ocad gradex 2023

OCAD GradEx 2023 bares it all with boundary pushing student creations

From now until May 7, OCAD University (Ontario College of Arts) is hosting its annual public exhibition GradEx, which showcases the work of its graduating students across six floors of the McCaul Street Campus. 

Painting, Advertising, and Indigenous Visual Culture are among the 16 featured studies within the three faculties.

I attended the show last night, eager to see what Toronto's cultural future had to share.

ocad gradex 2023My journey began on the first floor in an open-concept space called the Great Hall. Here's where the award-winning pieces were shown. The room encapsulated every major art discipline, ranging from video to paper mache. 

I was drawn to a piece by Bridget Lu. Her art depicted the head of a dragon, the cultural symbol of good luck, strength, and health during the Lunar New Year.

ocad gradex 2023She chose to do a half dissection of the head, showing the beautiful costume design that we're used to seeing on the right, while on the left, a see-through mesh material was wrapped around wood sticks and fur in order to show the inner structure of the dragon head.

Emanating from the dragon's head was light, symbolizing the positivity surrounding the holiday. 

ocad gradex 2023From there I jumped to the fourth floor where I found Ethan Platt's work. 

The 21-year-old student created a series of striking paintings that blend both digital and oil mediums to produce portraits that appear to be liquid metal.

The faces on the canvas look as though they're ready to slide off at any moment. 

"I start my compositions in animation software to generate figurative subjects that emphasize the relationship between the digital landscape and reality. I then translate these renderings to oil paint to return these metallic compositions to their qualities in the physical," said Platt. 

Each and every piece of art that is showcased at GradEx has a message. Students were encouraged to choose ones that affect them in their day-to-day life. Pratt decided to choose the popular topic of digital integration. 

"I chose these works to show a variety of human experiences in the digital landscape. Each work calls on an art history trope in figurative painting such as bathers, reclining nudes, and battle scenes modified to belong in the contemporary cyberspace," said Pratt. 

ocad gradex 2023I opted to take the stairs up to the final two floors and if you're able to, I'd highly recommend it.

ocad gradex 2023OCAD students have painted murals and graffiti around the staircase. A little time in the stairwells and you truly get a sense of just how much creativity lies in the university's walls. 

One of the more eye-catching exhibits on the fifth floor was Blot. 

ocad grad ex 2023Blot was created by 23-year-old Samantha Hewer. When it came time to design her final thesis, Hewer decided to tackle a topic that she felt most people were severely uneducated about. 

"Blot was really created out of necessity as during my thesis research I realized that education and acceptance are lacking and that the period market (ads, products, brands) are really only catered to cis-gendered women such as myself. Whereas in reality, it's not just women who menstruate, it's trans men and nonbinary people too," said Hewer. 

Hewer believes there is a gap in the market for "non-bias and real information," about periods. Therefore, her approach was forward. 

The advertisements used bright period-associated colours to draw viewers' attention. Her use of language in the advertisements also held nothing back - and it worked. I found myself wandering over to her booth more than once. 

ocad gradex 2023My experience at GradEx was phenomenal. I left with my creative juices flowing, feeling the need to create right away. There was raw and organic emotion in the air. 

ocad gradex 2023GradEx runs all weekend. Tickets are free and attendees will have the chance to purchase prints and originals from the students in the exhibit.

There is also an online, interactive exhibition that you can check out if you can't attend in person.  

Photos by

Marcus Mitropoulos

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