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Faculty of Arts now home to artist-in-residence

By Janet Harron

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, after a good dinner, one can conceive of anything. As a result of such a convivial evening, the Faculty of Arts now has its own artist-in-residence.

“We were chatting about the connection between the visual arts and the concepts that are studied at the Faculty of Arts. Things like looking at other points of view, living fully in the world and the value of experience itself. I believe Dr. Tremblay had this in the back of her mind for some time and she suggested I make myself available on campus this semester as artist in residence,” said multimedia artist Peter Wilkins.

For her part, Dr. Reeta Tremblay says that she has been wanting to connect the Faculty of Arts with the thriving visual arts scene in St. John’s for some time.

“The pattern of social and intellectual development in any society have always been directly related to the expression of art. I can never think of the social sciences and humanities without thinking about the impact of art on Western civilization.”

Originally from Britain, Mr. Wilkins has lived in Newfoundland for 10 years and is based in Clarke’s Beach. His latest project, Gander International, explores the design and aesthetic of late 1950s modernism at Gander Airport and plans to exhibit at Memorial.

In his recent body of work, Kinetic Portraits of 12 Canadian Writers, Wilkins critically engaged with twelve of Canada's most notable and celebrated authors, including Margaret Atwood, Douglas Coupland, Yann Martel and Jane Uruqhart. The entire suite was purchased by the Portrait Gallery of Canada in 2008. Mr. Wilkins’ work is also in a number of public and private collections in Canada, U.K., U.S., Germany, France and Greece.

Mr. Wilkins will be housed with the M. Phil in Humanities program.

Dr. Jennifer Dyer, current director of studies in Humanities, explains that having an artist-in-residence within the Faculty of Arts can force both students and faculty to look and to think by simply revealing features of the world in an interesting way.

“The relation between an artist-in-residence and the Faculty of Arts is obvious, for the artist manifests that aspect of the world which we intellectually inquire into constantly in the social sciences and humanities, namely the value of experience itself. Art opens up the experience of others, of ourselves and of the overlooked, so we can recognize the value in all of them. This is especially important when there is no visual arts department on campus and the aesthetic experience, which is a fundament of human experience, is not overtly addressed.”

A lens-based artist – “it’s a bit murky as to what kind of art I do” – Mr. Wilkins has big plans for the next couple of months. Among the projects on his to-do list are to take the world’s largest group portrait in the snow, to create kinetic portraits of faculty, students and administrators within the faculty, and to develop a couple of projects in conjunction with the Munnel system which will include video trompe d’oeils and a new look for the stripes that currently colour-code the system.

In addition, Mr. Wilkins also hopes to curate some work by local artists to be displayed in the Faculty of Arts boardroom and to capture the studying process in the Queen Elizabeth II Library.

Mr. Wilkins will also be available Monday afternoons in his office A-3099 to consult with members of the university on art-related subjects.

Appointments can be made directly with him at 737-3558 or