Grad intersects art and design at the MMFA


Concordia alumnus tests assumptions about art in Impressions residency

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) boasts a varied collection, with pieces originating from around the world. Comprised of paintings, reliefs, sculptures and everything in between, the MMFA features a vast treasure trove of artistically and culturally-significant artefacts.

Like most museums, the MMFA’s collection makes assumptions about what art is and isn’t based on Western perspectives and definitions of “good” art. These assumptions are exactly what Ari Bayuaji—the MMFA’s new Impressions artist in residence—wants to challenge.

“We live in a very interesting and dynamic time at the moment,” said Bayuaji. “Art has been a great archive that reflects different times and changes in the history of human beings. [Challenging assumptions in art] is very important because our world is always changing.”

Bayuaji was a product and interior designer in Bali, Indonesia, before he came to Montreal to pursue a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Concordia in 2005. He said he is interested in the relationship between art and design, and uses ready-made objects—manufactured items modified by the artist—to question assumptions about art.

His works, featuring painted pieces of driftwood, painted stone statues and countless painted wooden pieces dangling from hidden wire, aim to blur the line between noble, fine arts and everyday objects. He said he wants to accomplish the same thing at the MMFA.

While a student at Concordia, Bayuaji frequently made use of ready-made objects for his assignments.

“I found that blank paper or plain white canvas was too boring to work on. When I moved from Indonesia to Canada in 2005, I brought with me many of old objects I collected when I was younger,” Bayuaji said. “For my studio classes, I could paint or draw over solid teak wood panels, old photographic works I did years before, and make sculptures by cutting and pasting them together. As an art student, it was a good way for me to deal with my expenses and also to be different compared to other fellow students.”FullSizeRender

The MMFA’s Impressions residency, supported by the Conseil des arts de Montréal, is an opportunity to showcase emerging artists from a cultural community, visible minority or aboriginal community. The goal of this residency is for an artist to produce a work inspired by the MMFA’s vast collection of 42,000 items—of which only 4,500 are on display. Bayuaji will be given six weeks to research and study the museum’s collection—the largest in Canada—and produce an original perspective piece to be displayed in an exhibition in the mezzanine of the Maison du Conseil des arts de Montréal.

“I would like to create some artworks using old objects that either might never have been found by Western museum curators, or might not be of significant importance or uniqueness to warrant a place at the museum,” said Bayuaji, who said he believes that design and art work together, rather than apart.

“I think that design should be very basic knowledge in the study of art history. When we think about the ancient Greeks and Romans, artefacts from that period were something that shaped their culture and traditions,” said Bayuaji. “The ancient Greek art at that time was mostly created or designed for daily life or religious purposes. I don’t think we can separate art from design.”

Through his work, Bayuaji hopes to challenge the Western lens through which we often look at art and by which collections such as that of the MMFA are typically organized.

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