Parking is an idea I’ve been working for a month or so. I’ve debated with myself if it fits into the idea for my October Bau-Xi Photo show. It’s still about manipulating photographs, but it’s just not a physical manipulation. I’m pleased with it regardless, and I’ll print and include it.
The original images for this piece were taken in the parking lot for an industrial complex in our neighbourhood. We’ve gone to a bunch of contemporary art exhibitions there and I’ve photographed aspects of the place several times over the last 15 years. Each of the squares in this image was a shot of the parking lot. In particular one specific square of the parking lot that had and interesting arrangements of lines, and that had been overpainted. I just shot it at different angles on different days.
The simplicity of this piece for me is it’s relationship to found art. Those lines you see are all in this place, and will be there until the parking lot gets painted again. They exist everyday as a mundane patchwork of colour on a bland off-black background but I found them fascinating. I can also go back and visit them and they’ll still be there for a while.
Taking these photographs and placing them in a grid became a simple exercise in personal aesthetics, and a weird desire for mathematical order under the guise of random placement.
Today I walked from home to the Power Plant taking pictures with the new camera. A nice two hour walk on a beautiful day. I was meeting Jill to see the current exhibition there which was incredible. Ulla von Brandenburg and Franz Erhard Walther are two German artists who’s work comfortably sits together in the same building. I wasn’t familiar with either artist, and now I look forward to researching and becoming more familiar with both their practices. Both multi-disciplinary artists working with colour, language, textiles, film and performance. Well worth the trip down to Queen’s Quay and running until the 5th of September.
Maybe I’m getting older or maybe the large institutions are getting better, but whatever the reason I feel I’ve seen a lot of good things lately. Stephen Andrews, Hurvin Anderson, Vilhelm Hammershøi were all standouts at the AGO. Similarly I really enjoyed Joy Walker at MKG127 and the current photography exhibition Counterpoints: Photography Through the Lens of Toronto Collections at The Art Museum at U of T is stupendous. It runs until the end of July so if you haven’t seen that you really should go.
On my walk I reshot an image I liked form a few weeks back. I just wanted to capture it more accurately and to do so I simply had to lower my point of view and decrease the depth of field. The original shot is slightly annoying to me. I think I’ve improved upon it here.Shortly after this reshoot I made my way down Lansdowne and just north of Queen spotted this bicycle rack. It’s super abstract and I liked the curving organic jumble of metal that appears to have no rhyme or reason. I can’t say I’m a fan of these type of bike racks but they’re definitely better than nothing.
Around the same part of Lansdowne is a fire station which looked like ti was getting the driveway redone. My guess is that it’s concrete newly poured and protected with these tarps to stop people from carving their initials in it, or maybe simply to protect the surface in case of rain while it dried.
I also managed a nice photograph of Jill watching the Ulla Van Brandenburg film—It Has a Golden Red Sun and an Elderly Green Moon—at the Power Plant.
Oh yeah, and the clouds in Toronto have been really amazing lately.
The new Canon 5DS behaves very much like the old camera. It just has a massive file size and a lot smoother shutter action. Both things though are immensely important to me for creating huge prints. It seems my minimum print size now is 36 inches square. The files from this 5DS can get me that large with a lot more clarity and a lot less resizing than the old 5D Mark II ever could. But the old camera certainly served me well.
The other nice thing about the camera is that I’m interested again. I’m starting to slowly see things I haven’t been seeing for a few years. Investing in the new camera has pushed me outdoors to explore and I’ve begun wandering endlessly. Sometimes I walk for hours and don’t get a single image worth keeping, but I’m exploring and that feels important.
The first two images below were taken in The Junction which is a ten minute walk from my immediate neighbourhood, The Junction Triangle. The first photograph is an interior shot through a window. This part of the Junction is west of the cool and gentrified area, c loser to Runnymede than High Park Avenue. There’s not a lot happening on this stretch of Dundas West close to little Malta. That’s echoed in the remains of the business shown here. The really pedestrian chairs smack of the 1990s while the improvised pegboard door and cheap handle are a handyman’s special.
