Nicholas Breton

Master of Fine Art (MFA)

Nicholas BretonNicholas Breton was drawn to UWaterloo’s MFA program because of the extensive teaching opportunities built into the graduate experience. “It’s quite unusual for a school to offer two TA appointments to each student. And this is the only school in Canada that provides grad students with a sessional teaching position.”

In their second year, MFA students have the opportunity to teach an entire undergraduate course, including designing the curriculum and providing all lecture and studio components.  

The other distinctive feature of the program, and one that has had a great influence on Nicholas’ work and process, is the Keith and Win Shantz Summer Internship. MFA students work with an artist of their choice anywhere in the world. They are funded to travel to their chosen destination and work with an established artist for 6 weeks. Nicholas travelled to New York City to intern with Canadian Susanna Heller, an artist who had already greatly influenced his career. While there, he observed her creative process, which began with long walks through the city looking for inspiration. She would sketch on her walks, and later transform the ideas to paintings in her studio. Upon his return to Waterloo, Nicholas incorporated a similar approach in his painting process. Heller also exposed him to the gallery scene in New York, sharing her experience and expertise on the business side of the art world, which is invaluable for a new artist.

As a part of the MFA requirements, students mount a thesis exhibition of their work at the University of Waterloo Gallery (UWAG). Nicholas’ show, entitled The Gesture and the Drip, features paintings that respond to the digitization of art. “The internet is taking over,” he says. “Where does that situate painting? Is painting still a relevant medium?” He explains that, with most artists relying on websites to promote their work, viewers often experience the work as only digital copies or scans. His paintings draw attention to the “paradox of the authentic and the mediated gesture.” As he writes in his thesis statement, the works in his show attempt to “place greater significance on the human gesture in contrast to the loss of human presence that often accompanies such digital documentation.”

July 2013 Megan Scarborough

University of Waterloo

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