Rosie Dickinson Judith Reed William Reed Kate Seaborne Pat Tennant
Slide Room Gallery
SLIDE ROOM GALLERY
July 14-August 1, 2016
PICTURES Rosie Dickinson Judith Reed William Reed Kate Seaborne Pat Tennant
Cover image: Rosie Dickinson, Butter Row 2015, Digital print
Pictures within Pictures Introduction The theme of this exhibition, Pictures within Pictures, allows for a multiplicity of interpretations including the very nature of perception itself. Whenever we look at one thing we are also looking at the thing that is beside or behind, in front or in back, on top or on bottom of that thing. Almost everything we look at is framed by something else. I am reminded of an early chapter in W. Somerset Maughamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Of Human Bondage where the main character, Phillip Carey, says he wants to study architecture because it will give him a chance to look at the sky. When we look at one thing, we are often looking at another. The five artists in this exhibition (Rosie Dickinson, Judith Reed, William Reed, Kate Seaborne and Pat Tennant), originally came together in a Photography II course taught by Tara Nicholson at the Vancouver Island School of Art. In a desire to continue the discussions begun during the course, they continued to meet on a regular basis and came up with a theme to give a sense of direction and focus to the group while allowing each one of them to pursue a very individual approach. That is how Pictures within Pictures came to fruition. Wendy Welch Slide Room Gallery, Board of Directors
Bill Reed Lifesaver 2016, digital print
Pictures within Pictures Essay by Michelle A. Ford Pictures within Pictures is an exhibition that uses photographic images to challenge our everyday perceptions by creating a sense of ambiguity and mystery through choice of subject matter and compositional decisions. Evolving out of the tradition of painting, the layering of imagery in photography asks the viewer to reconsider what is being seen or not seen. The artists in Pictures within Pictures use devices such as framing of forms and reflections of light to hint at something beyond the surface, leaving viewers to construct their own narrative by working their way through the layers of meaning within the work. For centuries, painters have provoked a feeling of uncertainty or inquiry in their work by layering images within a work or by the suggestion of something beyond the frame that we cannot see. Diego Velázquez painted a complex and carefully rendered and lit scene in Las Meninas (1656). And yet the content is unclear: the painter himself stands with prominence at his easel, the well-lit Infanta and her maids in the foreground, and copies of allegorical paintings by Rubens and a reflection of the king and queen in the background. Is Velázquez situating the king and queen where the viewer is standing? Why is the Infanta central and bathed in light if she is not the subject of the painting? And what of the figure on the bright stairs beyond? These multiple mysterious framings of figure and form leave the viewer to create their own narrative. Two hundred years later, Édouard Manet painted Portrait of Émile Zola (1867) in which he layers a collection of pictures including a copy of his own Olympia (1863) in the top right corner. Then there is his enigmatic A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1881-2), which perplexes viewers with a misaligned reflection in the mirror. One is driven to question who is standing where the audience is, interacting with the spiritless barmaid? The avant-garde artist is challenging the viewer to accept the incongruous, even if it is illogical. Imagining varying interpretations that go beyond the reflection, the viewer seeks explanation while scanning the elements in the picture plane. By the time Manet painted the thought-provoking mysteries of A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, photography was well on its way as an artistic
medium. Painters had been using Claude glass, silhouette machines and the camera obscura for centuries in attempts to capture exacting detail and light. Early in 19th century, the means to permanently fix an image was being developed. As photography and the camera advanced, the detail and light long-sought by painters could now be captured almost instantaneously in the photographic image. Daguerre and Talbot were taking photos of still-lifes in the manner of paintings by the Dutch Masters. The portrait, previously reserved for the painter and the elite, was now available to everyone the camera became widely accessible. Photographers such as Nadar set up a studio and photographed Sarah Bernhardt and Charles Baudelaire. The tale of morality, Two Ways of Life, was staged and photographed by Oscar Gustav Rejlander in 1857, demonstrating the camera’s ability to capture light and detail while remaining allegorical. The realism Gustave Courbet sought to portray in paintings such as The Stone Breakers (1849) was now being captured by the camera. Edgar Degas, fascinated with photographic technology for its ability to capture motion and for its sense of composition and cropping, took and studied photos of ballet dancers before rendering them in paint. The mysteries and complexities of pictures within pictures, with their ability to achieve layered meaning, was not lost with the invention and spread of photography. At the turn of the century, Eugène Atget (image right) documented the streets and buildings destined for destruction in Baron Haussmann’s modernization of Paris. The reflective and transparent layering in his photos of shop windows, and the light the camera was able to capture, had a dreamy effect that attracted the Surrealists to his work. André Kértesz,