The second shot is east of the popular Junction. This image is of a strange little amphitheatre adjacent to a school. Think slightly west of what is perhaps the most dangerous and confusing intersection of the city where Dundas West meets DuPont, Annette and Old Weston Road. The light filtering through the leaves was wonderful and the dappled burst of circles make me smile. In what is an otherwise depressing and forgotten little nook of overgrown and decrepit space this sunlight is positively beaming. I also think this image will look very wonderfully abstract when viewed from across a room.
At the bottom end of the Toronto West Rail Path is a Toronto Employment and Social Services office. This is the entrance railing in the underground parking area that looks like it’s simply a staff lunch area now. I may retake this so the bottom of the semicircle of railing is lifted either above or below the horizon line in the background.
I think of type faces or fonts the more I look at this. There seems to be a shift to thinner lighter weight fonts lately in the design world and for some reason this railing reminds me of that change.Gas meters are always a fascination. I’ve loved these things since I was a kid and they still fascinate me to a degree. Likewise there’s a weird draw to plywood and construction in general. Probably a result of years of doing construction work. Many street photographers are intrigued by decay and abandonment, I’m more interested now in transition, rebirth and building. Perhaps that’s just a latent optimism.
This was taken on Yonge Street across from the Toronto reference Library where a block of century buildings is being gutted to create a new building on the edger of Yorkville. I can’t remember what this place was. How weird is that? The refurbishment has taken a few years now and they’ve not made a tremendous amount of progress. For some reason in my head this was a hotel that was big in Film Festival patronage. But I could be wrong. I want to say the old Sheraton, but I’m completely unsure. This piece below is a bit more conceptual.
Over the past ten years the square has become ubiquitous in my work. Most of my output is created with a digital SLR. My camera’s frame and viewfinder ratio mimics an analog 35 mm format. The sensor and architecture of the device always produces a rectangular image in the ratio of 2:3. Somewhere in my process I became uncomfortable with this rectangular ratio and started to think and crop my work in a 1:1 ratio. The square. I’m obsessed with it’s simplicity and beauty. I love the confinement that shooting is square dictates. I’m comfortable with it. Everything I shoot now I think of in the square. All my initial shots are still done with a digital SLR and the files start off as rectangles, but for anything I print or share I always crop it to square. I’m uncomfortable and feel conflicted working in anything other than the square.
About five years ago I also began experimenting with made photographs. Until that point my process focused on walking and shooting what I saw as I explored. I still love that way of working and that is still a big part of what I do, but I wanted to work differently. I wanted variety so I started working ideas that were planned interventions. Set up photographs. These ideas focused on the camera as a tool and instead of exploiting found imagery I began to create the subject matter.
There’s a whole bunch more explanation coming in here… that will end with…
I have two 20 inch wooden panels that I bought to paint on. I’ve primed and sanded them down, all ready to create work but never had the nerve to wreck the wonderful blankness. I take these out into the area and shoot them in various situations. This panel was simply placed on a clay pile that will become the newest Junction Triangle housing estate. I think these places will start at about 700K and I’m sure they’ll be built out plaster board and shitty finishes and people will flock to buy them because they’re new.
It’s fascinating that there are basically 2 types of home buyers. Those who need something new and those who prefer something lived in. Are their people out there who don’t care if they live in a new or an old place?
I’ve always taken photographs through the windows of empty or closed retail stores. The shot below is from a Driver’s Education place on Dundas West around Le Gallery. I found this very funny and the photograph works in a humorous way for me for several reasons.
Such a 70s image. The car is literally a Corvette from the 70s. My Brother in-law had an orange Corvette around this time. I remember it being fibreglass. I also remember my sister was so short that she couldn’t really see out the front window because the hood was so long and she got really nervous driving it. Obviously the hood was so long because it was housing that huge engine. I also remember that they sold this car, but before the actual sale, somebody came by their house and stole some of the chrome engine parts. So that story always make me smile. but the other funny thing for me is the personification of stereotypical old-school social culture and the importance of sports cars. To me the sports car is all about 14-15 years old and men that never grew up and an entire industry that hopes these men never grow up and keep buying these weird penis-on-wheels type vehicles.
