Reaching

Reaching continues my obsessive exploration of construction and construction materials.

I like structural rebar. I’m drawn to the shape and aesthetic it presents. I’m also intrigued by the art of how it’s inserted and used. It seems like it would be a combination of engineering and almost creative organization. It’s amazing how the placement gets super-involved in large buildings.

These examples below can be seen on the site for a condominium development on Howard Park Avenue just east of Roncesvalles for the next week or so. After that time they’ll be buried in the overall structure.

I can’t help feeling that the underlying narrative here is one of greed and shortsightedness. It seems to me that industry, Toronto and the province create residential density at an exponential rate with absolutely no thought to the necessary required infrastructure. Maybe I don’t understand the whole picture, but it seems logical and disheartening that developers, the city and the province are just reaching for the easy money. None of these partners commit to invest in the required social changes to accommodate all this increased density.

Where are the schools, the transit, and the planning for the future needs of all these additional bodies?

Form emulating future form.

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Construct (Build or Erect)

Construct (Build or erect) is an idea for a show. My last exhibition had the same name, but I had intended it to be pronounced differently and to refer to a different definition. Construct (Idea or Theory) was a series of photographs of photographs manipulated into different sculptural configurations. I was playing with the idea or theory of photography, a construct of photography. In this new work my intent is to create sculptures out of building material and either display them as they are or again use photography to document them. I will construct work.

Construct (Build or Erect) has been a long time in the making. I’ve always been intrigued by the possibility of re-purposing common material. I’m comfortable with building things having worked in the construction industry when I was younger and having constructed a home from the foundation to the shingles. I can lay block, make concrete and mortar, frame, shingle, and do electrical and plumbing work. I can manage my way around a workshop and worksite.

I first merged the idea of construction and art in a project I did in 2010 for Nuit Blanche here in Toronto.For “The Task” I moved concrete blocks from one location to another and back again over a 12 hour period. 18 tons of block. It was extremely personally rewarding and referenced labour and making–as well as conceptualist, durational, performance and sculptural art.

The first recent attempt at a piece for Construct answered a lot of questions and gave me a lot of ideas. Below is a running account of the work from inspiration to execution. The next step is yet to be determined.

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Construct – Vancouver, April 2016

Construct

April 9th-23rd BAU-XI Gallery2nd Floor, 

3045 Granville Street West, Vancouver

Construct is part of the Capture Photography Festival happening in April, 2016.

Construct is a series of interventions on physical photographic prints. Through shredding, cutting, tearing, folding, crumpling and other acts, photographs are reimagined and reconfigured into sculptural forms. These new objects are then re-shot and the journey—from taking to making and back to taking—allows the viewer to re-evaluate the conventional language of photography. Memory, nostalgia, documentation and other established tropes of the medium become secondary to the form and object, opening a dialogue about what an image is and what it means.

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.

2.FINAL_36x36_RedBrickWallFoldedRed Brick Wall Folded, 2016 - Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

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.

3.FINAL_36x36_RedBrickWallFolded2Red Brick Wall Folded Verso, 2016 - Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

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.

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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.

11.FINAL_36x36_BowieCloudsStrippedBowie Sky Stripped, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

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.

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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.

4.FINAL_36x36_ColourCirclesonBlack2Colour Circles on Black 2, 2016 - Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

This is another print in the series that began developing in 2013 and like Colour Circles on White 22016 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.

9.FINAL_12x12_ColourCirclesonWhiteColour Circles on White 2, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

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.

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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.

WORKING_GardinerCircles1Brush Gardiner Expressway Circles Alone, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

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.

9.FINAL_36x36_GardinerCirclesinaSquareBrush Gardiner Expressway Circles in Square, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print 36 X 36 in.

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.

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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.

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Vacancy 4

The photographs that make up Vacancy 4 were shot this amazing Sunday, morning in the King and Spadina area.

Sometimes I like to revisit old ghosts. Three of the following Vacancy images where shot at a building that I’ve visited 5 or 6 times over the last 10 years. It’s been a presentation centre for condos, ticket office for Tiff before the Lightbox existed and a very long time ago -when I worked on Peter Street- it had been an auto garage. Today it’s in the process of being reconfigured as a presentation centre for the abysmally named “Tux” condos. The photo above was taken through the glass of the north side entrance doors to the building, looking south through the main entrance hall at the presentation desk.

This photograph shows an empty area on the east side of the building facing Peter Street. I’m sure in time it will be filled with designer furniture, pictures of models in expensive formal attire and maybe even a realistic architectural model of the building. I like this image with the 8:00 a.m. Sunday July 8th light pouring in and the paper airplane inspired ceiling decoration. This paper airplane motif is repeated in all the design elements of the architectural renderings for Tux.

Here’s another view of the same interior vacancy from the east side looking directly at the presentation desk. You can see me taking the picture in the reflection of the building’s exterior behind the desk. I’m standing with the camera pressed against the glass window .

This is the last incarnation of this particular building. Strangely enough Tux is going to be situated on the very spot where this building presently sits.

The room below is an older vacant building on Charlotte Street. I was talking to a resident in the neighbouring building and he mentioned this place is slated to be demolished. No doubt more condo towers will replace it. I should have actually gone inside here and taken pictures but I hate confrontation so I opted for through-the-window shots like always despite there being a set of doors that were propped open with a shoe.

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Vacancy 2

I’m working on the Vacancy photo series. Saturday was pretty successful for me. I got up at 5:30 and went exploring on the bike to St Clair Avenue. I found some stuff I liked so I’m calling this Vacancy 2. I’ll continue to shoot in batches and name them in sequence. I wonder if it’s just me and this series. It’s not very accesible.

I wasn’t inside most of these rooms. I simply take these shots through the glass of the front window or door. I have this complicated and awkward set up with an old tea towel that I have to wrap around the lens where it hits the glass. If I don’t do that I get a reflection of the lens barrel and parts of the street because of the sunlight and the typical construction of double pane glass. One day I’ll get a proper hood built that can attach to the lens and makes things efficient but this works for now.

I’d like to do more black work. A favourite from the work above is the piece that shows a set of partially obstructed windows surrounded by the darkness of the interior space. This uber-contrast is interesting me.

There’s also an image with a checkered floor. I’m a sucker for abandoned chairs in empty rooms, especially when they have checkered floors. I’m off again this first of June to find other forlorn strip of Toronto retail and some new Vacancy subjects. I imagine it will even be more deserted today. I might as well try Queen. It’s been a while since I shot down there. Usually when I venture to a place I haven’t been to for a while there are a ton of new Vacancies. I’m sure Queen street will be no different, however it’s more successful than St.Clair so there tend to be fewer empty places.

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