired by life, being in the world, experiencing people and change,” he said. “I’m also inspired by art history. Conversing in some way with the history of art and a history that I admire is something that buoys me up when I feel apprehensive.”

Urban was also inspired by the Bader collection in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

“The paintings are of extraordinary quality. As a fan of Renaissance art I had known of this collection, but had never seen it before my talk,” he said of his artist presentation in the gallery on Tuesday.

Urban was unaware of the BFA suspension prior to his arrival at Queen’s but believes that the loss of the Fine Art program would be a huge detriment to the community and the University.

“The program should be maintained and expanded,” he said. “This school has turned out a number of significant alumni and that should prevail.”

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