This also works because it’s a photograph of a photograph. It’s also a bad photograph meant to sell cars and as a “picture” it has little to no value. Especially now that’s it sat in the sun for 40 years and is completely colourless. I love these sort of photographs when used to promote a business. It’s particularly poignant to me when they are photographs in a window used to display either an actual photographers skill, or a hairstyle that might be particularly stylish. Both things just can’t be true. Any self respecting photographer would never display images that had faded to a mere shadow of their former selves. Also if it’s a photo in a salon, that salon is obviously going to provide you with stylish upgrades based on the fashion from 20 or 30 years ago. This makes me laugh. I’ve just decided that I can print this for my October Bau-Xi Toronto show. It fits with my general concept of showing this/photographs about photography.
Finally the rippling print in the frame is testimony to how many years it’s been hanging around. It must have been water damaged at one point and then dried all ripply.
To think this hangs on the wall as something that could relate to taking a drivers education course makes me smile as well.
So the biggest thing about my new camera is that is has motivated me to start long walking again. I’ve missed over the last few years. I never made a conscious decision to stop wandering and taking photographs, it just happened unfortunately. Those last two years have felt like they’ve been missing something. That something was walking. The photograph below was taken on the beginning of one of those long walks. Routinely these walks last 2 – 3 hours and I can travel around 10km at a time.
The image below is also after a much needed rain. This summer his past the halfway point and we’ve had very little rain. It’s super dry. We did get a bit lately and week or so ago I and as I ventured out I found this nice puddle beside the patio at the Farmhouse on Edwin at Dupont. I’ve been relatively obsessed withe power lines lately. In our neighbourhood, at this part of the Junction Triangle there are a lot of overhead power lines.
I’m selling my much loved EOS Canon 5D Mark II. I need a larger file size to create larger prints so it’s time to say goodbye. This is a Full Frame DSLR that I’ve used for the past 5 years and capable of producing gallery quality images up to 48″ x 48″.
EOS Canon 5D Mark II Body Only
- excellent condition, currently my working camera body
- 21.1 megapixels
- full frame
- 2 batteries
- battery charger/USB transfer cable
- original box and French instructions (English ones are online)
- estimated shutter count 50K (can only be determined accurately when serviced)
- detailed info/review here Canon 5D Mark II Review
Long Walking finds things. I’m feeling good about starting to long walk again. It’s been too long since it seemed like my second nature. The trick to get back into it is to start smaller, with hour-long treks. It feels like I’m seeing things again slowly. This upcoming weekend the focus will be on a two-hour journey, hopefully in some new, strange neighbourhood I’ve never been too. This should help shake things up.
Over this first weekend in June my camera got out exploring a few times and the photograph below is a closer view of a staircase I shot last year. The frightening truth however is that I just looked that image up and it was actually taken two years ago. There’s a lost year in my head somewhere. That not too surprising. Despite this weird space mess up what matters is that I liked the original image from 2014. This one is even more pleasing to me. I’ve revisited the same place but I’ve changed and this new photograph seems different, more abstracted. It took a long time but I’m pleased with the abstraction achieved.
Before the walk and the shot above, we met friends at a gallery opening at Angell Gallery for the Adam Lee show and while leaving noticed this cool patterning in the parking lot lines. I shot it then with my iPhone. In an effort to get a better quality shot I went back three times over the course of the weekend and finally captured this image which was taken after a thunderstorm in the early evening. I think I prefer the iPhone image slightly, but that’s just a shitty quality file that I can’t do too much with. The shot below makes me think I might have found a small series that I can continue. These could also be images that turn into paintings. I have a great photography supply place right around the corner from my house. FilmPlus has been good to me over the years. I’m pretty sure I bought a lens from these folks. I’ve bought a bunch of little stuff from them and rented a bit. It’s a no fuss, professional shop that deals predominantly with the many studios in the neighbourhood and rents almost anything. Last thing I rented was a Canon 5Ds. This shot is taken on a Sunday as I walked by the store front on my way from taking the parking lots lines above. I’m guessing this is some sort of large reflective diffuser for strobe flash of some sort. It’s huge at about 1 meter across and decidedly steampunk looking. I don’t do much artificial lighting so it’s a bit of a mystery to me. Sometimes I’d like to be less geometric and get more organic.
Like many people I’ve always loved power lines but this is the first time I’ve shot them that feels like a potential print. Usually power lines just get in the way of what I’m shooting and these were doing the same thing until a slight switch in perspective made them the subject of the shot. Just before a thunderstorm hit while shooting the clouds for another project it became apparent that the camera could be lined up to make the power lines seems perfectly straight and become a somewhat painterly incursion into the background. This shot is a continuation of the vertical window blinds shots from a few years back. Again this feels like a bit of a man-made, found, hard-edged, abstract painting piece and again this is feeling like a potential series.
