Articles Tagged ‘Carleton University’

CITYHOME 2014: Industrial designers Ian Murchison & Rohan Thakar reveal their current obsessions

This article originally appeared in CityHome 2014.


Rohan Thakar and Ian Murchison of The Federal Inc. Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio.

Rohan Thakar and Ian Murchison of The Federal Inc. Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio.

Designers too often over-complicate products by piling on features, says Ian Murchison, co-founder, with Rohan Thakar, of the start-up industrial design firm The Federal Inc. Hence the sleek functionality and buoyant good looks of the colourful Loop, The Federal’s rubber-based bike stand (it was a chance to use materials in a new way, says Thakar) that’s coming soon, we hope, to a street near you. Ditto the Xero Golf Towel with its waterproof smartphone pocket, absorbent towel for wiping sweaty hands or brows, and scrub pad for cleaning golf-club heads and balls.

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REASON TO LOVE OTTAWA: Because two guys on Parliament Hill have been listening to our secrets for a century

By Cindy Olberg

Sydney Mutendi of Harare, Zimbabwe sits by the Whispering Wall monument on Parliament Hill, May 3rd, 2014.

Sydney Mutendi of Harare, Zimbabwe sits by the Whispering Wall on Parliament Hill, May 3rd, 2014. Photo by Jackson Couse


Perhaps you’ve heard whispers about an unusual monument hidden in plain sight on Parliament Hill. On the east side of the Centre Block, past the statues of the Famous Five and Queen Elizabeth II, there’s a statue referred to as the “whispering wall.”

The Robert Baldwin and Sir Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine memorial, designed by Walter Seymour Allward and built in 1914, is a tribute to two statesmen who worked together to give legislative power to elected assemblies and prove that French and English Canadians could collaborate on political issues.
Often praised for its original curved design, another quality tends to get overlooked: it carries sound. When two people sit at opposite ends of the monument and whisper, they can hear each other — perfectly, as if they were sitting side by side.

According to Craig Merrett, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Carleton University, it’s caused by a phenomenon known as evanescent waves. “Sound waves almost move in a ripple along the surface of the wall, and the person at the other end can hear — with little distortion. With the sound waves moving along the surface of the wall, it actually doesn’t lose its intensity as much as when you normally just talk into open air.”

Students from Sir Guy-Carleton High-school at the Whispering Wall monument commemorating Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hyppolyte Lafontaine, the collaborative Premiers of Upper and Lower Canada. The students, from grades nine through twelve, are on a leadership training scavenger-hunt to Parliament Hill, May 4th, 2014. Photo by Jackson Couse.

Students from Sir Guy-Carleton High-school at the Whispering Wall monument commemorating Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hyppolyte Lafontaine, the collaborative Premiers of Upper and Lower Canada. The students, from grades nine through twelve, were on a leadership training scavenger-hunt to Parliament Hill, May 4th, 2014. Photo by Jackson Couse.

The effect is fun for passersby, but it’s not an intentional design element. Other famous examples include the dome in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and a dam in Williamstown, Australia – both of which attract tourists with their sound-channeling properties.

Take a friend and experience it for yourself –  tell each other a secret or something nonsensical. But bear in mind: you’ll be doing it under the watchful gaze of two politicians who continue to remind us that communication is the glue that bonds English and French Canadians, whispers and all.

The Novak family of Vancouver - Milan, Marek, and Gabi Novak and their mother, Paula Da Rosa - talk to each other across the Whispering Wall on Parliament Hill, May 4th, 2014.

The Novak family of Vancouver – Milan, Marek, and Gabi Novak and their mother, Paula Da Rosa – talk to each other across the Whispering Wall on Parliament Hill, May 4th, 2014. Photo By Jackson Couse.

This REASON TO LOVE OTTAWA is found on Page 17 in the 2014 Summer Issue of Ottawa Magazine, available now at independent local news outlets or at

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Sex pots and other crafty delights at the Carleton University Art Gallery


Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.

Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.

Marc Courtemanche from the Outaouais community of L’Ange-Gardien is an artist, but also a magician, as revealed in the installation called The Studio he created for Carleton University Art Gallery.

The installation looks like a carpenter’s workshop. But it is really a magician’s workshop filled with life-sized objects. The difference is that the “wooden” chairs are actually ceramic. The same goes for the wheelbarrow in a corner. Likewise, the “wooden” handles on hammers and other tools neatly arranged on “wooden” boards nailed to the wall. Even the piles of “sawdust” on the floor are ceramic shavings.

