After four years of discovering her artistic style and passion for storytelling, Paige Julian is showcasing her final project as a student in the Art and Art History program in You Look the Other Way. The first show of the two-part exhibition features work by Julian and ten other graduating artists that reflects their unique conceptions of identity within larger social frameworks.

For Julian, the theme of the exhibition surrounded “the things you don’t necessarily see—things you might not be looking right at but are underneath and structure a place. My piece looks at the foundations and the unwritten parts of life or life in the house and identity.”

Julian’s work “Blueprint” is a series of blueprints of a house that are deconstructed to show the identities that inhabit each room. By superimposing her comic-book inspired drawings over a technical document of architecture, Julian explores the parallel between social constructions of identity and the physical construction of home.

The process of creating “Blueprint” involved numerous steps and artistic techniques: “it’s all screen printed so I had a screen that you have to expose almost like a photograph. I used parts that I had digitally and parts that I hand-drew and scanned in. I then placed them onto the screen, put ink through, and finally it went on paper. Every single piece had to be a separate layer, so there’s a lot of layering in the work.”

Julian’s intentional usage of colour deviates from the normalized associations between colours and identities. Instead of allowing viewers to immediately connect a color with an identity, she strives to challenge what is beneath these social norms. “I used to work in an ice cream store and for all the cakes, people would always ask for the boy colours or the girl colours. People will always infer that ‘this room is pink so it must be a girlier part’ but I wanted to take that apart and use a bunch of different colours for each room.”

Currently, Julian is working on another print project based on reorganizing comic panels and the ways graphic representations can be manipulated. “I have all these pictures and would lay them out in a sequence, which is how you would read it. But if I rearrange it, you have a completely different story so that it’s unclear where it begins and where it ends.”

As a graduating student interested in pursuing a career in narrative-based art and storytelling, Julian is taking many lessons away from her time in UTM’s AAH program, including “that art is a lot more open to interpretation than I thought. For example, I like to deconstruct comics—that’s the thing that I’ve been focusing on in many of my pieces. Seeing the diversity of ideas and directions that we’ve taken within the same program is really inspiring.”

“I would tell an aspiring artist that the best way to stay motivated in their art is to integrate things that they value into their projects, even if it goes against traditional convention. Staying true to your passions will make it easier to feel good about your art in the long term and helps you stand out as an individual.”

You Look the Other Way runs at the Blackwood Gallery until March 30.

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