The one below feels like a bit of a throw away, the colours and textures are interesting though. Taken under the very dark and depressing Keele Street rail bridge just above Dundas West. The iron work is quite stupendous though.All of this feels like a good start to the idea of longer walks. I’m getting back to the idea of being a flâneur and think maybe a new camera is in store as well. So if anyone is reading this and feels like taking the plunge into a used, full-frame DSLR I’m going to be selling my present Canon 5D Mark ii. I think I’ll offer it up at a good price. It’s been a pretty damn fine camera. It is however time for bigger file sizes to accommodate bigger prints so the 5DsR is on the horizon. I’m also looking forward to the idea of setting the 5Dsr up to show square crops. I’m so tired of the 2:3 ratio of the typical SLR.
This is an unfinished painting. I have two of them. I bought the 30″ inch square wooden panels with the intention of painting them, but the closest I’ve come to date is to prime and sand them. I like them as simple white wooden squares.
A few years ago I worked with some small squares of coloured paper mounted to foamcore that I produced and then insinuated into compositions in a variety of ways. The problem with that work is that I didn’t like that the panels were attached to the end of a stick. To make them float in space I had to Photoshop the stick out. On top of that those panels were created specifically to photograph in strange ways.
I was thinking about those panels and—like I do almost every waking minute of the day—I was also thinking about my inability to produce work. For several years it’s been a struggle to make anything, and even when I do I don’t have the same confidence or belief in myself or my ideas. These larger painting panels are a perfect example. I got them ready to paint, but to date haven’t managed to complete what I set out to do. This image below was born out of the doubt I’ve described but it’s hopeful and I like the inherent paradox.
There are a few other things happening here.
I have become more interested in producing art about art. I find this piece works in a bunch of ways that might not be completely apparent to the viewer.
I took this panel and added a hanging wire and hardware to the back of it along with a simple ‘S” hook. I ventured out of the house on foot and walked a few blocks to this location. I attached the hook on the back of the frame to the frost fence in front of this building and shot it. One of the associations for this work is with “plein air” painting. It’s an old term that describes the type of painting where an artist takes their canvas out into wherever they plan to work and does it in on the spot, in the open air directly referencing the subject. I find this idea romantically old-fashioned. I also work with photography so it makes the process sort of pointless. Finally I’ve never tried it, and don’t think I’d be any good at it. This piece references art history because of it.
The building in the background of the painting is the future home of MOCCA The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. The obvious reference here is that the building in itself is an unfinished work. We really don’t know how good it will be, or if it ever makes it to completion—like my painting.
Unfinished Painting Number One is also about my art career and how I see it as being an unfinished work and one that might never happen. More accurately I should say that this career might never work out the way I imagined it might five years ago. To me this work is a bit of humour mixed in with a touch of disappointment. This might be the closest I get to having work associated with MOCCA in any way. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.
I can see this becoming a series of works with me carting the panel all over the city or possibly beyond to places where art galleries are being renovated or built. Maybe actually painting the panel or starting to paint the panel as I do so. I can also imagine painting the panel in such a way that the image on the surface fills in the chunk of landscape that it obscures in the photograph above.
Despite the uncertainty associated with this piece, it has a ton of possibility and makes me feel very positive. Well maybe not VERY, but it makes me feel positive.
Unfinished Painting Number Three
Unfinished Painting Number Two
I haven’t taken the camera out in a very long time. More accurately I haven’t taken many photos with the camera in a very long time. Maybe I just needed a break, maybe I didn’t have much to say or maybe I just didn’t find anything that interesting. Whatever the reason it felt good on Saturday.
Sometimes I wonder if the walking is the thing that I need and it’s not so much about the taking photographs. It’s most likely both.
I feel like I’m looking closer at things now. Digging deeper into them and seeing things. I’ve always felt I was good at observation and possibly more sensitive to ideas that might be invisible to others. This feels like me honing that skill.
