Gillian King's art pieces on display at the Ottawa Art Gallery. Photo: David Barbour.
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U of O MFA student indulges our animal instincts with bold new exhibit

In association with the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa, the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) is holding exhibitions over the course of the month to show off some Gee-Gee talent.

Gillian King, who completed her masters of fine arts at U of O in July of this year, submitted her graduate thesis Becoming Animal to be exhibited. The opening reception was on Aug. 18, and the exhibit runs until Sept. 25.

The title for the exhibit was inspired by a host of influences, including the novel Becoming Animal: An earthly Cosmology by David Abram. King’s work is similar to the themes of the book, in that it is a veritable ode to the fragile connection between man and animal.

“I question what it is to be animal, and if it is possible to reconnect with nature and other living beings by addressing our mutual fragility and mortality,” King explains in her artist statement.

Through the use of raw materials such as beeswax, animal skins, clay, paint, and the ashes of dead animals, King mixes classic and modern techniques to create unique, abstract pieces.

The paintings are divided by their use of materials, with paint and pigment being used in conjunction with burnt bones to represent the conflict between human beings and their relationship to non-human animals. King explains that this was done in an effort to authenticate her work, as these were the materials used in cave paintings in the past.

Her work can be described as a mix of painting and sculpture, as she uses her hands and nails to add texture to the pieces. In doing so, she replicates the look of “clawing or digging” as done by animals.The imprint left by her body allows for a visual representation of the way in which we as human beings react to the world around us.

According to King, the key to success is for arts students to recognize how important it is to keep in touch with the arts community.

“You’re going to run into a lot of the same people,” she explains, adding that it’s important to stay connected in this field of work.

Some of King’s other artwork has recently been purchased by the City of Ottawa and will be on display at city hall.

Becoming Animal is free to view at the OAG and runs from Tuesday to Sunday in accordance with the gallery’s hours.


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