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Derek Berry, In Conversation With Quest

In advance of his upcoming exhibition, "The Secret Illness," which opens at Quest on Friday, March 8th, we had the opportunity to connect with Derek Berry to learn a little bit more about him as an artist, his creative process, and the inspiration behind his show.

"The Secret Illness" will be on display at Quest Art School + Gallery in the Main Gallery from Friday, March 8th to Saturday, April 6th, 2024. The opening reception will be held at Quest on Friday, March 8th, at 7:00 PM. We hope to see you in attendance!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the arts.

I am a multidisciplinary artist based in Orangeville, Ontario, who works in a wide variety of printmaking, acrylic painting, and sculpture practices. I am continuing my education at OCADU, majoring in printmaking and publications after completing a 3-year program at Georgian College with honours. From 2017-2021, I contributed to the establishment of the PRNT Collective in Barrie alongside local artists and colleagues whose goal is to educate and exhibit printmaking to the local community.


What was the inspiration behind your current exhibition and the themes that you explored in your artwork?

The inspiration behind the exhibition ‘The Secret Illness’ is the correlation I’ve come to establish between my personal journey with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the COVID-19 pandemic. My goal for this body of work is to demonstrate a direct relationship between these unseen, microscopic threats and the severity of damage inflicted upon someone with a susceptible disposition, whether it be physical or psychological.


How do you approach the creative process when developing a body of work for an exhibition?

The creative process for me is one filled with intense anxiety and strife. I often approach it with an attempt to alleviate internal and external pressures by relinquishing control in certain stages of development. I often use the systematic processes of the printmaking mediums to allow myself to become a vehicle for the work to be cultivated rather than having direct interactions with the outcome.


Are there any specific techniques or mediums you employed in this exhibition, and how do they contribute to the overall artistic expression?

This was my first attempt at creating work incorporating light as a driving element. My initial intent was to create a sort of large-scale petri dish, but I have moved away from that ideology in favour of procuring images that are being examined and analyzed within a scientific study.


Are there any recurring motifs or symbols in your artwork that hold personal significance to you, and if so, how do they manifest in this exhibition?

There aren’t any recurring motifs or symbols within this exhibition of work, but often I’ll have words or phrases that repeat continuously in my psyche during the creative process. I’ve come to reflect on these words recently and have seen their influence resonate within my past and present work, as well as this exhibition.


How did you navigate the balance between artistic freedom and conveying a specific message or narrative in your work for this exhibition?

Recently I have come to the conclusion that all my interactions, whether I am cognizant of the influence or not, have a constant centering around my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. These tactics of avoidance and dissociation I have developed have ingrained themselves into my practice subconsciously through my techniques and subject matter. Because of this newfound questioning of this lack of freedom within my own process, I have found the narrative for my art is revealing itself to me incrementally and evolving into a more cohesive whole.


Were there any challenges you faced during the creation of this exhibition, and how did you overcome them?

The challenges that presented themselves were mostly around the construction of the lighting units. I am very fortunate to have very knowledgeable colleagues who took time out of their own schedules to help me design and procure these light boxes so my vision could be realized.


In what ways do you hope your audience will engage with and interpret your artwork within the context of this exhibition?

My hope is that the audience will engage with ‘The Secret Illness’ and reconcile with the abnormal ideology of OCD through their own experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The commonality I found compelling between the two was the fear of uncertainty and just how integral these uncertainties were in influencing our very way of living within this new debilitating landscape.




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