2023-24 DesignTO Youth participant and ‘touchbase’ exhibitor Amaranna discusses her process of continuous learning, actively seeking new skills, and the importance of art in her practice. 

How would you describe your profession and your practice?

I am currently a student pursuing architecture and visual studies at the University of Toronto. My professional practice is characterized by a dynamic and interdisciplinary approach, reflecting my diverse interests in various creative mediums. Rather than confining myself to a specific medium, I embrace the freedom to explore any creative avenue that captures my interest at different points in my life.

Within this fluid practice, I find myself comfortable working with a variety of mediums, though I have yet to achieve mastery in any particular one. I view my practice as an process of continuous learning, where I actively seek to acquire new skills and gradually refine my proficiency in different artistic mediums. This openness to exploration and experimentation allows me to adapt to the evolving landscape of creative expression.

One of the key aspects of my practice is the integration of these diverse mediums into the exploration of architecture. I am passionate about discovering how various artistic forms and techniques can intersect with architectural concepts. This integration not only enriches my understanding of architecture, but also provides a unique perspective that extends beyond traditional boundaries.

In essence, my professional practice is characterized by a flexible and ever-evolving approach, emphasizing the ongoing learning process and the exploration of diverse mediums as valuable tools in the realm of architecture and visual studies

Courtesy of Amaranna
Has your work changed over the course of your career?

Yes. As I’ve gained experience and encountered new challenges, my approach to creativity and the subjects I explore has developed. In the early stages of my career, my work was more experimental as I was discovering my style and preferred mediums. As time has progressed, I’ve honed my skills, delved into different techniques, and deepened my understanding of the themes that interest me.

Moreover, the evolution of technology, shifts in cultural trends, and personal growth have all contributed to the transformation of my work. I have embraced new tools and mediums, adapting to the changing landscape of my field.

What was your “eureka!” moment that made you realize that art/design was the route you wanted to take?

My journey into art and design wasn’t marked by a singular “eureka!” moment, but rather unfolded as a gradual process. From a young age, I harboured a deep interest in drawing and painting, nurturing a childhood dream of becoming an artist. However, this aspiration faced a shift in perspective as I grew up in Nigeria.

In the local context, the idea of pursuing art as a full-time career was not a common path. Art was often seen as a leisurely pursuit rather than a viable profession, and the practicalities of earning a living took precedence over my early dreams of a paint-splattered career. Societal expectations and norms emphasized the pursuit of more conventional jobs to meet practical needs.

Despite the shift in perspective, my passion for art persisted. It became a constant thread woven into the fabric of my life, a form of expression that I couldn’t dismiss. The realization that art and design were integral to my identity and fulfillment dawned on me gradually, fueled by a persistent passion that transcended societal norms.

Courtesy of Amaranna
Is your work inspired by anything in particular? What turns you on creatively?

My work draws inspiration from a tapestry of experiences and encounters rather than a singular source. It is a reflection of the influences that shape and have shaped my life, encompassing personal experiences, the people I interact with, and the environments I navigate on a daily basis. Creatively, what turns me on is the constant exploration of new perspectives, the discovery of connections between seemingly unrelated elements, and the challenge of translating these insights into my artistic expressions. The thrill of pushing boundaries, experimenting with different mediums, and adapting to the evolving landscape of ideas serves as a source of motivation.

Which designers or artists inspire you and why?

I think at every stage in my life I have been inspired by a different person, but a designer I recently encountered through the DesignTO x JAYU  program was Deborah Wang. Her practice inspires me because she has a background in both architecture and art and balances both practices. This inspires me because, as much as I am interested in architecture, my ideal practice in the future would give me the leeway to explore my architecture from an artistic point of view

What is the name of your 2024 DesignTO Festival exhibition and what can attendees expect to experience? 

The name of my work for the DesignTO Youth exhibition ‘touchbase’ is called ‘Shhh!!’ Attendees can expect to experience a poignant visual narrative that delves into the challenges faced by Nigerian youth in the context of cultural, social, and political constraints. It captures the vibrancy of youth voices often stifled by deep-seated perceptions and governmental censorship. Through my lens, attendees will witness a powerful portrayal of resilience and defiance against societal barriers.

‘Shhh!!’ by Amaranna
Why is DesignTO important to the creative community, here and abroad?

The importance of DesignTO to the creative community lies in its ability to bring together diverse perspectives, ideas, and talents within the realm of design. By showcasing a wide array of exhibitions and events, DesignTO fosters an environment that encourages collaboration, innovation, and dialogue among designers and the public. This not only enriches the local creative scene but also contributes to the global discourse on design’s role in shaping a better world.

My brief involvement with DesignTO has highlighted its significance in providing a platform for designers to showcase their work, fostering a sense of community, and contributing to the broader conversation about the impact of design on society, both in Canada and beyond.

Lastly, what random fact about yourself would you like to share with the DesignTO community?

I have Aphantasia: the inability to form mental images of real or imaginary people, places, or things.

‘DesignTO Youth: touchbase’ is a group exhibition featuring 10 young artists and designers considering the complex role of artists and designers in society and how critical thinking can be used to generate creative solutions.

Artists include Amaranna, Monica Cheng, Kimberly Hoang, Jennifer Huynh, Maryam Mohamed, Wishah Qaisar, Anella Schabler, Benjamin Valles, Jasmine Vanstone, Elvin Velasco