2000 MFA University of Western Ontario, London, ON
1997 BA (Hons) University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
1995 AOCAD (with Distinction) Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto, ON
1994-5 Florence Studio Program (OCAD), Florence, Italy
Olexander Wlasenko was born in 1972 in Oshawa, Ontario, an industrial city east of Toronto. A first generation Canadian, Olex grew up connected to his Ukrainian heritage through family stories, culture, books, and film.
Although exposed to art from an early age, it was not until the mid-80’s that Olexander fully realized that art was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Two shows by Ukrainian-Canadian artists in particular influenced his thinking.
The first was Kurelek’s Vision Of Canada, a retrospective of the works of painter William Kurelek (1927-1977) that toured the country through 1983-1984. The second was Behind The Irony Curtain (1986), by Toronto-based artist Natalka Husar.
Olexander lists his later inspirations as Gerhard Richter, Edgar Degas, William Kentridge, Vija Celmins, and Norwegian figurative painter Odd Nerdrum. Closer to home, Olexander credits OCA instructors Husar (for her impact) and Cathy Daley (for encouraging him to draw) as early mentors. Olexander also credits Margaret Priest, a professor at the University Of Guelph, for developing rigour in his work. Finally, he acknowledges Sheila Butler, his thesis advisor at Western, for her support and for fostering a firm theoretical grounding in his chosen medium.
Why drawings? Why pigment on paper? In Olexander’s words, because of the form’s “immediacy” and because it “evokes neo-classicism”.
As for subject matter, Olexander’s work has often mirrored social realism and Ukrainian and Eastern European visual history. In recent years, Olexander has found more diverse sources for his work. The contemporary blue-collar subjects of for all (2001) for example. And then there’s Claudia …The “Claudia Cardinale” series of drawings, based on film stills found while on a trip to Italy, have been very popular with patrons (and judges) of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. One of Olex’s images, “Claudia With Phone” (2002) was even used to promote the event. In the end though, Olexander continues to return to his Ukrainian roots as a touchstone for meaningful reflection and refining his craft.
“My studio production focuses on a personal and investigative discourse surrounding drawing’s relationship to lens based media (i.e. photography, cinema) in modern culture. The images I choose to work with trigger involuntary and perhaps atavistic memories. In relation to this, I perceive the photos and films I draw from as touchstones for retrieving a dislocated cultural memory. And yet they are not my memories, and to some degree, nor are they vehicles of my ‘culture’.
They are one step, one generation, removed. In this regard, they act as metaphors for displacement.
I use only one tool–my index finger. I manually rub the pigment into the surface of the paper. This technique gives the most dexterity and somehow the warmth of the hand transfers to each drawing.
Inspiration is concealed in the pages of history or reels of film. The images I draw from surface from the vast well-spring of historical sources. These can be vintage visual documents such as books, archives or old movies. This fascination with cinema stems from my upbringing.
If my earlier drawings were inspired by image banks close to home, I’ve recently turned to sources outside the personal realm. Lately, I’ve been culling from “art house” cinema from Italy, France and Sweden. I am interested in the “moment” when the dramatic structure of the movie plot changes in an instant. As with movie stills, my drawings are free-standing islands with a myriad of possible interpretations and interconnections.
I’ve recently become interested in extending or elongating discrete moments in film. I’m fascinated by the elasticity of film. Sequences that unfurl through cinematic time and space become transformative and tangible as charcoal drawings.”
