Sunday, November 20, 2011

IMPRINT: Opening from within

I was at the opening of the show IMPRINT at Lúz Gallery this afternoon. Here are some of the comments people shared with me:

I love the way the images relate to each other.”

The work has a really cohesive quality, a real strength.”

There’s a great flow to this show.”

You might be thinking from those comments that IMPRINT is a solo show. It consists of the work of eight photographers who are, in the words of the gallery owners “artists who have made a lasting impression on us during the last 12-months.” A group show with such flow and cohesiveness it gives the impression of being a solo show? Yes, thanks to the skill and talent of the curator, Diana Millar. I am very fortunate to be one of the artists included in this show.

Millar and her partner Quinton Gordon are consistently presenting work at Lúz Gallery with the intention of not only putting outstanding photography before viewers, but doing so in a way that transforms how people think about photography. As someone else said to me at the opening:

I always love coming to this gallery, (and I apologize if this seems like a backhanded compliment), because I know what I’m going to see is art, not just photography.”

In putting together a group show that has a sense of cohesiveness with high visual impact, a talented curator like Millar must bring together several elements. The first important one is image selection, looking over the work of the different artists and selecting the strongest images from each. At some point in this process, consideration has to be given to how the images from different artists might relate to each other, although subjects, process and visual approaches are going to differ. Eventually this leads to designing the show itself, planning how works will be hung in the gallery space to create a natural visual flow that creates that sense of cohesiveness.

In the case of IMPRINT, Diana successfully brought together the dreamscape images of Susan Burnstine, panoramic views of seashore and sky by Karen Curry and abstract light sketches by Gillian Lindsay in one physical zone of the gallery. From this description it might not seem that these images would relate to each other, but they share a lyrical quality and give the viewer a sense of passing from a internal view (dreamscape) to the external view (panoramic widescreen) to an almost subconscious view of the abstract light patterns. What I loved about this grouping of images was the way it invites inquiry – as a viewer you sense the flow and relationship between the works of these three artists before you can articulate why that flow exists.

The role of process in Gillian Lindsay’s work provides a nice bridge to the second zone created by Millar within the gallery space, where lumen prints from my series Taxonomy were hung along with the Surfland series of wet plate collodion tintypes by Joni Sternbach, the Polaroid images of Sea Life by David Ellingsen, the hand annotated landscape images of Lyndia Terre, the soft focus images of a fishing village by Jan Gates and the Mile Zero images by Quinton Gordon. Once again there is a nice flow and interplay between these diverse works, with an underlying link of documentation: of plants (Taxonomy), a closed culture (Surfland), biodiversity (Sea Life), mapping the landscape (Terre), of a disappearing culture (fishing village), and of the daily landscape (Mile Zero). Although the different processes used were quite diverse, from one to the next there was always at least one shared characteristic, which leads the viewer not only to connect process to process, but also to think about how each subject matter is best served by one process over others.

Usually openings are mainly social events held in the dark of night, where friends and family come to support the artist(s). They are characterized by being overcrowded, making viewing of the actual work difficult. Most of the time people stand in groups chatting, their backs to the art work. This afternoon’s opening was a welcome change from this norm. Held on a sunny afternoon, the work was shown to its best advantage under natural light. There was a steady flow of people, and while there was socializing for sure, I noticed that a lot of people looked carefully at the work, talked about it, considered it, and then went back two or three times to look again. The strength of the work drew them in the first time, but it was Diana’s excellent work as curator that created the flow and cohesiveness that brought them back to consider further the work again.

Check back with the Lúz Gallery website for photos of the installation and opening. I apologize for not including any here, but from the start of the opening to the finish, I was completely immersed in the experience and gave no thought to taking photos myself. It is a deeply engrossing show – if you are in Victoria or can find a way to get over before December 22nd, I hope you will come and see the work.

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