May 17, 2019

Brendan Fernandes returns to his alma mater as Louis Odette Sculptor-in-Residence

Brendan Fernandes Image courtesy of the Banff Centre by Anna Springate-Floch

Chicago-based York U Visual Art alumnus Brendan Fernandes (BFA ‘02) is the 2019 Louis Odette Sculptor-in-Residence at York University. One of the five Ontario artists nominated for a Sobey Art Award, Fernandes works at the intersection of dance and visual arts. During his residency he is developing new work related to two of his recent exhibitions – Ballet Kink which was featured in Vogue magazine after its premiere at the Guggenheim Museum and The Master and Form which is currently part of the Whitney Biennial, the premiere contemporary art exhibition in North America.

For the public component of the residency, Fernandes discusses his recent work in dance, queer politic and contemporary forms of agency and resistance in an illustrated lecture on Thursday, May 23 at 2:30 p.m. in room 312, Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts at York’s Keele Campus. Admission is free and all are welcome.


Brendan Fernandes, The Master and Form, 2018. Performance view, Graham Foundation, Chicago, IL, 2018. Image courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago. Photograph by Brendan Leo Merea

The residency is in conjunction with the Intensive Sculpture Workshop, a fourth-year course offered by the Department of Visual Art & Art History and taught by Professor Yvonne Singer which provides a valuable apprenticeship/mentorship experience for students, allowing them to work closely with a renowned artist.

students in the visual arts studios are wearing personal protective equipment as they work with molten liquids

Ballet Kink featured dancers in Shibari rope bondage to explore the power dynamics of ballet and how the techniques used to form dancer’s bodies are fetishized. At York, Fernandes is creating bronze casts of rope formed into Shibari styled knots. The other work he is developing, The Master and Form is a series of sculptural pieces that enable dancers to perfect and extend iconic positions. During the residency Fernandes is building new scaled models to continue the series.

Small scale art projects featuring sticks and rope

Fernandes feels it is doubly appropriate to be continuing the development of this work at York. While his major was in visual arts, he was accepted by audition into dance technique classes that are normally reserved for dance majors. Half of the current sculpture studio actually used to be a dance studio, affectionately known as the fish bowl given its floor to ceiling windows.

“I loved dancing in the fish bowl because there was always the sense that you might have an audience. It was never just a class because it also felt like a performance.” Fernandes would often go straight from dance class to the sculpture studio next door, slipping his coveralls over his ballet tights. The sculpture studio took over the fishbowl space as a spacious and sun lit wood shop when the Accolade buildings were built and Dance moved its technique classes into the modern studios on the second floor of Accolade East.

A visual art student shows off her art piece made of hardened rope

“It’s amazing to return to where this all began for me. It was at York that I really learned the material practices and developed the skills to take my work to a professional level,” Fernandes said.

Visual Art student Alaa Asim’s creative focus is exploring language and space in relation to time through a self portrait sculpture in plaster and calligraphy on a transparent film that will be incorporated into the work.

A visual art student shows off her large piece made from plaster

“It’s really nice to work with someone who was here as a student and has gone on to such a great career,” Asim said. “The course is only a month but I like working under pressure. I think we all work harder with a shorter time frame, it’s more like a real world experience.”

Digital Media student Andrew Sidworth is excited about exploring bronze casting. “I’m 3D printing original designs and then heating them up and molding them like clay. I’m also printing elements that I will cast in bronze.  It’s my first time doing casting and I’m curious to see how these forms, that started as something digital, will look in metal. When I told Brendan about my projects he made suggestions that I was already planning to do and it was really affirming. I’m enjoying watching his work develop too.”

A student sits beside a computer with a 3D model posing

Visual Art student Katrianna Pisani wants her sculpture intensive work to provoke reflection and discussion about drinking and fetal alcohol syndrome. She is building a basinet out of beer cans and plans to contrast the can’s sharp and metallic qualities with a sweet and fluffy blanket. “I hope that when people see the work they will think more about how drinking can affect a family.”

Visual arts student working on a project made from drink cans, with a sketch of her work on the right

She’s appreciated getting a professional’s opinion about her work in progress. “Brendan is so inspiring,” Pisani said. “I hear about the things that he has done and think that is the level where I want to be.”

The Louis Odette Sculptor-in-Residence program is made possible with the generous support of the P. & L. Odette Charitable Foundation. The program strives to create a dynamic learning environment which supports the advancement of the art of sculpture, and where students benefit from participation in, and observation of, diverse professional studio practices. The residency provides the opportunity for upper-level undergraduate visual arts students to develop an enhanced working understanding of sculpture techniques from the perspective of eminent guest artists.


Brendan Fernandes’ “Ballet Kink” 2019 Image courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum. Photography by Scott Rudd Events.
Brendan Fernandes Image courtesy of the Banff Centre by Anna Springate-Floch.
Brendan Fernandes, The Master and Form, 2018. Performance view, Graham Foundation, Chicago, IL, 2018. Image courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago. Photograph by Brendan Leo Merea.
Bronze pour in the York University Louis Odette Centre for Sculpture. Brendan Fernandes controls the crane (yellow controller). Sculpture Studio Technician P. Roch Smith (red hard hat) leads the pour assisted by fellow tech Joel Wengle.
Brendan Fernandes works in progress, scale models for The Master and Form and ropes getting ready to be molded and cast in bronze.
Close up of one of Brendan Fernandes’ bronze rope sculptures being removed from its plaster cast by Allison Gerrity, one of the Visual Art students, pictured on the right with Fernandes.
Visual Art student Alaa Asim with her work in progress.
Digital Media student Andrew Sidworth with his work in progress.
Visual Art student Katrianna Pisani with her work in progress.