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Position As Desired Featured Artist: Shyronn Smardon

Shyronn Smardon is a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia. A young man now based in Toronto and an architect by trade, he is an artist whose works explore questions of identity, influenced by his own roots. Two of his artworks are featured in the Nova Scotian component of Position As Desired, the temporary exhibition presented at the Museum until March 30, 2013.

Smardon’s works in the exhibition, entitled Puddle of Teardrops and Pixelation, were inspired by the heritage of Africville, a predominately African Nova Scotian community situated on the Halifax Peninsula from 1849 to 1967. Despite the longevity of the community, the City of Halifax considered the area suitable for industrial development and did not extend water, sewer and other municipal services to the area. In 1962, as part of an urban renewal strategy, the City began the process of eliminating Africville, by relocating residents and eventually demolishing the buildings.

Smardon’s pieces featured in Position As Desired developed as “bookends” to the larger body of work he was creating through his studies at NSCAD University and for his Master of Architecture degree from Dalhousie University. His thesis focused on the former built community of Africville. In 2011, he gifted these works to the Africville Heritage Trust; the body dedicated to sharing the history of the former Halifax neighbourhood.

Although some questioned his reason for gifting his most important work to date, for Smardon it was an easy decision—he wanted to pay it forward. He explains that he has not reached the place that he is today by himself; he stands on the shoulders of others who he credits with making his work possible. When you view Puddle of Teardrops and Pixelation it becomes clear that Smardon has kept the promise that he made in his thesis acknowledgments: not to forget where he came from.

As an individual not having been raised in a “typical nuclear family,” this left Smardon feeling as though there were missing pieces to the puzzle of his own identity. Through his artistic works, he admits he is attempting to complete the puzzle or close the gaps through art that he can identify with. For Smardon, the importance of exploring and highlighting topics of African Canadian identity in his work is rooted in the idea of individual character. As he describes,

"I feel character is important to each one of us. It’s what makes us unique, and ultimately human. African Canadian identity is part of me and my character, so I naturally want to explore it and be informed of its many facets and features…The benefits and features of character is something I have learned while studying buildings—worn bricks, uneven mortar, and several coats of varying paint colours over time are great examples of rich crafted character by human touch. Analogously, I have learned that rich human identity is also crafted by the same human touch via a multiplicity of stories, backgrounds, and layers."

Layers of history, emotion, creativity and opinion are artistically crafted and powerfully communicated through Smardon’s works. In the artist’s opinion, public exhibitions that focus on the topic of African Canadian identity reveal to all community members, regardless of age or ethnicity, layers of knowledge of what was, what is and what is yet to be offered. Shyronn Smardon hopes that he can continue to impact public perception, understanding and discourse about issues of identity and immigration through diligence and honesty in his work.

We can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!

Puddle of Teardrops

Puddle of Teardrops
NSCAD University. Resin and 3-D printing. 2011. Shyronn Smardon.

Using 3-D printed text, this piece takes excerpts from a response letter Smardon wrote named Dear Africville. The note was his reply to the Halifax Regional Municipality’s apology to Africville and announcement of settlement. Puddle of Teardrops is a study of a transformation from 1-D thought to 2-D text into 3-D form. The studio assignment that sparked its creation was to design a well-designed container. Smardon’s response: construct a container; however use its inverse as the subject. The container was filled and then outer shell removed. What remains is the letter's text left floating in a puddle of teardrops.

To read the entire text of the letter click here.

 


Shyronn Smardon graduated with a Master of Architecture degree from Dalhousie University's School of Architecture and Planning in May of 2012, preceded by a Bachelor of Environmental Design Studies. Born and raised in the north end of Halifax, Smardon explores his personal relationship with Africville through the medium of photography and the lens of an intern architect. “It has taken time for me to appreciate that architecture is not solely a building and that a photo is not merely an image.” His works exhibited in Position As Desired were produced as supporting pieces to his thesis, Rebuilding Africville, and gifted to the Africville Heritage Trust in 2011.