This is one file from the Glitch series used to make a four image square. That four image square is then layered out in a grid pattern. Inspired by Jill’s quilting and the workroom in general, this process is also influenced by aspects of the amazing Clive Holden’s work. I don’t fully comprehend everything he does, but I have loved and respected his work for over 15 years now and it’s certainly stuck in my head. He shows with Stephen Bulger in Toronto. This might end up becoming a 48″ x 48″ print.To get a better idea of how this might look printed look at this on your desktop and click the image to see a bigger version.
Here’s how I started this adventure… and then I decided less is more.
Glitch are pieces that were saved from a crashed hard drive. I seem to have a lot of these and find myself looking at them more and more. I love the random, error-driven arrangements and colour shifts.A few years back I had a Lacie RAID drive for backup. It died a horrible death and so began the daunting task of having my files restored or at least recovered. The place I get work done on my Mac set to work and in a few weeks had recovered some data. The problem was that what they were able to recover was about 10,000 files and these had lost their names and folders.
So basically I had about 5 years of photography files that were all now just randomly numbered instead of named and they all sat in one folder. Finding stuff meant wandering through the data.
While wandering through, I realized that most of what had been recovered was multiple versions of the same file. Some were Tiff, some RAW and others were file types I’ve never heard of.
This was super depressing. Not only was all my work messed up, a lot of the files were damaged.
I continued taking new photographs and when I sold something older, I had to go into this drive and find it. It sounds horrible, but by this time I had resigned myself to the fact that shit happens, and frankly if I sell work it tends to be something I’m currently working on, and there’s very little backtracking required. The other day when I was casually glancing back at my external drive setup where all these old files reside, I found myself looking at the error files again.
These are predominantly photographs of subways and a vacation about ten years ago that have been severely messed up. All I’ve done for the versions included in this post has been to crop the 2:3 ratio of each to a 1:1 square ratio. I find that’s the only orientation I like anymore. It’s been my production ratio now for about 7 years. I find it pretty cool that in the process of recovery for some reason each of these files has been mashed together with several other files and the colours have been messed with. It’s like they were lost for a while. IN the ether of electronic limbo, then they were found again but that place where they had been had changed them. Reminds me of a very cool book series that I read recently The Southern Reach Trilogy.Lately I’ve been reading a lot about success through failure. This is one of my biggest failures. I certainly learned to be more careful with my digital files, and now have a crazy 10 TB external drive and a traveling 1TB backup for all the final files I ever produce. I should be OK if there’s another failure, but this drive also has built in redundancy and tells me when one of it’s 4 component drives is about to fail. It’s worked very well for a while now.
The thing about these images is that they are super random, and other than the original pictures and this new square crop have almost nothing to do with me other than this epiphany I’ve had in the lat week that these are worth something to me. They also fit very nicely in my developing interest of the image for the image sake, or photography about photography. So I’ll be going through this vast file full of files and looking for all the messed up images that were created.
It’s like finding a needle in a haystack, and it’s rather daunting to go through all the stuff, but the beauty of some of these images is clear. They also represent a recurring motif in the work I’m producing now which relates to the mythology of the Phoenix and the creatinon of something from the destruction of another thing.
April 9th-23rd BAU-XI Gallery, 2nd Floor,
3045 Granville Street West, Vancouver
My artistic practice to date has focused on large scale photographic prints. Underpinning that work has always been an overriding interest and affection for painting and sculpture by both the Geometric Abstractionists of the 1960s and Contemporary and Conceptual artist of today and the last 50 years. Construct is a conscious effort to move from “taking” pictures to “making” pictures within this frame of reference. The work in this series uses either existing artist proofs or newly photographed pieces specifically shot and printed to work with the new processes of manipulation. These processes deliberately avoid technology and opt instead for mundane and repetitive physical actions. This also adds an archaic, durational aspect to the work that is simultaneously uncomfortable and meditative.
The following were all created in January and February of 2016.
Red Brick Wall Folded, 2016 started with a 1 foot square photograph of a red cinder block wall taken outside a local Toronto Coffee Time. I didn’t originally photograph this wall with the idea of folding it, but when looking back through images I had, I thought it would work well for either crumpling or stripping.
A few years ago I purchased a book that outlines basics of paper folding for design and architectural purposes, and remembering that I had it I decided to experiment with the red brick wall photo. This process has been rolling around in my brain for a few years but I had never tried to execute. This image verified that my imagined process could be worked with photographic paper.
