Photography art

New AGO exhibition asks us to develop our definition of pictures

An aerial shot of several men standing on an blood covered ice floe, butchering a walrus. A small boat is pulled up next to the floe.
“Walrus Hunt” by Robert Kautuk (2016). (Artwork Gallery of Ontario)

The Artwork Gallery of Ontario’s new exhibition We Are Story: The Canada Now Images Acquisition takes a really broad view of the phrase “pictures.” Photograms? That is pictures. Collage? Images. Pictures from the web, manipulated right into a mosaic? Images.

For AGO curatorial fellow Marina Dumont-Gauthier, who helped put the present collectively, it is necessary to repeatedly be reconsidering what pictures is, as a result of “pictures remains to be a younger artwork,” in comparison with portray or sculpture, and it continues to evolve quickly.

The exhibition showcases ten new additions to the AGO’s assortment, which come to the gallery as a part of the Canada Now Images Acquisition Initiative. Photographer Edward Burtynsky and gallerist Nicholas Metivier conceived the initiative within the spring of 2020 as a strategy to assist artists throughout COVID.

A large image of an orange, next to a creature made entirely out of hands on a black and green background.
“Holding my Grandmother’s Oranges” by Aaron Jones (2021). (Artwork Gallery of Ontario)

The artists featured within the assortment come from a wide range of backgrounds, each artistically and culturally, and are based mostly in all corners of the nation. The factor all of them have in widespread is that they every deliver a singular method to the medium.

Toronto-based artist Aaron Jones‘ piece “Holding My Grandmother’s Oranges” is the primary picture viewers see once they stroll into the gallery. A five-foot-by-six-foot picture collage, it centres on a picture taken from a postcard, promoting California oranges, that hung in his late grandmother’s kitchen. He says that for him, the oranges symbolize what he calls a “utopian entry to meals.” The oranges are guarded by what he describes as a “gollum” made out of arms. The arms have been taken from photos of NBA gamers from the Nineties and 2000s that got to him by a buddy.

“My grandma got here right here from Jamaica,” he says. “My mother and her sisters and brothers are all immigrants. I believe it was the primary time, once they obtained right here, the place they’d for certain have meals ⁠— not that they did not have meals in Jamaica, but it surely was extra for certain [here]. And for myself, rising up, I used to be provided that privilege of, like, ‘Go within the fridge. Take no matter you need.'”

He provides that, as a “youngster of the ’90s,” although he wasn’t an enormous sports activities fan, the photographs of basketball participant’s arms spoke to him.

A fractal pattern in black, blue and orange, in the Islamic ornamentation style.
“Tokyo/Damascus” by Sanaz Mazinani (2012). (Artwork Gallery of Ontario)

“[The hands] are very well-lit, and I simply favored how actual they felt,” he says. “And it is form of bringing these childhood influences into the design of the gollum.”

At first look, Sanaz Mazinani‘s “Tokyo/Damascus” does not seem like a photography-related mission in any respect. The piece is completed within the fractal fashion of conventional Islamic ornamentation. It is a kind of design that Mazinani — who was born in Iran and got here to Canada when she was 11 — was surrounded by rising up. It is solely once you get extraordinarily shut that you simply understand that the sample is made up of pictures of the Occupy Motion protest in Tokyo and Arab Spring protests in Damascus, Syria, repeated time and again.

“The idea behind [Islamic ornamentation] is that it transforms your understanding of the area,” she says. “Inside the spiritual context, it is speculated to form of rework you to this heavenly different world.”

The piece is supposed to evoke that very same feeling, however in a extra secular context: to get us to transcend the place we’re proper now and picture a greater world.

“On this context, I wished to make use of it to take us some place else, the place the world will not be so harsh,” she says. “Someplace that is extra attention-grabbing or higher.”

A small row of soldiers sit in a trench in a desert landscape. Purple smoke wafts across the horizon.
“Afghan and Canadian troopers in a trench mark their place with smoke throughout a drone strike on insurgents in Panjwa’i District, Kandahar, Afghanistan,” by Louie Palu (2010). (Artwork Gallery of Ontario)

Different items within the exhibition additionally take a variety of approaches to pictures. A few of it comes from a documentary or photojournalism custom, like images of the struggle in Afghanistan by Louie Palu, photos of Black Lives Matter protests printed on huge banners by Jalani Morgan, and Robert Kautuk’s drone photographs of his dwelling neighborhood of Kangiqtugaapik, Nunavut, together with considered one of a walrus being butchered on an ice floe.

Others take a extra experimental method, like Laurie Kang’s sequence of photograms of onion and firewood baggage, made by inserting the baggage straight onto photosensitive paper. Montreal-based Inuk artist asinnajaq took a photograph of shallow water in James Bay, then printed it on a skinny polyester sheet hung from the ceiling. As audiences stroll across the piece, they trigger the sheet to maneuver, making it appear like the water is shifting.

Mazinani says that, to her, the widespread thread between all of the items in We Are Story is the flexibility of pictures to tell the viewer in regards to the world round them.

“All these tasks are talking about one thing that we’re experiencing collectively, in several methods, proper now,” she says. “They’re present. They’re related.”

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