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Figure + Ground (1)

May 14, 2011 @ The Events, Articles, Top Picks

I finally found some time this year to check out some fellow photographer’s exhibits and get inspired (or not) by their technique, ideas, and presentation methods. So what shows do I recommend you go and check out?

The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts

Lucas Blalock/Jessica Eaton

♥♥@ CONTACT Gallery, 80 Spadina, Suite 310 until May 31 (Feature)

Brooklyn-based Blalock uses in-camera and post-processing digital techniques in his series Nautilus. Using layering tools in Photoshop, different aspects of the image are sometimes kept visible, sometimes erased, revealing a new depiction of the person sitting for the photograph. I was drawn to these images through my own experimentation with layering techniques and presentation of some images that I would have considered in my own work to be mistakes, or bad choices in overlay methods, exposing or deleting too much of the image. But by showing all these images alongside a final completed piece, I could see the idea behind the title of the show – that all these piecemeal images are just parts of the whole image and come together in the final concept.

Montreal-based Eaton’s imagery is a simple concept that kept me intrigued for quite a while – and the 3-D glasses were quite fun as well. Using negatives and the concept of Divisionism – a mid 1880s painting style defined by the practice of separating colours into dots or patches (larger than pointilism) – she explores one landscape image of a tree in different RGB patterns such as mosaic, patches, dots, bitmap, and 3-D offset. These were fun to look at using the glasses, but the most disturbing of the images were a set called Landscape Near Mission, BC – one image printed as seen, one image missing a colour making it look like a surreal alien landscape with pink mountains and teal grass.


Dianne Davis

♥♥♥♥♥@ Toronto Image Works, 80 Spadina, Suite 207 until May 31 (Feature)

I checked out this Feature exhibit at Image Works on Saturday, May 7. Although the catalogue said it opened on the 5th, the exhibit wasn’t actually up yet and all I got from the people at Image Work when I inquired was “Yeah, it’s not open yet…” OK, the catalogue says it is.

Luckily, there were 3 pieces up and I those were enough to let me know that I have to get back to see the entire show. David borrows her technique from the 17th Century Dutch still-life painting of memento mori meaning “remember you must die”. She carefully set her scenes of luscious fruits and vegetables, seafood, flowers, and plants, and then shoots them using 15-20 minute exposures, freezing forever a slice of time. The resulting images are highly elaborate, unbelievably rich in colour and depth, and the subjects lay against a pitch-black background that isolates and elevates them from their surroundings. I would have thought that such a long exposure would have resulted in grainy images, but the details and sharpness she manages to pull from her subject matter is truly incredible. I am amazed at the richness of the reds in the her images, as this is such a hard colour to shoot.

I will be going back to see the entire show as soon as I can.

Group Show

Jean Fançois Bouchard, Shawna Eberle, Alex Filotti, Mark Hesselink, Justin Kingsley, Paul Labonté, Richard Marazzi, Nicolette Potter, Fabrice Strippoli

@ Contrast Canadian Photographic Works, 356 King St. W., until May 31 (Open)

This was the inaugural exhibition by the CCPW Agency intending to introduce fine works by Canadian photographers. According to their CONTACT writeup and their handout, their goal is “to put the photographer’s name and style at the forefront. The body of work created by a photographer represents an individual perspective, style, skill and technique. These elements must be associated to a photographer’s name, to her/his identity.”

It’s a shame that this exhibit fails in reaching any of these goals. A good group exhibit should not only show a cohesive body of work, but be able to clearly show the unique style of each participant, allowing each photographer to tell their story and have an impact with the viewer. It was hard to tell which photos belonged to which photographer as there were no clear groupings of photographs, all were framed identically, and some groups were in odd shapes that wrapped around other photographers work. Images sizes were all over the map and there were so many that they were stacked a little too high up, making it hard to get a good look at them or read their descriptions and photographer name.

Without any breathing room between photos – they were very close together – the two exhibit walls seemed a clash of style and content and in the end only one photograph stood out for me. One of the participating photographers took an excellent b&w photo of a tattooed woman reclining on a chaise lounge. That really stood out for me, but I’m biased towards the tattooed ladies.

Avenue Patrice Lumumba

Gui Tillim

@ Design Exchange, 234 Bay St., until June 14 (Feature)

Shame on you, Design Exchange, for charging a fee to see your CONTACT show. You’re the only one I know of who’s doing that.

Heading out into the artsy streets of the big city to check out CONTACT had me using the tools that the festival provided this year – the guide and the mobile app – and although they’ve come a long way with these, I do have some suggestions for them on how to make these a bit more user-friendly for 2012:


  • The guide is supposed to be functional, something you can cart around with you and easily, quickly, find the listing you need and cross-reference it with the map. It’s not quite there as it is still more on the artistic side and not quite functional.
  • Primary/Feature Exhibitions – why is there no cross-reference with the map? I can’t find these unless I have detailed instructions. Where are the numbers that are on the map – why aren’t they on the main page of each feature/primary description?
  • Page numbers – why do I need a magnifying glass to read these? Please go higher than 7pt on these for those of us using glasses.
  • Map – where to start? I should be able to rip out the map and carry it around in my pocket and still know what exhibits I want to see – I can’t do that as all the addresses are in the bulky guide that doesn’t fit into a purse and is too huge to carry – you can list all addresses that go with the numbers on the back of the map. Why don’t the feature/primary map numbers not list the exhibit name – I don’t care about the location, who’s there?
  • Addresses – on all the locations for exhibits, especially the primary/feature ones, I have to read through all sorts of info about the sponsor, funding info, dates, etc before I can ever know where the exhibit is. I just want to know where it is and how to get there. The address should be associated with the location, not be floating on its own.



  • If you don’t have an iPhone – I have an iTouch – the app doesn’t work. Would it have been so hard to have the “list” feature be a static section that doesn’t require GPS to actually work? This way, if you don’t have GPS or internet, you could still use the app without the map instead of the whole app not working?
  • The list is a nightmare to use – when you scroll and scroll and scroll and find an item you want to check out then click back to the list, it puts you right back at the beginning, not where you were last. So you have to scroll, and scroll, and scroll again and figure out where you were. Counterintuitive.
  • Why can’t I put together a list of favourite exhibits that I wish to visit if I don’t want to constantly go through the map or list?
  • iPhone and Blackberry – where the Android version?

These get better every year and hopefully, if they keep the users in mind, they’ll improve again for 2012. More reviews to come.

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