I felt this second version of Red Brick Wall Folded, 2016 was necessary to explain its companion. Here all I’ve done is flip the folded/dinted paper shape from the first image over and shot it at another angle so that the white back of the paper is not visible. The effect makes it looks like a totally different shape. I plan to expand and experiment more with this technique. These images represent the first time I’ve tried this despite the fact that I’ve been thinking about doing it for years. This is pretty standard with my practice. I think about something, I think about it more, and then usually forget it for a while. If it comes back to me, it’s usually clearer and makes more sense, which makes it more imperative to execute.
Bowie Sky Cubed, 2016 – Edition of 7 – Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.
All three of the Bowie Sky images in this show were created from photographs specifically shot to be printed, then manipulated and then reshot. The Bowie thing just happened.
I typically plan when I’m going to take pictures, and on this particular day I had planned to go to a parking lot in the city to take pictures of the sky for this series. This relied on it being a clear day and that there was also defined cloud cover. Bowie died the night before. I don’t look at these pieces as a tribute to Bowie, for me to do that would be trite and contrived. It was how it happened though and these have become a constant reminder to me of how I felt the morning that Bowie died and what he had meant and would continue to mean and symbolize to me. Of the three Bowie Sky images in this show, this one was created first.
While making the cubed version of this trio I imagined making this one. The original photographs for these are all 18 x 18 inches square. I have a new cutting board and a large supply of Olfa utility knife blades. I also bought a very snazzy 48” ruler that has a steel insert along one edge, a rubber backing to hold the print down and stop it from moving around, and a substantial handle to lift my fingers away from the blade. These strips are all done freehand with that set up, then the strips are piled and finally re-arranged so they don’t appear anything like the original order in the original photograph. It’s surprisingly touchy work to re-arrange such strips of paper and I had to be very careful not to overlap the strips too much. I found the composition worked better when the white of the Foamcore backing showed through in paces to delineate each strip better.
Bowie Sky Stripped and Formed, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.
This was the last of the three Bowie Sky images. For this I took the strips used to build Bowie Sky Stripped, 2016 and individually curled each one—like you would curl ribbon when wrapping a present. Each strip becomes a circular loop and those loops are then piled together. Originally I hadn’t known they would form a sphere, it was a lucky happenstance. As I piled the loops they just naturally began to fall into a loosely formed ball. I simply picked the structure up and pushed it together a bit in my hands to form the almost perfect sphere in the shot. This is photographed at an angle, rather than directly above and straight on like most of my work. The sphere rests directly on a Foamcore backdrop.
This is another print in the series that began developing in 2013 and like Colour Circles on White 2, 2016 originated in the same way. Both the black and white backgrounds are sheets of Foamcore that I put on the floor of the studio. On top of each background a cardboard tube is placed and the colour discs are stacked and placed on the end of that cardboard tube so they are elevated off the Foamcore. These are shot directly from above. This process allows me to separate the foreground and background in Photoshop and make it easier to separate them into different layers. I can then easily underexpose the black and overexpose the white to remove most of the shadows and eliminate the texture of the Foamcore sheets while retaining the correct exposure for the colour circles.
In 2013 I created six inch, circular, colour photographs in Photoshop. These were then printed as chromogenic prints and mounted to Dibond. Originally I took these discs and attached them on sticks and held them out in front of my camera and shot them surrounded by water, forest, or whatever. I’d then remove the stick with Photoshop. There was something about the manipulation that felt dishonest, so I abandoned that work. I then took the discs and started piling them up in the studio. These are photographs of photographs like everything else in this show, but with these I was definitely thinking of Joseph Albers and Ellsworth Kelly’s work.
Colour Circles Stripped and Formed, 2016 - Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.
For this piece I went back into my files and selected an alternate version of an earlier Colour Circles on Black, 2016 print. I printed this derivative 18” square and then sliced up that 18” square photo—that looked vaguely like the 3 foot version in this show—in a manner like Bowie Sky Stripped and Formed. This worked wonderfully. The combination of black and coloured strips curled into loops and formed into a ball make a very graphic photograph. This isn’t surprising to me. Although I’ve had a Fine Art education and I’ve been exposed to Contemporary art in a serious way for the past 20 years, part of my practice is definitely inspired and informed by graphic design work. In particular, novel and record jackets with a healthy dose of architecture and furniture design thrown into the mix.
