Artist on Campus: Onni Nordman

On Tuesday, March 1, and Wednesday, March 2, Onni Nordman will be taking over the Campus Centre Lobby for an Artist on Campus event.

Based in Cape Breton, Onni Nordman is the son of Finnish immigrants who moved to Canada in 1951. Educated at the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design, Halifax, he returned to Sydney in 1995. Nordman’s practice is rooted in painting, but his highly individual iconography also extends to collage, video, sculpture and printmaking. Presently, he teaches oil painting at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design while continuing to exhibit in solo and group shows both nationally and internationally. Most recently Nordman’s work has appeared at Finlandia University Art Gallery, Hancock, Michigan, Galleria-Artika, Helsinki, Finland, Eastern Edge, St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Pasinger Fabrik Kultur- und Bürgerzentrum, Munich, Germany. Nordman’s work is reproduced on multiple book covers and held in public and private collections in Canada, USA, Australia, Europe and the Middle East.

What you will experience is work in progress on a mural in six panels at the Campus Centre lobby. The artist is simply painting the space of the lobby, but doing it in the manner of the essential features of the ages of western painting: ancient; medieval; Renaissance/classical; early modernist; late modernist; and postmodern/contemporary. It’s a story about the urge to make pictures.

Paintings are older than bread. Bread baking began about 16,000 years ago. The cave paintings at Altamira are 35,500 years old, and the new find in Indonesia is 45,500 years old. So the picture-making urge in us is an essential factor in civilization. But this urge is refracted through the prism of society and culture. The look of art through the ages differs so dramatically it seems to come from different planets. This mural-action is an interrogation of the historical forces that shape visual art.