Black artists to look out for at Rye

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By Rhea Singh

There are many artists who get the chance see the spotlight or be profiled, but Black artists are often overlooked and underappreciated for their work and talent. This week, The Eye introduces you to four Black artists at Ryerson to check out.

Christina Oyawale

Photo artist and designer

Christina Oyawale is more than just a second-year photography student. Oyawale’s work focuses on the humanistic aspect of everyday life through portraits, zines and fashion.

Their work spans from creating their own volume of zines called “The Ends: Les Enfants Terribles” about three artists who create non-traditional fashion. Each artist featured in the zine is Toronto based, and each has an issue dedicated to their work. 

They also founded Tx4, a community that gives artists a platform to showcase their work. Tx4 is described as a collective for young creators and innovators based in Toronto to express themselves. It also helps artists find opportunities within the city.

The photo artist and designer has also been part of Maximum Exposure 24, on May 19, 2019, an annual showcase by the School of Image Arts. For Oyawale, some of their most profoundly powerful pieces are portraits, where Oyawale brings out the story of their subjects through their camera. 

“Where I End, U Belong”, will be their first solo exhibition on Feb. 3-8, this year at the Image Arts Centre, which focuses on men and non-binary people in their life. 

“This show is really important because I feel it’s critical to finally talk about the representation of male vulnerability and mental health,” said Oyawale in a recent Instagram post

Tristan Sauer

filmmaker and digital/installation artist

For Tristan Sauer, his love for digital art started in high school, creating movie posters through Photoshop. At the time, he wanted to be a filmmaker. “Ironically, this led me into wanting to be a graphic designer,” said the fourth-year new media student. 

Now, however, Sauer’s passion is in creating interactive immersive computive art installations, delving into code-based and data driven art. 

He focuses on incorporating captivating installations with political messages, as seen in a recent project Sauer is working on. In “Thoughts and Prayers”, 10 clocks are each volleying between random start and end times, each clock representing one of the ten deadliest school shootings in America. The installation will be showcased in April.

Sauer is also a part of Bare.Hiphop, a collective artist page created by Kristoff Edwards, involving the hiphop art scene.

“We had witnessed a plague of horrible album arts in mainstream releases over the past few years and always told ourselves ‘we could do better,’” said Sauer.

In the past, Sauer has created art work for CJRU, with two retro phone booths that students could use for recording audio for podcasts, located in the SCC and the SLC. He also showcased “Chrysalism” at Makerfest 2018, which composed of a group of flashing clouds alongside the sound of thunder, mimicking an outdoor storm indoors.

Currently, aside from his thesis, Sauer is working on two major projects. “The Death of Barbie,” an installation that both criticizes Barbie’s negative association with body image as well as her history of working in male dominated field. The second being, “We Don’t Belong Here,” which critiques the Canadian military’s involvement in American military practices. 

Alex Douglas

Filmmaker, writer and musician

Fourth-year film student Alex Douglas found her love for film in middle school—when writing fiction and photography began to blend together. At the same time, music began to take a place in her everyday life, as she began to write songs and learn how to play the guitar.

Since then, Douglas has started creating her own music with her partner called Garden View, mixing music, visuals and art from one project to another. Garden View is an alternative duo that has recently released their EP “Homegrown.” 

“I always thought I would end up being a filmmaker, until I met some friends in my film program who secretly wanted to make music too,” said Douglas. 

Regarding Toronto’s music scene, Douglas said without people and collectives she met in the city, it would have been difficult to break into the music scene.

“The gentrification of the west end has made it hard for alternative artists to have a solid place in the city,” said Douglas.

Aside from her music career, Douglas wrote a short film called “Bloom”, a story about a young Black woman discovering her sexuality, which got into Toronto Queer Film Festival. Currently, alongside Garden View, Douglas is working on “Better for Me”, her thesis which looks into mental health, blackness and community in a creative way. 

Michael Wamara

Actor and model

“Ever since I was a kid, [I’ve been] interested in the forces that develop us as human beings,” said third-year acting student Michael Wamara when talk about his passion for his program.

Growing up, Wamara didn’t see enough representation on the screen, and the stories of his circumstances were not being told. He found his representation in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

“I was about 10 years old, and I had to write a paper about someone who influenced me, [and] of course [I wrote] Will Smith,” said Wamara. “Now instead of writing a paper … I wrote a monologue as Will Smith.”

Drawing from that inspiration, Wamara has previously starred in Blessing Adedijo’s play “Do Right By Me,” featured at Ryerson New Voices Festival, which explored the complexities of race and the cost of unpaid emotional labour in the lives of two Black couples.

Wamara has also modelled for clothing line 1990x by Patrick Brennan, alongside photographs and third-year photography students Abdul Rahman, Bishwesh Uprety and Tommy Calderon. 

“When you’re in a room with talented, artistic, and imaginative people, the room lights up,” said Wamara.

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