Two photographic series, two approaches. One conceptual, one more abstract. Both rely on a variety of artificial lighting—outside at night using a flashlight with a diffuser; in the studio from below or using a light box.
For his first solo exhibition, 21-year-old William Carroll has chosen five images from his “Congealed” series and five from the series entitled “Above”. The latter includes three close-ups of natural objects, but there’s a twist. William has manipulated the colour spectrum as well as the focus to produce dusky, unnatural images. The remaining two photos in the series, in black and white, show unrecognizable manufactured objects shot to create intriguing abstract shapes.
The “Congealed” series looks at food in an entirely novel, if initially off-putting, way. Each image focuses on one vegetable or piece of fruit. If viewers can get past the congealed green goop (William’s word) covering the broccoli, the past “best before” banana, the oozing Nappa cabbage that looks like layers of mucous membrane, they will be rewarded with the visual interest William has created in the slickness of the artichoke, the shape and movement of the cabbage leaves, the richness of the white banana, the beauty of the Dragon fruit, the texture of the broccoli. Hung in staggered fashion in one corner of the gallery, the series draws the eye and pulls in the viewer.
A word about the goop. William explained that it was a cornstarch-sugar mixture, boiled and applied with a paintbrush, pressed onto the objects, or thrown at the objects. Because it was extremely hot, it cooked the objects just a bit. And then the objects were put in the freezer before they entered the light box where the goopy glaze truly came into its own.
William became interested in photography in Grade 9 when, being bored in the middle of the night, he took random cell phone pictures. His high school curriculum was based on arts-related courses. In 2012, he proudly told me, he was in the top 50 of an international competition entitled “Children’s Eye on Earth”. Now, as a full-time artist, he continues to work at night when it’s easier to achieve the effects of technical lighting. Because he’s autistic, William likes working alone, in a quiet space, away from the brightness of daylight.
“Photography is a way of showing people how I see the world,” he said. His work can be seen online at greenmothphotography.myportfolio.com.
“Congealed” and “Above” continue until September 1.
After hanging his work at the WAG yesterday, Gary Barnett laid out six hand-held magnifying glasses beside the richly colourful booklet of his paintings called A Closer Look. Gallery Director Marsha Gormley and I each picked up a glass, positioned it over a small section of one of Gary’s paintings, and marvelled at what it revealed—minute details that brought to mind structures at a cellular level and, at the same time, cosmic formations on a grand scale.
“I’m inspired by nature in the sense that all life is energy and chemistry. But rather than copying nature, I try to recreate the energy of its continual regeneration.”
Gary works in thematic series in his art practice. Synthesis explores the effects of colour in sometimes dramatic ways. Starlight is a series inspired by galaxies, while the Pearl series uses opalescent paint in delicate underwater hues of blues and greens. Essence of Pearl won an Honorable Mention at the recent KSOA juried exhibition.
“I was proud and happy to win that award,” said Gary. “I only started painting again five years ago after a 30-year break. When I painted in this style (poured paint) in the 70s and 80s, I wasn’t recognized by galleries and couldn’t get into juried shows. My wife (then girlfriend), Lynn, encouraged me to take up making art again. I had forgotten how much I loved painting and how exciting it is to create.”
Indeed, Gary was smiling the whole time as he explained his method of working with acrylics. Once he has chosen colours, he mixes them with a commercial acrylic paint thinner, which, unlike water, prevents bleeding. Then, the addition of a small amount of silicone produces an oil-and-water effect similar to marbling. Finally, he adds a product called Floetrol to create chemical reactions in the paint. Wearing headphones and listening to New Age music, Gary pours the paint onto canvas or panel, then makes it move with air from a hair blower. Or drags it manually with plastic sheets or butcher paper, following along with the music he hears, sometimes in control, sometimes not. Videos on his web site (www.garybarnett.ca) document the evolution of some of his paintings.
Gary is currently experimenting with layers of liquid glass to produce works in the series that he calls Timeless. Three pieces from this series, along with 26 paintings from other series, are now on view.
Just as I was preparing to leave the WAG, Atallia Burke, instructor at the KSOA art camp, brought her young students into the gallery and encouraged them to pick up a magnifying glass to take a closer look at the artwork. Which they enthusiastically did.
A Closer Look goes until Sunday, August 19. A reception will take place on August 12 from 2 to 4pm.