This year’s major focus of CONTACT is abstraction and composition in the photographic medium. This theme is at the heart of CONTACT’s flagship show at MOCCA. The exhibition, Part Picture + Past Picture, features works by contemporary and classical photographers where abstract characteristics are central. Makeshift at Gallery 44, also a Primary Exhibition for the festival, offers an extension of such explorations through works by Maegan Hill-Carroll, Brea Souders and Ève K. Tremblay.
One of the major issues in abstract photography is that it is always a photograph of something real, even if manipulated to the extreme – otherwise if solely created on a computer, it is digital art. Therefore, abstract photography can never be entirely non-representational. It is, however, at times perceived and discussed as such. Abstract photography presents a unique set of questions. What happens to the initial objects after the reality around them is cropped by the lens, translated in-camera, transposed during post-processing and finally recorded on paper? To what extent do recognizable elements in an image still act as the same objects as at the moment of being captured? Is it really necessary to know what the photograph is about in order to grasp its artistic merits?
Artworks presented in Makeshift feature easily recognizable everyday objects alongside highly specialized ones, which a viewer would be able to identify only with the help of the artist’s statement. For instance, curator Noa Bronstein explains that Ève K. Tremblay photographed items left by the sculpting process in the studio of her father, Alain-Marie Tremblay. Without that information, the gorgeous photographs would be aesthetic enigmas impossible to solve. And yet, even with that information, the enigma remains and grows. While gazing upon Ève K. Tremblay’s photographs, a viewer might experience a sublime feeling of getting closer to the mystery of creation. To what extent is that feeling connected to the reality of the studio? Does the interplay of shadows reveal something about Alain-Marie Tremblay’s artistic agency? Or perhaps we are assigning these images significance because we were told about the loaded nature of what we see. Perhaps the sublime feeling is generated by the aesthetic qualities of the photograph and reinforced by the intellectual superstructure.
Whether or not the viewer is ready to decide on some answers, or even consider these questions productive, Makeshift is a delightful display of masterful compositional and coloristic balance.
Text and photo: Elena Iourtaeva
*Exhibition information: Makeshift / Maegan Hill-Carroll, Brea Souders, Ève K Tremblay, May 2 – 30, 2015, Gallery 44 Centre For Contemporary Photography, 401 Richmond Street West, Unit 120, Toronto. Gallery hours: Tue–Sat, 11 – 5 p.m.