Lights on the Exchange Artist Spotlight #3

Through innovative approaches, these artists explore the multifaceted nature of light.

Diana Lynn VanderMeulen

Diana Lynn VanderMeulen is a Toronto-based multimedia artist whose practice fluidly alternates between digital and analogue mediums. With a focus on extended reality and cyclical material use, Diana uses new media in tandem with biomaterial exploration as a means to reimagine and extend her existing material practice into new realms.

Growing up in a rural community, Diana worked alongside her family on their small dairy farm. This active childhood was very conducive to learning by doing, embracing trial and error, and creatively up-cycling materials to create something new. Diana went on to pursue a degree in Fine Arts from York University, and she’s been dedicated to her practice ever since.

Diana finds inspiration in the mysterious elements of the natural world, technology, and the cosmos, as reflected in her piece for Lights on the Exchange. She spends time researching materials and engaging with literature and critical theory, music, film, and fashion. She’s always looking for new paths to inspiration, which she often finds through her community.

Over the past decade, Diana has been exploring ways in which to integrate new media technologies within her ongoing art practice– specifically her use of painting, collage, and sculptural mediums. Utilizing gaming engine Unity Technologies, she is able to pull her mixed media artwork into 360 space, where she can challenge scale and the bounds of her human body within physical terrain. This technology also allows her to use her digital body in ways that are impossible to her physical self– peering beneath the layers of terrain to find new perspectives. “I am drawn to creating other-worldly scenes focusing on colour and texture, with slowly shifting environmental aspects like water, grasses and light. Ultimately, I see this as a tool of exploring metaphysical connections between landscape and the human spirit,” Diana muses.

For Lights on the Exchange, Diana has installed ‘cosmos in flux,’  a multi-channel video that leads viewers on a cosmic journey through speculative planets and atmospheres—starting with a nebular exploration and through the marshes of unknown terrains. She is drawn to creating work with a meditative quality, referencing PC screensavers, audio visualizers, and nature ASMR videos. 

What Diana appreciates about public art curation is the access it offers to people who aren’t necessarily participating in formal art viewing through galleries or institutional settings. Being part of Lights on the Exchange offers new viewers the chance to see her work. “I feel grateful for the opportunity to bring my digital artwork out of my screen and into the real world – especially on such a large scale– this really demands pause.”

Cosmos in flux is installed at 492 Main St, home to the Exchange District BIZ office and Smoke’s Poutinerie. Diana will also perform alongside collaborator Stefana Fratila for the closing reception of Lights on the Exchange on March 21 at Video Pool’s the Output.


Or follow her on social:
Instagram: @dianalynnvdm

Matea Radic

Matea Radic is a visual artist born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, who lives and works in Winnipeg. She works with various mediums, including animation, painting, and sculpture. There’s a lot about herself she’s still trying to figure out, but she notes that she’s a perpetually punctual person who has a crush on all her friends. Matea appreciates when things make sense, but like a true artist, she also enjoys the mysteries of life.

Matea has lived a creative life since childhood, where she began to find inspiration in the magic of ordinary things. She recalls fond memories of dumpster diving and collecting treasures with her friends. Hanging out in a forest by the Seine River, they’d use these found items to create their own worlds. This creative spirit led her to pursue Art School as an adult, and she decided to dedicate her life to creation.

“I started taking art seriously when I graduated from art school and decided that I didn’t want to spend my time doing anything that didn’t involve play or making things that made me feel excited, so I just kept developing my style, and here I am, still doing that!”

As a visual artist, Matea works with various mediums, and her style evolves based on the medium she uses for any given project. The common thread that weaves her work together is that it’s fuelled by humour. “I find humour to be a very helpful tool to confront big feelings, so all my work typically begins with me making fun of myself.” Matea creates drawings and animations that are loose and playful alongside paintings that are more realistic representations of her subjects. Ever playful at heart, you may also catch her photographing the treasures people leave in their back lanes- an homage to the dumpster-diving days of her youth.

Matea’s piece for Lights on the Exchange, ‘Darling, Pass Me My Teeth,’ recalls memories from her childhood and reflects the dichotomy between transience and permanence, nostalgia and fragility, embodied through the juxtaposition of a pair of dentures and a single hard candy. 

The first time she saw her grandparents’ teeth in a glass, she remembers being perplexed by the sight. She wondered how they could look so big yet fit into a small glass and how the teeth could hold their breath for so long.  Now that she is growing older, she reflects on the concept of something that once seemed so foreign, getting closer to being a reality.  “I like the idea that memories are roadmaps into our own futures. We can choose to follow the directions or veer off and make our own paths. Keep your teeth in a glass or in your mouth? You decide! Nothing lasts forever, so we might as well have fun about it.” 