2015 Long Moments *PAMA, Brampton, Ontario Drawing 2015John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto, Ontario
2014 Drawing 2014John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto, Ontario Oshawa Space InvadersTimes on Richmond, Oshawa, Ontario Drawings *Abbozzo Gallery, Toronto, Ontario
2013 ‘Off Screen’ Abbozzo Gallery, Toronto, ON ‘Art House’ Art Gallery of Peterborough, Peterborough, ON ‘Somewhere in Time’ Aurora Cultural Centre, Aurora, ON
2012 ‘Cinemarks’, Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, ON Surfacing: Off the Pages Station Gallery, Whitby, ON
2011 ‘Just a Moment’, Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, ON
2010 ‘Borrowed Moments’, Durham Art Gallery, Durham, ON
2008 ‘Olexander Wlasenko: As We Slept’, Oseredok, Winnipeg, MB ‘Olexander Wlasenko: Someone, Somewhere’, Durham West Art Centre, Pickering, ON
2007 ‘Olexander Wlasenko: As We Slept’, MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie, ON
2005 ‘B & W’, Sarah Beveridge Gallery, Barrie, ON ‘Another Time, Another Place’, Odd Gallery, Dawson City, Yukon
2004 ‘Someone, Somewhere’, Gallery Stratford, Stratford, ON
2002 ‘for all’, Visual Arts Centre of Clarington, Bowmanville, ON
2000 ‘Ethnic Limbs’, Paul Petro Contemporary Art, Toronto, ON
1999 ‘Drawings’, Gallery 396, London, ON
1997 Szobor Park , Zavitz Hall, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
1995 Nera, ex-Emerson Centro di Comunicazione, Florence, Italy
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2011 ‘Make it Work: Art + Economy’, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON ‘Drawing 2011’, John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto, ON
2010 National Juried Drawing Exhibition White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON ‘After Pictures’, Visual Art Centre, Bowmanville, ON
2009 ‘The artist and the crowd in history’, Museum London, London, ON ‘Plant 90: Production and Object’, 401 Richmond, Toronto, ON Art 2009 Metro Convention Centre, Toronto, ON
2008 47th Annual Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition (TOAE), Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON ‘Best of 46th Annual TOAE’, First Canadian Place Gallery, Toronto, ON
2007 46th Annual TOAE Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON ‘ReSource’, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, ON ‘The Drawing Exhibition’, Arthouse, Calgary, AB ‘Best of 45th Annual TOAE’, First Canadian Place Gallery, Toronto, ON
2006 45th Annual TOAE Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON ‘Best of 44th Annual TOAE’, First Canadian Place Gallery, Toronto, ON ‘Drawing 2006’, John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto, ON ‘Collect’, Sarah Beveridge Gallery, Barrie, ON
2005 ‘Intersection’, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, ON ‘Showcase ’05’, Cambridge Galleries, Cambridge, ON 44th Annual TOAE Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON ‘Making Marks’, Sarah Beveridge Gallery, Barrie, ON ‘Selections from the Permanent Collection’, Gallery Stratford, Stratford, ON ‘Best of 43rd Annual TOAE’, First Canadian Place Gallery, Toronto, ON
2004 ‘Corruption of Reality’, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, ON 43rd Annual TOAE Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON 42nd Annual TOAE Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON ‘Best of 41st Annual TOAE’, First Canadian Place Gallery, Toronto, ON ‘A Celebration of Ontario’, Artists Centennial of Ontario Archives hosted by John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto, ON
2002 ‘Myoptic10 Latitude 53’, Edmonton, AB 41st Annual TOAE Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON ‘New Faces, New Works’, Canadian Ukrainian Art Foundation, Toronto, ON
2001 London Regional Forest City Gallery, London, ON ‘Present Tense Project Series’, Instant Coffee, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON ‘Drawing 2001’, John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto, ON
2000 Forest Pekao Gallery, Toronto, ON Language Hotel (residency) St. Norbert Arts Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba ‘On Immigrant Experience’, Modern Fuel Gallery, Kingston, ON ‘Modelumental’, The Red Head Showcase, Toronto, ON (S)elves ArtLab, London, ON
1999 ‘DARE’, Forest City Gallery, London, ON ‘The Gestalt of the Vault’, The Red Head Gallery, Toronto, ON ‘Bizzareries & Delicatesse’, Cambridge Galleries, Cambridge, ON