The Studio is one of several artworks in the Carleton exhibition called Making Otherwise: Craft and Material Fluency in Contemporary Art. The six artists in the exhibition all produce work that hovers in that grey zone between “art” and “craft.” Most of the works assembled by Carleton curator Heather Anderson are daring and have a touch of whimsy.

 Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (detail, 2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.

Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (detail, 2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.

Works traditionally called craft are all about the material used. The term craft also implies that the object is functional, or at least is rooted in functionality. A porcelain vase is an example of craft. It may be beautiful but it still has a function — a purpose — in this case, to hold a bouquet of flowers.

An idea is the central focus of art, which should also have some transformative powers. Think of Tom Thomson’s painting Jack Pine. It has no purpose except to be art, in this case, a painting of a solitary tree in the wilderness that has been transformed into a symbol of Canadian fortitude in battling the elements.

Carleton’s Making Otherwise presents objects that could be labelled art or craft. Courtemanche has assembled a realistic looking carpenter’s studio. But he has transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary by fashioning the objects, not of wood, but of ceramic.

Vancouver artist Paul Mathieu has created very ordinarily shaped porcelain vases and bowls and, then in a twist, sent the china to China to be covered in erotic hand-painted scenes. (Isn’t everything outsourced to China these days?) Think of ancient Greek vases depicting erotic scenes but, in this case, the scenes on Mathieu’s vases are showing very contemporary people and situations. Mathieu, not surprisingly, is the author of the book Sex Pots: Eroticism in Ceramics.

Janet Morton of Guelph does amazing transformations with wool, surely a craft material if there ever was one. One Morton video in the show is of a man playing a tuba. But as he plays, the tuba is slowly being covered by wool being knitted by invisible hands. In reality, the man began playing a wool-covered tuba. A video was then produced in which a strand of wool was pulled to unravel the wool-covered instrument. By playing the video backwards, it appears the tuba is slowly being encased in wool. Yes, that’s art.

Other artworks in the show include very artful quilts produced by Richard Boulet of Edmonton, stunning embroidery by Sarah Maloney of Halifax and “baskets” woven to become human portraits by Ursula Johnson of Eskasoni, N.S.

Making Otherwise continues at Carleton University Art Gallery until Sept. 14.








ARTFUL BLOGGER: Head to Carleton University to view the art of the 17th century’s Robert Bateman

By Paul Gessell

Robert Bateman is one of Canada’s most popular and commercially successful artists. Yet the art establishment tends to denigrate Bateman’s paintings of wildlife for being too life-like. The result: Supposedly soul-less paintings that are far from transformative.

Pierre Theberge, when he was the director of the National Gallery of Canada, was once asked whether he would ever acquire a Bateman for the gallery. He replied that he had not ruled out acquiring a Bateman; he had just not seen one he liked.

Battle between the Eagle & Cat is part of the Beasts show at CUAG.

Francis Place. The Eagle & Cat. is part of the Beasts show at CUAG.

Attempts to create life-like images of animals were once held in higher regard. Consider, for example, a small, but splendid exhibition at Carleton University Art Gallery called The Nature of Beasts in 17th Century Prints. The exhibition contains mainly etchings created by the English artist Francis Barlow whose work was groundbreaking in his time for attempting to portray animals as they really looked or, at least, as Barlow perceived them.

Barlow was especially famous for illustrating Aesop’s Fables and some of those illustrations are found in the exhibition curated by Nathan Flis, a post doctoral fellow in the School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton.

The show continues until Jan. 19 but note that the gallery is closed from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2.

In an interview Flis discussed his love of those prints and today’s art world snub of Bateman.

Wild ducks - Diversae avium species

Wenceslaus Hollar, Wild ducks, 1658, etching, Diversae avium species. London: William Faithorne the Elder

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Why 17th century prints of animals? What is it about this time period, subject matter and art form that so intrigues you?
NATHAN FLIS: The 17th century is attractive to me because it was arguably the first age of global trade, and of voyages of discovery (the latter on a greater scale than in the previous century), both of which brought Europeans into contact with new landscapes, peoples, and creatures. The sight and description of creatures from the New World inspired artists to look at European/domestic ones with fresh eyes as well. The 17th century might also be characterized as a period between medieval and modern in the sense that there were still widely held beliefs that plants and animals possessed cosmological powers, that, as portents or agents, they had the power to influence our daily lives. So, looking at pictures of animals such as Barlow’s, we realize that individual creatures may not be mere descriptions of what the artist saw, or even symbolic, but that they reflect a particular way of seeing the natural world during the period.

