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MFA student reflects on exhibit at SAW Gallery and the art of divine intervention

Spencer Van Dyk | Fulcrum Staff

Photo by Mathias MacPhee

COLIN MUIR DORWARD says he finds his inspiration in the everyday.

The master of fine arts student at the University of Ottawa uses a meticulous eye to offer a different perspective. He paints people while drawing influences of Christian iconography, the centerpiece of his thesis.

Dorward was the latest artist to be highlighted at SAW Gallery from Feb. 15–23.

“It’s kind of what I need to do with myself,” he says. “I tried not doing art for a while, before I went to do my bachelor’s degree, but that wasn’t working for me. It’s a bit of a leap getting into a career where there’s no security. It’s a scary thing.”

Despite his trepidation, this year has been a success for Dorward. Gallery showing aside, he was also a finalist in the RBC Canadian Painting Competition.

“I don’t think I’m really at a place to have specific goals right now,” he says. “Things have been going really well for me this year with the SAW Gallery showing and the RBC painting competition. Even being in the master’s program here has been really positive for me. Other than that, I’m going to wait and see what comes my way. I’m working hard and am going to make the most of the attention that’s on me right now.”

Dorward says he paints people because he feels that his paintings seem lonely without them.

He also explains that while he doesn’t consider himself a process-based artist, he certainly has developed his own personal way of creating his art.

“It’s taken me a couple of years to get to where I am now,” he says. “I wouldn’t call myself a process-based artist. I feel like that was more of a mid-century thing … now people just acknowledge that that’s how artists work—we have a process.”

Dorward will do his thesis exhibition in August and will then present a thesis support paper. His exhibition will focus on Christian iconography, which he says was partly inspired by older buildings on campus and their history. Being his current environment and influence, he says the U of O has been prevalent in his recent paintings.

For his thesis, Dorward has been doing research on acheiropoieta, which are icons that are said to have manifested by divine intervention rather than being created by hand. These relics have been “unsullied by the human touch,” giving them special historical value.

“As a painter, I am constantly dealing with the human touch, so it’s kind of an interesting subject,” he says. “It’s the history of the troubled relationship that the West has with images made by hand. It’s a love-hate relationship.”


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper