In Dimension: Personal and Collective Narratives

May 15–Aug 3
  • Alishah Ahmad
  • Anne Balneg
  • Siena-heesoo Jang
  • Kardell McAfee
  • Emiliya Volchenko
    Emiliya Volchenko, Beyond the Pages, (detail; collage, 16x20in), 2023. Courtesy of the artist
Emiliya Volchenko, Beyond the Pages, (detail; collage, 16x20in), 2023. Courtesy of the artist

In Dimension: Personal and Collective Narratives is a group exhibition bringing together works by emerging artists who participated in The Image Centre’s Poy Family Youth in Focus Program. This program provides free, customized workshops for community organizations and youth in the Toronto area, offering hands-on photography-based activities that encourage critical thinking about the IMC’s exhibitions and promote explorations of image-making and storytelling processes.

Alishah Ahmad, Puzzle of Sentiments, (detail; collage, 11x14in), 2023. Courtesy of the artist

In Dimension features the works of Alishah Ahmad, Anne Balneg, Siena-heesoo Jang, Kardell McAfee, and Emiliya Volchenko, who participated in the IMC’s recent workshops Representation as You (2021) and Refaced: Photography and Collage (2023). The artists use diverse media to find common ground in autobiographical methods of artmaking, emphasizing self-reflection and exploring their singular understandings of popular culture, nostalgia, social structures, and personal emotions. Through a combination of photography, painting, illustration, and sculptural techniques, and using imagery appropriated from magazine spreads, antique photo albums, and social media, these works construct a connection between individual and collective narratives. The following artist statements explore the makers’ motivations and processes.

Alishah Ahmad

Puzzle of Sentiments and Echoes of Time navigate the nostalgia of my memories, the uncertainty of what lies ahead, and the simple joys of living in the present. By combining a variety of materials such as textured papers, glossy magazine cut-outs, photographs, and paint, collage allows me to intricately weave together the tapestry of my emotions. My reflections on the past are embedded in the collages, inviting viewers to enter a shared space of reminiscence. As my experience and understanding continue to unfold, the layers and textures of collage offer the viewer insight into the ebb and flow of my emotions. Through the process of creating works that represent my innermost self, I find a sense of clarity and peace amid the chaos.

Anne Balneg, Contemplating Everything, (detail; collage, 11x14in), 2023. Courtesy of the artist

Anne Balneg

Contemplating Everything and When will I Learn? reflect my inner dialogue as I explore the unknown path I’m on. My mind is clouded by a multitude of what-if questions—I am constantly wondering what path I should take. Through these questions, I reflect on my hopes and fears for the future, visualizing the possibilities in collage. In combining my own photographs with imagery sourced from magazines and antique photography albums, maps, personal possessions, and excerpts from a poem, the process of constructing these collages served as a reminder that my future is in my own hands—that I have the power to create the life I want.

Siena-heesoo Jang, The Inbetween (reimagining my gender), (detail; collage, 14x11in), 2023. Courtesy of the artist

Siena-heesoo Jang

Inspired by the stories that changed me and left a mark on my core belief system, I explore the relationship between inner experience and external observation of the world. Using diverse materials, textures, and compositions to express my state of curiosity, the notion of duality is considered through the topics of sexuality, gender roles and expectations, climate change, war, and pop culture.

The Inbetween (reimagining my gender) focuses on my concept of self and the dichotomies of navigating gender fluidity within patriarchal social structures. I am curious about how we identify and feel the infrastructures, objects, and environments around us as more “feminine” or “masculine.” The two panels illustrate my thought process of exploring the fluidity within myself against the social structures and expectations of gender norms embedded in my body.

The Cast of Fate and Ecosystem of Broken Trust signify my perspective of the world while offering a reflection of my own place in these stories. The pieces represent social and emotional understandings about our relationships with food, the cultivation of plants, and the portrayal of war in popular media.

All three pieces are woven through with the internalized dichotomy of truth and falsehood, juxtaposing experience and narrative. Various aspects of the pieces involve pain, shame, disappointment, ego, curiosity, and humour. Striving to be more in tune with my realities, I ask myself: Which narratives am I choosing to believe? Which parts of myself am I only choosing to acknowledge?