AB: Barlow’s images are, to me, life-like yet they simultaneously seem magical. How would you characterize these images? Do you see something in them beyond a mere reproduction of living creatures?
NF: I would describe Barlow’s pictures as approximations of, or distillations from, nature. Naturalism, or what was then called ‘truth to life’ or the description of nature ‘from the life’, was the primary goal of the 17th-century picture-maker. And, while Barlow must have studied animal and bird behaviour from nature itself, and individual animal bodies from dead or preserved specimens, he also looked to older prints to ‘fill in the gaps’ of his knowledge, which is why some of his creatures take on poses resembling those of previous artists’ renderings. This cobbling together of different sources makes Barlow’s pictures works of artifice, as does his strategy to choose or concoct certain scenes, such as the animal confrontations in his Aesop’s Fables (1666). So, the ‘magical’ sense that comes through in Barlow’s pictures perhaps reflects this artistic trickery, but we also have the sense that Barlow saw some deeper underlying meaning in nature – that nature itself could, to use a 17th-century trope, be read like a book.

AB: Are you interested in art about animals in other media and time periods?
NF: As I complete a book about the life and art of Francis Barlow, I’m already beginning another more theoretical one that asks how and why animals were depicted in different ways during the colonization of North America, from the 16th to the 18th centuries. But my interest in the depiction of animals – which I see as inextricably bound to the history of the way we have seen, depicted, and treated human bodies as well — extends across time and place, from the first known human renderings of beasts in the cave paintings of Lascaux, to the photo-realistic paintings and prints of Canadian artist Robert Bateman.

AB: It seems to me that, today, life-like images of animals are frowned upon in the art world. (Look at the way Robert Bateman is treated by the art world). What are your own thoughts on the way the contemporary art world treats animals in art?
A: If life-likeness in pictures of nature is at all frowned upon, or has been devalued by the fine arts community, this trend has to do with the rise of photomechanical reproduction. With the advent of photography, and more recently of digital photography/reproduction and videography, there is, in general, immense pressure placed upon artists to make works of art that not only approximate life-likeness (which, to some, seems superfluous given the technologies available to us for doing so), but to go beyond this by producing something shocking. Animal art – and the way that we currently see the natural world and think about animals — has also been transformed in the wake of modern ecological disasters, a growing awareness about biological diversity, and environmental and animal rights movements. One only needs to trawl Tumblr to realize the incredible variety of representations of animals beyond what galleries are currently choosing to show and represent. It’s abundantly clear to me that animals continue to exert a powerful influence on art, and that art continues to be an essential human means of understanding animals, and ourselves.








THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: How to pose nude while fully clothed — Carleton University Art Gallery’s latest exhibit

By Paul Gessell

"Wall Street" by Cara Tierney.

Cara Tierney seems to take the Bible, or at least one passage, to heart: Go Forth and Multiply.

That is exactly what this emerging artist has done. She has created a series of staged photographs in which she plays all the parts in the narrative. Sometimes Tierney poses alone. In other images, there are several versions of Tierney interacting with each other like a group of remarkably similar looking best friends.

The result is an intriguing exhibition at Carleton University Art Gallery titled Go Forth and Multiply.

Some of the photographs have a vaguely familiar look. That is because Tierney has recreated poses by such artists as Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli and Canada’s Edwin Holgate from the Group of Seven. The models in the originals were nude. Tierney tends to pose clothed, wearing a T-shirt that says Nude.

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THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: Tears and farewells amid Carleton University’s Embarrassment of Riches

By Paul Gessell

Geoffrey James, "Viaduct of the Ohio Turnpike, Cuyahoga National Park," 2004.

It was the last vernissage at the Carleton University Art Gallery to be presided over by the retiring director, Diana Nemiroff, and Ottawa’s art royalty turned out in force.

It also helped that many Ottawa artists attending had some of their own works on the gallery walls. They included Justin Wonnacott, Loraine Gilbert, Jane Martin, Jennifer Dickson, Michele Provost, and relatives of the late Gerald Trottier. Other artists in attendance were Cindy Stelmackowich and Jerry Grey, along with major collectors Joe Friday and John Cook, art dealer Dale Smith and prominent curators Catherine Sinclair, Judith Parker, and Jonathan Shaughnessy.

