I was first struck by Brianna Tosswill's work in this fall's issue of Sketch Magazine, a publication by OCAD University. The featured linocut print entitled “Obsolete” is eye-catchingly crisp and exposes viewers to an oddly familiar aspect of creative life that is perhaps avoided by many. Completed in the artist's second year of a Printmaking degree at OCADU, “Obsolete” discusses the anxiety that results from scientific explanations of personhood. In her artist statement, Tosswill uses the example of how science has allowed researchers to isolate what is believed to be the creative gene. However, this poses two conflicts. Are self-identified artists who do not possess the creative gene disqualified? On the flip-side, are the talents and well-honed skills of those who do possess that gene simplified to a factor of which they have no control over?
The questions “Obsolete” asks are startling. Paired with the subject of the print's stripped-down final pose, the viewer is forced to confront the possibility of a decoded individuality. Despite the countless, undeniable advantages that science has afforded our society, the authoritative power that the discipline holds also allows it to define things that may not necessitate boundaries. Tosswill suggests that this power can lead to dangerous assumptions and an absence of critical thinking. “If science tells us something can or cannot happen," she observes, "we tend to stop questioning.” In an age where absolutism has dangerous consequences, Tosswill's “Obsolete” asks questions with answers reaching far beyond the art world. They venture to the depths of our most personal endeavours: our identities, and more importantly, our right to claim them for ourselves.
Over e-mail, Brianna explained to me that one of the things she loves about being an artist is that, “you don't have to (and really shouldn't) wait until you graduate to begin your career.” Before OCADU, Tosswill studied art at HB Beal Secondary School in London, Ontario, and tried her hand in Fashion Design at Ryerson before deciding to pursue drawing and painting at OCADU, eventually finding her place as a printmaking major. Although only in her third year, Brianna's work has already been featured in 3 shows in 2015. One of the three took place in Hawaii and featured “Obsolete,” for which the jury granted Tosswill an Award of Excellence. Tosswill is also the recipient of the Emerging Artists and Designers Scholarship at OCADU.
Now an internationally acclaimed artist, Tosswill's work continues to flourish. Just last week, she released a set of lithographs that explore the relationship between art and technology. As a lover of both photography and its predecessor, lithography, Tosswill aimed to create a piece that reconciles the tension between the two mediums.Lithography became virtually archaic once photography was introduced as a much easier way of reproducing images. In a collaboration of the two mediums, Tosswill reproduced photographs with lithography and then printed them in overlapping shades of red, blue, and green. On the left is a recent photograph taken by Tosswill's brother, a photographer himself. On the right is a photograph of iconic English writer Virginia Woolf, taken by her aunt, Julia Margaret Cameron. Inspired by her own experiences navigating the hierarchy of artistic mediums, Tosswill's “Reconciling Photography and Lithography” once again asks questions about the finality of our beliefs and the power dynamic between science and creative customs.