Student artists win at Kawartha Art Gallery
By Darren Lum
June 7, 2016
Like her blue eyes, there is a clarity in Haliburton Highlands Secondary School art student Vivian Collings’s artwork, Vimy, that drips with sorrow memorializing the soldiers from the famous battle in the First World War.
She and peer Samantha Vick were among the 18 award winners announced at the Kawartha Art Gallery’s annual Secondary School Students Juried Exhibition in April at the awards ceremony in Lindsay.
Her grid weave black and white drawing in charcoal and pencil depicts a scene of battle intertwined with an image of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, which has spots of vibrant red poppies drawn in chalk pastel. The work caught the eye of exhibition adjudicator Michael Davidson, who is an established Toronto based painter.
He commended her on her execution and awarded her the Creative Sense of Balance and Composition Award, which came with a $50 cash prize.
“Well accomplished integration of three spatial planes. A tricky thing to pull off. And the value an artwork dedicated to elegy [a sorrowful poem] should never be under-estimated. The foregrounded poppies floating is a nice idea,” he wrote.
The basis for Vivian’s piece is rooted in her father’s passion for military history. Her great grandfather served with the Home Guard – the volunteer military force that defended Britain during the Second World War numbering four million.
The Grade 11 student was amazed at the recognition she received from her work, created in the Grade 11/12 painting and drawing class.
“It meant a lot to just have my work in the exhibit, but I was really surprised when I learned it won something because usually you send it in and then only a few people get prizes. It was exciting to get one myself,” she said.
It was originally created for the Haliburton Legion Remembrance Day Literary and Poster contest.
She was unable to meet the deadline for that competition and ended up using Vimy in her application for the Secondary School Students Juried Exhibition. Next year, she plans on submitting her drawing to the Legion contest.
Grade 10 student Samantha Vick was awarded the same award and prize money as Vivian, except it was for the junior category, for her block printed piece Lalabug created for a class project in the Grade 9/10 art class. It depicts two ladybugs within a scene of green leaves.
Samantha, who said the name of her piece is derived from how she used to pronounce ladybugs when she was a toddler, was initially shocked to be picked to represent the school at the exhibition and then surprised again with the award.
She recalls from Davidson’s comments that her piece related to his spiritual connection to animals, particularly ladybugs. This award provided the budding artist encouragement and direction for her future.
“I’ve always loved art and I didn’t think I was very good at it. It was just kind of a thing to do, doodling and stuff. But now I realize that I can go places with it. I won money for doing something for fun. It really kind of open my doors,” she said.
Another HHSS student Kendra Anderson, who did not attend the awards ceremony, earned honourable mention for her artwork Untitled in the junior category, which also came with a $50 prize.
There were 18 pieces from HHSS that went to the gallery for the March exhibition. They were chosen based on a critique by art teachers at the Haliburton high school.
The other five Trillium Lakelands District School Board schools represented at the exhibition were Lindsay Collegiate Vocational Institute, Fenelon Falls Secondary School, I.E. Weldon Secondary School and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School. The exhibition ran from March 9 to April 9 and included 64 pieces by 52 students. The artwork included paintings, sculpture and mosaics. The top prize cash award was worth $250 and went to the winner of the City of Kawartha Lakes Public Library Purchase Award. The winning work is hanging indefinitely in the children’s service department at the library.
Karen Gervais, head of the arts department at the HHSS, said the exhibition and the awards are a “vote of confidence” in the students’ efforts. It’s encouragement she wished she had growing up in Windsor.
“That was one of the reasons I wanted to be an art teacher. I didn’t have those opportunities and it wasn’t really fostered in me and I could do a better job,” she said.
Had she received the kind of showcase these students received when she was in high school, she would have focused on her passion for the arts in school.
“I wasn’t really encouraged in art like I was in science or math, you know, the ‘serious’ subjects, and I ended up coming back to what I was passionate about. So, just an affirmation of the importance of the arts as well,” she said.