influenced by the dreamlike imagery of the Surrealists, created Paris Night Square (1927), an example of attention to light and shadow and a mysterious, almost theatrical mood, suggesting something beyond what we can see. The dialogue between painting and photography continues with a modern-day self-portrait in Lucian Freud’s Interior with a Hand Mirror (Self-Portrait) 1967, a painting of the artist’s reflection in a mirror propped up in a window filled with light. Here we have a composition defined within a frame, a reflection of a distorted face squinting in the light, making us uncertain of what is going on: is it self-reflection or self-scrutiny? Despite all the information provided, the burden of constructing a narrative falls on the viewer. Referring back to Manet, Jeff Wall’s Picture for Women, 1979 (image right) a constructed photo, makes a modernday reference to A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and self-portraiture. A complex arrangement of mirrors, lights and a camera operated by remote control presents a puzzling scene of a woman standing behind a bar facing the viewer as a male figure stands to the right. The viewer is no longer the patron at the bar or the audience in a gallery but, in a sense, is the photographer, albeit one without a camera. Rosie Dickinson, Judith Reed, William Reed, Kate Seaborne and Pat Tennant observe the uniqueness of photography within the arts not only for its immediacy but for its ability to instantaneously “paint” light and detail while eliciting ambiguity and wonder. In the tradition of painting, the layering of imagery in photography using the frame and the reflection conveys a layering of meaning. These artists present images that draw us into their surfaces by eliciting our curiousity about what we are looking it; they have created scenarios that push beyond the straightforward and direct us into the world of the imagination.
Rosie Dickinson’s work documents the vast and changing landscapes she saw in her journeys across North America and the United Kingdom. In her Pictures in Motion, a personal diary influenced by David Hockney’s Pearblossom Highway (1986), she highlights the uncelebrated, in-between places. Taken from the passenger’s point of view, Dickinson explores not only multiple points of view, the changing light and landscape, but also the essence of the journey as well. She describes her process: “I have used reflections and mirrors to emphasize the sense of motion, simultaneously giving a sense of what is to come in the future, as well as what was in the past”. In Joyce Green, two views are presented: in the rear-view mirror, a community; in the background, a vast landscape. A sense of melancholy pervades as the viewer questions who is embarking on this journey, what is being left behind and what is the unknown to come. For Dickinson, the art is in the concept and the composition. Photographed objectively with a realist aesthetic, her work is a genuine reflection of the land and time through which she passed.
Rosie Dickinson Joyce Green 2016, digital print
Rosie Dickinson Route 89A 2016, digital print
Rosie Dickinson Route 67ii 2016, digital print
Judith Reed is attracted to urban photography and found compositions within an already existing framework. She sees framing as highlighting certain aspects which in turn enhance the perception of what is being observed. Reed is intrigued by the store window. Its visual possibilities of the reflections in the glass layered over what lies within provide for her a sense of surprising juxtapositions. She says that “while I am always on the lookout for a good photo, the ones I love the most are those which have layered meanings and embody something mysterious.” Photographed up close with a sense of spontaneity, the images of Windows are at first ambiguous, even verging on indiscernible. Bong Shop is at first indecipherable: the multiple layers of translucent glass on the objects mingle with the reflection of the street. With its airy, dream-like haze, the viewer must work out where they are standing and what is being viewed; however, it remains elusive. Reminiscent of Atget’s windows, Reed’s Surrealist sensibility pushes the viewer’s imagination to work out the incongruous, almost irrational details of the images.
