New installation to be built in Beamish Munro Foyer

Toronto artist Kwest brings art and engineering together

One of Kwest's designs; an installation he made for Humber College in 2013.
One of Kwest's designs; an installation he made for Humber College in 2013.
Credit: 
Supplied by Kwest

This fall, Beamish Munro Hall, commonly known as the ILC, will host a contemporary installation by Toronto-based artist Kwest. 

In the early 90s, Kwest began making his mark in the Toronto art scene is original works have painted downtown Toronto for years, bringing life and colour to Queen Street West, Kensington and the High Park areas.

Kwest was originally known as a young, graffiti artist who rode Canadian rails, painting on any available surface including the moving boxcars themselves. Today, Kwest has received commissions from the likes of Drake  to design large-scale installations for recording studios, restaurants and homes. 

When Kwest first heard of the call for public art by the Faculty of Engineering he felt a strong connection to the potential project. 

“My mom went to Queen’s, so I thought that was really cool,” he said. He travelled to Kingston for several days in the early spring to meet and collaborate with a number of engineering students. “It was really cool [to] figure out what it takes to be an engineer and what the comparison to being an artist was,” the artist explained.  

Based on his description of the piece, the engineering students’ influence is undeniably present in the installation. Paying homage to its exhibition space , the sculpture itself will be a feat of engineering. Using reclaimed materials such as hardwood and steel, the piece will dominate the entryway,showcasing the structural techniques engineers are notorious for, according to Kwest.

While the installation’s design is underway, its construction will begin in early August. For the past months, the process was largely about bringing together two separate disciplines and sourcing materials that reflect both. “We were thinking about possibly trying to get railroad ties … another was [gathering] reclaimed metal, possibly going to some of the local scrap yards,” Kwest said. 

The most impressive aspect is certainly the height and scale of the piece itself, which isn’t exactly new territory for Kwest. “I’ve done some pieces that have been tall, but they were in different configurations,” he said. “The shape of that entrance way is very tall and narrow. It’s going to be a lengthy piece.” 

When revealed this coming fall, the connection between engineering, arts and their collective dependence on design will be clearly reflected in the piece. 

“Personally I’ve found a lot of success in my work just from being original and really carving out what your style is”, Kwest said. The artist also drew inspiration from the students he met with when brainstorming for the project, and their enthusiasm and love for engineering. 

The projected finishing date for the piece is September 2016, just in time for Queen’s 175th anniversary year. 

- With files from Erika Streisfield

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