This is a manipulation from a 2012 work—Brush, Gardner Expressway. The original piece was exhibited in Toronto for the show Wandering. That original edition was printed at 36? x 36? size, and with that, 3 smaller 12? squares that I considered artists proofs. I used those smaller 12” versions for these circling effects.
In 2013 when I had started working more in the studio I purchased a set of metal punches from eBay for stamping out rubber gaskets. I figured that if they could stamp out rubber gaskets, they could easily stamp out circles from photographic prints. Oddly enough I had no luck with those punches. Fast-forward to 2016 and I bought a small, twelve-dollar, Olfa knife, the design of which is based on a simple compass structure. These images were created with that simple tool.
This is a derivative of Brush Gardiner Expressway Circles Alone, 2016. That original image is made entirely of the circles that were cut out of an original square print. This image uses both the original desecrated print and the resultant circular pieces. This new piece was created because I felt that the print of just the circles was leaving something out, it was being untruthful to the viewer or at least suggesting something that I wanted to clarify. Here in Brush Gardiner Expressway Circles in Square, 2016 although the original print has been altered, the entire print is used in this version. I’m not really sure why this was important to me but it was. More and more I find myself not really knowing why, or not really knowing why at the time I create something, why I create it. After the fact though I can usually go back to each piece and understand where it came from, but it’s not always completely planned and executed. It’s becoming more spontaneous.
Sky Crumpled, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.
I started crumpling in 2013. I tried to figure out how to engineer and build a crumpled piece of paper. Realizing that would be bordering on impossible I forgot about it for a while. While cleaning the studio one day I found a bunch of artist proofs. Feeling reckless and still thinking about crumples—I took the plunge and scrunched one up. It was hard to do. Photographs hold a tangible power and it felt irreverent or criminal. Prints also cost money and it seemed like a bit of a waste. I soon got over those feelings and loved the results. This image for Sky Crumpled, 2016 was shot and printed intentionally to crumple up. The resulting crumple was lit in the studio with a constant light source and shot it again, then enlarged and printed. The original photograph is 12” square.
This new body of work is ostensibly photography about photography and although it seems a rather abrupt change in direction for my work it developed rather slowly.
I’ve had a fairly short career making art. Although I’ve made things all my life and I’ve taken pictures for about 40 years, I’ve only been producing work, showing it and selling it for about 8 or 9 years. The majority of the work up to this point has been architecture based. In simple terms I take a lot of photographs of buildings and spaces.
Construct sets out to make things and to make those things I’m using photographs. More specifically I’m reconstructing photographs to be objects themselves. These constructed objects could be sculptures that stand on their own and are displayed as sculpture, but I’ve chosen to make them back into photographs. I like the permanence of that image, and I like the idea that they remain as the only record of a physical thing I’ve made.
To me these photographs are proof of things existing that only I’ve seen.
New show just might be Sliced, Crumpled, Shredded, Folded, and Scored photographs.
The only problem I’m having is why.
Initially this process of manipulations was about the willful destruction of a photograph. This is something that feels a little sacrilegious to me and I’m sure to others. Despite the nature of the digital image the physical photograph has an inherent value to me. Not just because I sell photographs, but also because of the history of the image itself and the memories it holds. One of the reasons I’m doing this is that it feels slightly wrong and that in itself feels strangely right. I’m destroying memory, or at least reconfiguring it.
This process is also about rebirth and redefinition. By taking an existing thing I’ve done and re-inventing it I’m creating something new out of something old. Without the pretentiousness or the mythology–this is sort of like the story of the Phoenix.
Repetition is soothing. I like endlessly cutting things into strips or shredding things. I like doing this manually when I could very easily use a machine or do the manipulation in Photoshop. There’s something deliberately archaic and anachronistic about the process. These are physical objects.
I’m also thinking of making these as 1 of 1s. The physical objects/subjects are 1 of 1s. Those physical objects are also sculptures. So I’m using photography to record a temporal sculpture. The photographs are reminders of what was created. I was going to mount each of the sliced pieces, but the more I think about it the more I like the idea of them being fleeting. I may just pile all the strips in bags.
These photographs are also paradoxical. I’m re-arranging or reconfiguring memory by manipulating the original photographs and creating temporary sculptural pieces but I’m also recording those manipulated pieces of the past in new photographs. I think that explanation will have to be re-worded to make any sense. Hopefully when I re-read this I can figure it out enough to re-write.
