Andrew McCullough
Andrew McCullough
April 6, 2021

“Shift the Focus” to Art by Youth

Gallery on Queen building | Photo by Jules Keenan

Walking into Gallery on Queen, one is always greeted warmly by gallery owner Nadia Khoury. It is calming yet invigorating to be surrounded by a wide breadth of powerful local art, evoking trauma, place, and nature through pottery, painting, and metalwork.

Hosting this year’s Youth for Youth Collective art exhibition (usually hosted by Beaverbrook Art Gallery) is Gallery on Queen. 

“The show is to encourage them to put their work out there, and we help promote them to teach them to have confidence about their work,” said Gallery on Queen owner Nadia Khoury.

This year’s exhibition, called “Shift the Focus”, is geared towards “seeing ideas through the eyes of these young artists, the issues that are important to them, and their efforts to be creative in a very stressful time,” according to organizer Christina Thomson (Outreach Program Coordinator at Beaverbrook Art Gallery).

For many, this show is one of their first longer exhibitions.

“I have shown my art at a previous Youth for Youth art exhibition and at Flourish Festival, but this is the first time I’ve had art up somewhere for an extended amount of time,” said painter Olivia Thomson, an English Honours student at UNB Fredericton.

The Brunswickan’s own Creative Director Jules Keenan participated in the show with artwork blending photography and text. Keenan, who has participated in shows with the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, says the experience feels both “familiar… but also new and exciting.”

On the importance of exhibiting art created by youth, Keenan says, “I find the art world can be a little difficult to navigate sometimes, especially when one is new to it. Established artists tend to dictate the art community, they set the example of what is considered ‘great’ art, and their voices are what is paid attention to – which is great, I mean, they deserve to be there because they have worked hard for it, but young, emerging artists can be easily lost in the race to find what is great.”

Keenan’s mixed media art, featuring titles such as Crashing, Crumbling, and Universal Healthcare, reflect the vulnerabilities that an individual can share with the world. The honest text accompanying photos reflect the anxieties that come with intense emotions and economic uncertainty.

Anxiety is a theme that seems to run through the work of many of the artists, including Olivia Thomson’s colourful, reflective, and sombre paintings. With titles taken straight from song lyrics such as the painting, It’s buzzcut season anyways, whose lyrics are taken from the Lorde deep-cut “Buzzcut Season”, Thomson illustrates the comforts found within pop culture, but also the ways that pop culture reflects concerns of youth.

Regarding It’s buzzcut season anyways, Olivia states, “I was listening to a lot of Lorde and the field across from my house was full of sticky burr plants. The drawing is of two girls in a field, one with a bunch of sticky burrs in her hair, the other with a shaved head trying to help her. I was sort of trying to imply the same thing has happened to the second girl and to show solidarity between someone going through something and someone who has already been through it.”

Other works include contemporary fashion pieces, impressionist paintings, drawings, and more. The show runs until the end of March, so check it out while you can. Gallery on Queen is located at 406 Queen Street in downtown Fredericton.

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