Art student wins competition with blue prints


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This article was published 18/09/2020 (690 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A technique used in making blueprints has won a University of Manitoba fine arts student a place in a national art show.

Gabriel Roberts won the regional prize in the 18th annual BMO 1st Art! Competition for undergraduate art students, for his piece, A Closet Painted Blue.

The Riverview resident’s work will be showcased in a virtual exhibition hosted by the Art Museum at the University of Toronto until Oct. 16 at, along with works by a dozen other Canadian students.

Sou'wester Gabriel Roberts' winning piece, A Closet Painted Blue.

His winning work is a mixed-media installation featuring cyanotypes on paper, linen, denim and cushions.

The annual competition invites deans and instructors from 110 undergraduate art programs across Canada to nominate three students from each of their studio specialties to submit a recent work. Roberts said he was honoured to be chosen by his instructors.

“Last fall, I was trying to think of a piece for my final exhibition in my honours year,” Roberts said. “I’m interested in cyanotypes, which is an alternative process for photographs, that was originally used when making architectural blueprints. Essentially, when doing this, you end up with a blue and white print, instead of a black and white print.”

The process doesn’t require a dark room. Instead, Roberts would make a digital negative, and then expose the image on a large ultraviolet lightbox or outdoors using sunlight.

“It normally takes 24 hours on the light table for the image to form,” he said.

A Closet Painted Blue is described as “a contemplative exploration into the artist’s own sexuality within the constraints of a closeted relationship.”

“Blue is a colour that many people attach to sadness,” he said, adding he first encountered art that shows LGBTQ images while on a school trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. “I saw an exhibit by Joe Sinnesse, who is an LGBTQ artist. For the first time, I could see myself represented in art. I want to pass on the message that it’s okay to see yourself in art.”

He received $7,500 from the competition, which he is pondering how to spend to further his art.

“I might get a better lightbox, or a camera,” he said.

The national winner in the competition is University of the Arts (Alberta) student Simone Elizabeth Saunders, for It Matters.

This piece is described as, “A hand-tufted textile portrait of a Black civilian in western society during the COVID-19 pandemic. This colourful patchwork focuses on the quality and importance of Black life (matters) in a time where the pandemic has eradicated social normativity, further isolating marginalized communities and resulting in amplified racial biases toward Black and Brown people.”

For more on the competition, see

For more on Gabriel Roberts’ work, see

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