The aesthetic I’m very happy with–the what and the how. The more I write, the more I answer the why somewhat but maybe not enough to balance out the power of the aesthetic creation in my own head. I keep thinking that this work somewhat arbitrary when the images I’m using have a personal history but not a relationship to the process of manipulation. It’s half-baked. Without being cliche, perhaps there’s subject matter that I can specifically shoot then manipulate that will tie the aesthetic and the why together better. In a basic sense, clocks, or calendars might work. Something that represents the passage of time or the temporal. I’ve also thought of doing this with clouds. I like how the natural, or pseudo natural works in this process, better than how the architectural or man made does.
Now, can I figure it out so it works completely in my head?
I took an existing 12″ x 12″ photographic proof from a series I shot a few years ago and deconstructed it. With a utility knife I sliced the print into the thinest strips I could manage. My guess is that shredding it ended up being about 300 strips that varied in width but all are around 1/2 mm wide. I then piled these on top of each other creating a rather cool little nest and then photographed the structure.
These images are close ups taken with a wide angle zoom lens of the shredded print—approximately 35mm—at a very large aperture creating a very short depth of field.With the same lens just widened to 17mm. All shot on a black paper background in my basement using a very simple lighting set up.
Here’s the original photograph.
These image below were the earlier versions, taken yesterday. I suspended the “nest” of strips on a piece of glass after shredding and shot these. This was also only 3/4 of the actual original print shredded. I like the new ones shot today.
There’s something about taking an image that I thought was about something, then literally destroying it to creating something sculptural that I like a lot. These are the best part so far of a continuing story about appropriating my own work to make new “different” work.
It’s like the Phoenix. Rebirth of something out of destruction.
Circular Horizon Lines are both a ten year journey back and a new way forward for me.
At the beginning of what I’ll call my Toronto productivity, I exhibited a series of horizon shots taken on the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. Those were shot on an analog 35 mm and all were printed in a way that utilized the traditional negative ratio of 2:3.
I printed each photographs twice, the printer flipped the negative for one of each pair of images. The end result was two very similar images that were then framed side-by-side. The finished piece gave a mirror-like effect.
I liked that work, but I exhausted it quickly. The process felt a bit like manipulation for the sake of manipulation, or trickery to create something aesthetically pleasing.
Since that time I’ve changed. I’m now firmly invested in the 1:1 frame ratio. I’ve cropped square for about five years now and I’m still exploring the endless possibility of this restraint. I’m also fully digital now.
These current shots are all of Lake Huron just north of Goderich. I’ve been coming here and shooting the horizon in all types of weather for ten to fifteen years. The cottage that we use is 16 years old. It was built by my brother in the year I was married. The place is familiar. It takes a long time to get to know a place for me. I’m fascinated by circles. To me they’re a complicated extension of the square. I know that’s not really what a circle is in math terms. The circle is a logical development after a familiarity I’ve achieved with the square. It’s another restraint. The round format feels comfortable. Here, it also helps to make the images less familiar than a regular rectangular frame ratio would. It’s one of the steps I’ve taken to make these less about the image and more about the objects I hope to create. The angling of the prints is also another development. I’ve always been interested in the way we see. I’m always thinking about how we actually see things upside down and the brain turns them over so we comprehend things like they are. In a way it’s like the brain and the camera are related. In the simple pinhole or view camera the lens inverts the image as well. The angle is also simply rotation. It makes me think of a clock. I’ve toyed with the idea of making these pieces about the specific time I shoot them. I may try that in future.
Rotating these images plays with how these are seen and—like the circular crop—serves to remove a bit more of the original context of the image. It helps to emphasize the object over the image.
I plan to frame these in white traditional square frames at first. If they work well, I’d really like to explore getting custom round frames created, or even finding round frames. This series is me thinking about the paper “Specific Objects” by Donald Judd. I’m also very interested in how I process the work of a few artists that I really like. I sometimes feel like I came upon this Circular Horizon process all from my own head, but the truth is more likely that work that I appreciate and that resonates has influenced this process along the way. In specific I can see aspects of work by Rodney Graham, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Barnett Newman, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Andrew Wright to name a few. I’m sure there are others.