1998 37th Annual TOAE Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON ‘Crossing Borders’, The Castellani Art Museum, Buffalo, New York
1997 Gallery Launch Exhibition Zinc Gallery, Toronto, ON
1995 ‘Arte Firenze’, St. Lawrence Market (North), Toronto, ON
O’Marra, Allan, “An artistic and curatorial luminary in our midst” in Oshawa This Week, August 29, 2013, p. 44 Brizhun-Sokolyk, Oksana, “Olexander Wlasenko in Durham, Ontario” in New Pathway (in Ukrainian) Claudia in Car (redux) installed at owners home. Artwork featured in BBC article on BBCUkrainian.com. Artwork featured in Poiesis XII: The Poietics of Alterity ISBN 2147483647 Steven, Trish (host) “Simcoe Living”, Rogers Television, September, 2007, Season 7, episode 4, interview on As We Slept and Broken Promises exhibitions Goddard, Peter “State of the Union”, Toronto Star, October 20, 2007, review of As We Slept and Broken Promises Clayton, Marianne “Forum Picks”, Educational Forum, Fall 2007, review of As We Slept and Broken Promises, pp. 36-37 Kevin Temple “Outdoor’s Best” Now Magazine, January 26, 2006 Chase, Christy “Oshawa artist faces reality” Oshawa This Week, December 3, 2004 Aurandt, David, Corruption of Reality: Redefining Realism (Oshawa: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, ISBN: 0-921500-51-3) 2004 O’Connor, Donal “Caught on Film” The Beacon Herald, March 16, 2004 Kobryn, Irena “A Canadian Artist in Kyiv” Meest (Ukrainian Weekly), February 13, 2004 Riabokon, Liudmyla “Oleksandr Vlasenko” The Day, Kyiv, Ukraine, October 16, 2003 – for a “clumsy” English translation of the original Ukrainian article visit: The Day Lesya Skada-Ostrovska, “Young Canadian Artist, Olexander Wlasenko draws.with his finger” 1Plus1 Television, September 27, 2003 Goodwyn, Jewel MIX Magazine, Spring 2000 Sutherley, Jill “Artists find (S)elves” The Gazette, January 25, 2000 Benedict, Ben “Daring artists reveal all in FCG exhibition of taboos” Scene, December 2, 1999 Gillespie, Ian “Stealing the crumbs of culture” The Sunday Free Press, November 14, 1999 Varin-Jarkowski, Karoline “Fine Art of Bizzareries & Delicatesse” Echo, September 30, 1999 Coulson, Sandra “Old films spark artist’s new line” The London Free Press, June 3, 1999 Wherry, Aaron “Student art thinks for itself” The Gazette, February 9, 1999 Leyes, Serena, “Delving into the student psyche”, The Gazette, October 8, 1998 Bennett, Matt “Mutation in Recent Toronto Art”, Artfocus, Spring/Summer 1998 Hume, Christopher “Zinc Gives Young a Place to Hang”, Toronto Star, July 24, 1997
2012 Ontario Arts Council Mid-Career Artist Grant
2011 First Prize, Drawing 2011, 12th Annual Juried Drawing Exhibition, organized by John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto, ON Ontario arts Council Exhibition Assistance Award
2010 Ontario Arts Council Mid-Career Artist Grant Canada Council for the Arts Project Grant Cleeve Horne Purchase Award, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, ON
2009 Ontario Arts Council Exhibition Assistance Grant
2008 Ontario Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant Canada Council for the Arts Project Grant
2007 Canada Council for the Arts Project Grant Drawing Award, 46th Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition
2006 Best Drawing Award, 45th Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition Ontario Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant
2005 Best Drawing Award, 44th Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition Canada Council for the Arts Travel Grant
2004 Best Drawing Award, 43rd Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition Canada Council for the Arts Creation / Production Grant Ontario Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant
2003 Ontario Arts Council Exhibition Assistance Grant Special Project Grant from the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine
2002 Best Drawing Award, 41st Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition Ontario Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant
2001 The Canada Council for the Arts Emerging Artist Grant Ontario Arts Council Exhibition Assistance Grant First Prize, Drawing 2001, 2nd Annual Juried Drawing Exhibition, organized by John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto, ON
1999 People’s Choice Award, ‘Bizzareries and Delicatesse’ at Cambridge Galleries Special University Scholarship (SUS), University of Western Ontario
1997 The 29th Annual Juried Art Show, University of Guelph Dean’s Honour List (Fall Semester)
1994 The Eric Freifield Award, The Ontario College of Art and Design