What’s your medium?

Fine art through the eyes of BFA students

Jude Samman’s work, right, and Jay Wallace’s work, left.
Jay Wallace and Jude Samman
Creative projects that stem from visual creation—in this case painting and screen printing—allow for works to be produced where there was nothing before, taking an idea from one’s imagination and translating it onto a canvas to be observed by the masses.
For this week’s column exploring artistic mediums through the eyes of their creators, The Journal had the opportunity to chat with Jude Samman, BFA ’23, and Jay Wallace, BFA ’23, about their respective works and experiences within the fine art program at Queen’s.
 “I’ve always loved art,” Samman told The Journal. “Art was my favourite class, and my mom was the one who brought that down to me. I love to work with meaning and storytelling.” 
How art captures history and moments in time intrigues Samman, who is Syrian by heritage and Jordanian through nationality. Their high school work was largely activism focused. 
“I was able to send a message and tell a story through paint […] capturing a moment that people see and make them pay attention to the aspects of it that go unnoticed.” 
“I feel like it’s important for me to speak on behalf of people who aren’t able to speak for themselves—especially with the privilege of being an artist—[by] creating these images and displaying them in galleries here in Canada.” 
Activism will always have a place in her work, Samman told The Journal, though more recently she’s been trying to find herself as an artist. 
“I find it so interesting when artists create things that don’t really exist through painting; you can creature your own world [where] whatever you want comes to life.” 
“That’s what pushed me to explore surrealism and finding myself. I’m trying to understand why I gravitate towards, for example, portraying topics so close to home and identity […] why do these certain motifs attract me? What type of memories do I have associated with certain things? And what is home? Is it a place or a series of moments?”
The theme of self exploration through memory and nostalgia has heavily piqued Jude’s interest in her recent projects. Jasmine flowers and pomegranates can be found in her “world” she’s created through her art. The aroma of jasmine is unique to the garden in her home in Jordan and pomegranates remind Samman of her grandparents who sprinkle the fruit’s seeds over their food. 
“I’ve been creating a world where all of these things exist with one another, it’s sort of a form of resistance to being so far away from home […] somewhere I can escape and find comfort.” Samman describes herself as someone who can be entranced by painting despite lacking the attention span to focus on anything else with such ferocity. 
“Focusing on colour and colour theory, noticing things that don’t initially meet the eye, or looking at an image for so long makes me see things differently—I really like the way it challenges how I see things and from then on watch something come to life.” 
She chose Queen’s as the school to pursue fine art because of the small program and its tight-knit community. However, the consistent underfunding of the program ultimately cut into the quality of education she received.
Though Samman loves her professors, advisors, and peers, the lack of support from the administration was evident and a large portion of the learning was self-taught. She expressed her disappointment at the recent decision to suspend the program.
“It’s very sad I have to say, there are other solutions than suspending the program. This is the second time it’s been done, [it’s] crazy they weren’t able to fix their problems from the first time […] it’s very frustrating,” Samman said.
“The process of suspension uncovered so many ugly things about the bureaucratic education system. They made it seem like we had say on some things though they really didn’t care about our opinion even though the students know the most about the program.” 
Samman hopes that the administration will finally take things seriously and take the time to better the program because the potential is endless. 
This weekend, Samman’s work titled “What Music Feels Like” will be featured at the Union Gallery with the opening preview debuting on Saturday, March 11 at 6 p.m.  
Meanwhile, Wallace always had an inclination for the arts and because he found himself excelling at them and figured it was the route he would pursue. 
“I started off with landscapes which was really nice to build technical skills though nowadays I focus more on personal artwork, dealing with my past, my upbringing, family and experiences,” he said in an interview with The Journal. 
Wallace said that like how people say writing stuff down helps you work through your emotions, he feels the same way for art to understand negative experiences or memories.
Experimenting with colour and how they coincide with sentiments intrigues Wallace, who takes time to consider the hues and saturation he uses while trying to illicit certain emotions. 
“It allows me to give into the creation and fully express on paper what’s going on in my mind.”
“For example, a light orange-sh yellow is a nostalgic colour for me; the warmth radiates fun and innocence.” 
His latest project is the one he feels most proud of: Wallace drew a photo of himself and played around with abstract imagery on the drawing to bring out different aspects of it. 
“For the first one I modified it to by adding more drawings, then modified it on a stone, then [most recently] used screen painting to layer different colours. The theme I wanted to explore was metamorphosis: changing our work over time and what that looks like.” 
Having experimented with screen printing throughout his undergrad, Wallace has found his place in the program especially over the last two years. He referenced Andre Derain as an early inspiration, though now finds himself exploring how house music makes him feel and how to translate it into his work. 
Similar to Samman’s sentiments on the suspension of the BFA program, Wallace feels like more effort could have been put into revitalizing the program without suspension being necessary. He hopes this will be a wake-up call for the future of fine artat the university. 
The act of creating an entire world from one’s imagination into a visual representation is one that takes skill, will, and focus. 
To observe a work from the external perspective is to bear witness to the intricacies of an artist’s mind being translated to a canvas. This valuable experience transgresses monetary bounds to provide connection, knowledge, and retribution between creator and watcher. 

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