Judith Reed Antique Shop 2016, digital print
Judith Reed Bong Shop 2016, digital print
For William Reed, the abundance of reflective materials such as glass in modern construction makes photography a medium conducive to capturing a contemporary image. Reed is drawn to the early 20th century work of Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer who welcomed the machine age and construction as source for his work, and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s candid street photography and “decisive moments”. As a painter and printmaker, Reed considers the fragmented, multi-perspective effect of reflection and framing akin to Cubist painting. While the images in his recent series Reflections have certain fragmented qualities, Reed’s subject matter is suggestive of Impressionism’s public scenes, whether one of leisure or labour. In Tall Man, while the viewer questions what the subject is looking at, one is also aware of the surroundings. The lines of the building and the shadow cast by the figure draw our attention to space and light, giving the viewer a sense of being within the actual space. “My intention in [Reflections],” Reed explains, “is to explore the use of reflections to create works that will immediately catch the eye, but at the same time contain enough interest to hold the viewer’s attention in exploring the details of the works”.
William Reed Tall Man 2016, digital print
William Reed Bard and Banker 2016, digital print
William Reed Follow the Leader 2016, digital print
Kate Seaborne’s approach to Pictures within Pictures is based on her long-time interest in tableau photography. She uses the home as the starting point for her photographic compositions, with a focus on the domestic objects of everyday life. Architectural detail, mirrors and props are used to construct and frame her series, Domestic Instances. Influenced by the photography of Uta Barth and Laura Letinsky, Seaborne is drawn in particular to the still life tradition and the power of light to suggest a story. Attentive to the conceptual aspect of photography, Seaborne notes that the work of Barth and Letinsky have “sensitized me to the way light itself can become a central ‘character’ or ‘thread’ in the domestic narrative”. These images, such as Domestic Instance #02, have a feeling of intrigue. As the voyeur viewing the scene from the floor of a light-filled room, we ponder the rumpled sheets while our eye returns to the man watching us from the book cover. Shot from a low perspective, Seaborne’s series offers a serene yet cryptic scene wrought with tension, of a subtle “something beyond” that remains unseen.
Kate Seaborne Domestic Instance #02 2016, digital C-print
Kate Seaborne Domestic Instance #17 2015, digital C-print
Kate Seaborne Domestic Instance #35 2016, digital C-print
Pat Tennant’s series, Reflected Environments, focuses on the use of mirrors in nature. She constructs multi-faceted mirrors based on the iceberg influenced in part by Olafur Eliasson’s reflective sculptures. Photographing the sculpture in natural surroundings offers challenges to the photographer as its many planes reflect unexpected light sources and slivers of imagery from different angles. Tennant says that “the iceberg allows you to look at objects in the world, around, behind and above you all at the same time… drawing the viewer away from the actual world and into its planes and surfaces.” The sculpture in On the Blue is momentarily forgotten as the viewer works out the change in focus of the layered imagery. We are forced to pay attention to the crispness of the rock and the softness of the reflection as well as light and texture. These photos offer a dynamic fusion of Cubism’s multiple perspective and fragmentation of the surroundings while existing as an abstracted sculpture “painted” by nature.
Pat Tennant Blue Beach 2016, digital print
Pat Tennant On the Blue 2016, digital print
Pat Tennant Reflected Forest 2016, digital print
Pictures within Pictures is an exhibition that evokes a lively sense of visual ambiguity by playing with what lies within and beyond the picture frame. The work of these artists gives a nod to the tradition of painting by layering imagery and meaning as well as to the history of photography through the diverse ways they have used framing and reflection. The collection of imagery from the domestic, to the urban, to the natural world, that the artists have used presents a â&#x20AC;&#x153;moment of lookingâ&#x20AC;? at things we might not normally notice. The work offers alternative ways of looking at the everyday world, prompting the viewer to question what is being observed as well as what may be imagined.
Judith Reed Sale 2016, digital print
Acknowledgments We would like to thank and acknowledge the following people for their help with the exhibition: Michelle Ford, our Curatorial Intern for this exhibition helped with the selection of the works, wrote an essay for the catalogue and assisted with catalogue layout as well as participated in the installation of the exhibition. Our curatorial team who also helped with the installation: Joanne Kahan, Jessica Kuyper, Natasha van Netten, Ari Martinez Rocha and Jenn Wilson. The artists: Rosie Dickinson, Judy Reed, William Reed, Kate Seaborne and Pat Tennant who put together an excellent application package and for their top quality photographs. Tara Nicholson for the encouragement and inspiration she provided to the artists in the exhibition. Melissa Gignac for her assistance in keeping all the Slide Room Gallery paperwork well-organized and for her above-standard proofreading skills. Tim Bradley for his consistently excellent copy-editing skills.
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