Kardell McAfee, Everyday Devices, (detail; collage, 13x17in), 2023. Courtesy of the artist

Kardell McAfee

Everyday Devices and Three iPhones are constructed as sculptures and collages, containing the imagery that reflects fragmented parts of myself back to me. Virtual space is made into a material representation of my feelings, seen through the ubiquitous lens of our everyday devices. Sourcing images from Google, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr, these works explore the reciprocal relationship between the impacts of digital media on social interaction and self-perception. Creating them was a process of self-reflection, pushing me to think about the self that is sincere and the fabricated/fantasy self that exists virtually. Trying to unblur the lines between real and fake, I consider self-reflection as a means towards self-development, acknowledging the influence that technology has on my subconscious.

Emiliya Volchenko

Composed of images found in popular magazines, Beyond the Pages is a mixed-media collage that critiques the harmful beauty standards perpetuated by such publications. Reflecting on my own experiences and emotions, I use acrylic gel transfers to amalgamate an array of women depicted to sell products, lifestyles, and expectations. Overlaying the transferred magazine cut-outs is the faded impression of a woman’s face, signifying the struggle for self-identity amid societal pressures. As a designer, I endeavour to challenge prevailing commercial tactics, delving into the portrayal of femininity in popular culture with a commitment to innovative and nonconforming practices. Beyond the Pages stands as a visual evaluation that advocates for less harmful and more empowering design approaches.

Contributing to the creative discourse at The Image Centre, this new generation of artists attests to the significance of lived experience, and exemplifies self-exploration as a creative process.

Curated by Bryce Julien

Presented by The Image Centre. Supported through the generosity of The Poy Family.

Alishah Ahmad passionately explores the realm of creativity with a keen eye for visual expression. Inspired by a childhood filled with a love of drawing, painting, and hands-on craftsmanship, Alishah’s artistic journey has seamlessly transitioned into high school, where she actively engages in art classes to refine her skills. As an artist, she finds it important to immerse herself in the beauty of nature and allow it to guide her in the creative process.

Anne Balneg is a Filipino immigrant finding her pathway through a new life in Canada as she enters adulthood. Discovering new responsibilities and losing sight of hopes and dreams, her practice is one of self-discovery, with underlying themes of Filipino culture, immigration, and considerations about the influence of social media on self-perception. In her process, Anne often draws inspiration from widespread social issues, using personal trinkets and souvenirs alongside photography and mixed-media techniques to represent her connection to them. Having previously participated in community arts programs and worked at a commercial studio, Anne has honed her photographic skills, developing a deeper appreciation for the art form. She continues to explore the expressive form of photography with an interest in editorial image making.

Siena-heesoo Jang (she/they) is an enigmatic multidisciplinary artist. Her work draws from their multi-hyphenated identities and their inquiries through this world. Born in Korea, she grew up in the Philippines and is now a new Canadian citizen. Inspired by the mistakes that shape us, her work reflects her experiences with failure and the evolution of her psyche, gender identity, and spirituality. Her artistic journey stems from navigating both the mental health system and higher education, discovering value in authenticity of voice. Siena considers their creative practice one of play, and continues her storytelling journey through experimenting in theatre, film, photography, DJing, and the visual arts.

Kardell McAfee is an interdisciplinary artist who creates self-reflective stories that promote awareness of personal consciousness. His interest in the arts began at age twelve, when he began photographing his twin sister with his phone. He considers being an artist a continual process of redefining himself, expressing stories of who he is for others to read. He recently participated in a photography exhibition at Nia Centre for the Arts, Toronto, exploring the interconnectedness and beauty of all things found in nature. Through the expression of his experiences, stories, and ideas, he can identify his sense of self. Kardell aspires to exhibit layered stories and thrives in the creative process.

Emiliya Volchenko is a student at OCAD University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design with a minor in Photography. Having recently completed a program at the New York Academy of Art which emphasized classical teachings, her practice encompasses a broad exploration of diverse media including drawing, painting, and photography. As a means of storytelling and emotional expression, Volchenko’s work is guided by an exploratory approach, engaging at the intersection of digital design and traditional media.

Bryce Julien is a Toronto-based artist, and community facilitator at The Image Centre at Toronto Metropolitan University. He is a graduate of the School of Image Arts Photography Studies. Central to his practice is the positioning of the photographic object as a tool for critical thinking and intrapersonal development. His work focuses on exploring the collaborative implications of the subject to photographer relationship. In recent practice, he looks to the materiality of photographic processes, operating in analog and alternative mediums to consider the role of somatics in artistic production.