Matea has always felt inspired by the Exchange District, which she sees as full of questions and wonder. She appreciates that it’s filled with people from different walks of life, bringing aliveness into the neighbourhood. This appreciation is similar to why she loves making art: “It can show us how connected and similar our experiences are even if we’re culturally different.”

You can check out Matea’s sculpture piece at 84 ½ Albert St until March 21st.

You can keep up with Matea online:
Instagram: @lovematea

Kelsey Braun

Kelsey Braun is an artist who was born and raised on Treaty 1. Kelsey works in audio post-production as a sound designer, and SFX editor, mainly on moving image works from independent filmmakers and artists. A central part of Kelsey’s practice is focused listening, and field recording is central to what they do, as it helps shape new ideas and forms. To Kelsey, this feels like a life perspective as much as a practice of creative expression. More importantly, however, when asked about themselves, Kelsey states, “I am angry about the genocide currently taking place in Palestine and Canada’s consent and complicity in it: Free Palestine!”

Kelsey was inspired to pursue art by having tools of creative expression around while they were growing up. Their father carried around 8mm or 35 mm cameras to document moments and surroundings, and Kelsey adopted the habit of exploring through a lens and, later, microphones. Kelsey honed their practice through the School of Art and continues to expand their learning through the ongoing study of sound.

Kelsey draws inspiration from the sound of people speaking truth to power, be it through words, actions, or a more poetic or abstract expression. They also appreciate “sounds that precede humanity, and when heard, echo ancient rhythms that will remain long after.” Hearing sound in its simplest form, especially those such as water, wind, insects, or birdsong, gives Kelsey creative energy.

Kelsey appreciates sound for its ability to enhance and change a space.  They seek to make things that blend in with the space or architecture it is framed by so the sounds may become a point of uncanny departure or critical distance from that space. At the same time, “I work in sound because it can be a sculptural material, one of few art mediums where physical contact with an audience is possible – as a sound wave passes through or around you, you are embraced by it, you change its course.” In Kelsey’s installations, speakers are often discreetly concealed to avoid emphasizing any single object or surface. By leveraging sound’s subconscious impact, they aim to provide an unexpected auditory experience that prompts a re-evaluation of one’s surroundings and fosters a deeper connection to their unnoticed elements.

Kelsey’s piece for Lights on the Exchange, “..from within…” is a 5-channel sound sculpture set inside the Artspace Building drayway. This piece is a collaboration with artist KC Adams and her snow and ice sculptures entitled “Nibiy,” which tell stories about water together.  Kelsey’s piece emits through mostly hidden speakers, relaying sounds sourced from field recordings of water, specifically of a melting spring ice pack above a natural spring near Oak Hammock Marsh. Kelsey’s piece draws attention to the fact that this marsh was once a massive wetland buffering both Lake Winnipeg and Manitoba but has since been drained to support the agricultural interests of colonial settlers.

Winnipeg, situated on a floodplain, grapples periodically with water management challenges, often resorting to filling in streams for urban development. One such stream, formerly “Browns Creek,” once flowed near the Artspace Building on what is now William Ave. Their piece ‘…from within… ‘ “hopes to conjure the ghosts of these waterways, as well as to anticipate their future re-emergence, long after human attempts to transform the land.” In addition, the work considers the irony of water being taken from the community of Shoal Lake 40, which, Kelsey notes, has until recently been under a boil water advisory, like many other First Nations communities in Canada.

Reflecting on the sounds in his piece, Kelseys states, “These feel, to me, as tiny voices speaking continuously, infinitely, ones that need to be heard more than ever, as it is water, the basis for life, that is under threat and should be considered at the core of every answer responding to any question of future life.” For Kelsey, their soundscape partially represents mourning for the loss of wetlands and for those who do not have a voice in the decision of their erasure yet remain most affected by these types of earth-altering actions.

Kelsey reflects on their piece being in the Exchange District, a place where they have a bittersweet perspective.  “The Exchange is indeed a zone of many voices, some more heard than others, and is a significant, in some ways metaphoric, site for various stages of the colonial project here within Winnipeg that have ignored that area’s original residents. While this will continue to define its place in the city, I hope the folks who have called it home long before hockey games, boutique hotels, or Nuit Blanche debauchery will have a greater say in its direction. If one listens closer at all, they would hear those voices loud and clear.”

You can witness Kelsey’s piece in the Artspace Drayway at 100 Arthur St.

Or keep up with them on social:
Instagram: @kelseybraun_