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The art of Dennis Castellan

Sudbury Living Magazine May 11, 2017 Sudbury's Stories No Comments on The art of Dennis Castellan


Sudbury benefits from the vision and involvement of creative people such as Dennis Castellan. 



You know Dennis Castellan. You’ve been in his buildings. His designs of the revitalized Sudbury Airport, the original concepts and sustainability of the Living with Lakes Centre, Bell Park’s new amphitheatre, and the YMCA downtown are all familiar to you.

Castellan James and Partners has done commercial, institutional, industrial and residential architecture across northeastern Ontario. (The firm has been rebranded as 3rdLine Studio.)

Projects planned and completed are as far south as Parry Sound and Barrie, as far west as Fort Frances, up to Cochrane, and east to North Bay. It’s a vast zone with room for creative ideas for fresh construction or remodeling existing stock.
“I’ve had the chance to work on a social housing project to fill a gap in Parry Sound – converting a school – to supportive and assisted living/retirement living in Lively,” Castellan says.

I ask artist Ray Laporte about his friend. He suggests one must acknowledge that his career as an architect and artist cannot be condensed into simple statements and summaries.
“When I enter buildings Dennis has designed, I notice how he keeps the human dimension in perspective. One can feel how the total works beyond the function (including the light) to enrich, to heal.
“Explore his paintings and observe how art and architecture inform each other into a comprehensive whole,” Laporte says.
“His depth of understanding the systems of inside and outside buildings is unique as trades, like plumbing, are part of his family economy. He is a very modest man with such a wide variety of interests.
“Basically, he is curious about the world and how we fit in it.”
Castellan has been exhibiting his artwork since 1987. His most recent exhibit was at Cambrian College’s downtown Open Studio last fall.
He started drawing in grade school. “But, it did not occur to me that something like art could be something I could pursue,” discloses Castellan.
Of course not, because in the 1950s and 1960s Sudbury was more brawn than beauty. Castellan was OK bridging those boundaries and so has continued to participate in sports all his life.
Throughout high school he played organized sports, and later while schooling at Waterloo, he was a member of the university hockey team: study hard, play hard. Vectors and victory, it is no surprise his first degree was in physics while he chased his own path – independent studies – mashing up math, sciences and fine arts.
The Open Studio offers the scale necessary to step back and examine the large canvases in Castellan’s New Paintings exhibition.
On the surface, figures and shapes are discernible, but dreamlike in softness and more suggestive than specific; their interactions move from metaphorical and abstract to defined and direct.
How he deploys layers of significance, symbols, and a counter-play of simplicity, are not new approaches for him. Visit his professional offices on Cedar St. and you will notice similar but differently executed panels.
Not vignettes, the stories in the collection are mostly contained within white; the effect draws you into the associations and are framed by lines and limits intentionally and imaginative.
Like painters Mark Rothko – and many others before and after him – Castellan has an eclectic range of interests.
Painting is not his only cultural expression.
“I love rock from Jethro Tull. I was inspired by many groups of the day, and the ballads by Neil Young.
“I played beside Robert Paquette in Sudbury’s first three-man band. My life incorporates music. I almost was part of a recording for Decca.”
Bass guitar and voice are definite passions, while travel and seeing urban and natural landscapes are undeniable urges.
“When I travel I go to culture. New York is a must-see every two years.”
Sudbury benefits from the vision and involvement of creative people such as Dennis Castellan.

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