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WEEKENDER: Cool chemistry, plus Chinatown gets remixed, the Glebe gets glamorous, and more this Mother’s Day weekend

Shannon Kaya of TeoMae Designs will be on hand at Glamour in the Glebe.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, this jewellery show will showcase pieces by more than 30 designers. Grab that last-minute gift for Mom (you’re welcome for the reminder), or just browse through all the different bling made by local artists for that unique piece to add to your wardrobe. Opening night on Friday will include a fashion show and refreshments. $6 on Friday, May 11, 6:30 p.m. Free on Saturday, May 12. Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Ave.,

No, not that kind of benefits. FWB is a silent auction and dance party aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness. Bid on some great packages, including hotel stays, golf equipment, and spa treatments, to benefit the Jennie James Depression Research Fund, while sharing stories of depression. Then lighten the mood by dancing your socks off to DJs Zattar, Memetic, and Eric Roberts. $20. Friday, May 11, 8 p.m. Elmdale Tavern, 1084 Wellington St. W.,

The final night of the “Jack’s Picks” series will showcase two movies from the National Film Board (Jack Horwitz, former NFB Executive Producer, picks his personal favourites from this internationally acclaimed agency). Teens will love the first one, following the rise of Ottawa-native Paul Anka to teenage stardom (tell them he’s the Justin Bieber of their parents’ day). The second film, which was banned in the U.S., takes a serious look at acid rain, its origins, and its consequences. $10 families, $8 individuals, $5 students and seniors. Friday, May 11, 6:30 p.m. Crichton Cultural Community Centre, Memorial Hall, 39 Dufferin Rd.,

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INDUSTRY BUZZ: Diana Nemiroff’s enduring legacy garners GG award

By Paul Gessell

Diana Nemiroff, director at the Carleton University Art Gallery, has been awarded a Governor General Award for Visual and Media Arts. Photo by Martin Lipman

One of Ottawa’s treasures, Diana Nemiroff, will be presented March 28 with the $25,000 Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts Award for her “enduring impact on the Canadian art landscape,” the Canada Council for the Arts has announced.

“This is a very big deal for me,” says Nemiroff.  “In my field this is the most important award that I could win. And winning a specifically Canadian award that is considered to be the pinnacle of recognition makes it especially meaningful to me.”

Nemiroff is currently the director of the Carleton University Art Gallery and previously worked 20 years at the National Gallery of Canada as a curator, mainly in contemporary art, becoming one of the most influential figures in the contemporary art scene.

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THE WEEKENDER: Creepy queers, Rocky Horror, haunted walks, and four more ways to enjoy Halloween weekend

The final movie has come and gone, but it’s still possible to get your Potter fix. While they won’t be flying around on Nimbus 2000s, Carleton University plays host to more than 100 muggles for the first-ever Canadian Quidditch Cup. The non-flight version of Quidditch, which still involves broomsticks, is a modified version of the sport that mixes rugby, dodge ball, and tag. Eight teams will battle it out to decide who gets to go to the Quidditch World Cup tournament in New York City in November. Come cheer for Carleton, ranked second behind McGill. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Check it out on campus at the Ravens’ Road Field. Map of campus can be found here.

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HIDDEN OTTAWA: Voices of Venus, one great Red Wall, and eight more hideaways where underground scenes flourish

Ottawa Magazine’s October issue uncovers “hidden Ottawa” with a hole-in-the-wall handbook that embraces the city’s undercover ambience, celebrating 39 overlooked nooks, hipster hideaways, secret foodie sources, and other mysterious locales. Get your copy at Britton’s magazine store and other newsstand locations around town.

Expect plenty of brass, bass, and maybe even some Bossa nova, at Groovy's Roti Hut on Sunday nights. Photo by Angela Gordon.

Groovy jazz
While Groovy’s Roti Hut regularly serves up flavourful (and filling and affordable) Caribbean cuisine, there’s something else special on the menu on Sunday evenings: jazz standards. It gets going around 7 p.m., and it’s a jam night, so no promises about who will show up. One night seven middle-aged men took to the lowered stage, covering trombone, drums, guitar, upright bass, alto sax, vocals, and keys. Later on, some kids straight out of High School Musical straggled in, instruments in hand. Food is mostly in the $9-to-$14 range, with lots of Caribbean faves like goat and codfish, as well as vegetarian options. On Sunday nights, the music takes over. 292 McArthur Ave., 613-744-1551. – Dayanti Karunaratne

In character
Taverns teem with drama — tall tales, fights, broken hearts — so what could be more logical than Chamber Theatre mounting plays in the venerable Carleton Tavern? The sightlines aren’t great (an incentive to get there early), but it’s a dandy place to watch slice-of-life theatre while quaffing a few. Tavern regulars seem mildly bemused by the events and stick to one side of the tavern during the shows. Their conversation sometimes spills over into the performance side, adding reality to the show (or is it vice versa?). Michel Tremblay’s Marcel Pursued by the Hounds opens Nov. 23. 223 Armstrong St., – Patrick Langston

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