Gustavo Jabbaz & Joachim Oepkes at Vtape

Gustavo Jabbaz and Joachim Oepkes joint show Sightings elegantly ties together two very different bodies of work as both artists challenge the way we witness and interact with the city around us. A sighting is an occasion, an event, but it also implies that what we have just seen is a fragment of something much bigger; as well as a communication, a personal moment of recognition.

Gustavo Jabbaz, Luiyishou Hotpot, 2021, Archival Inkjet Print, 16″ x 95″

By collapsing, and expanding time, layering sometimes thousands of photographs to create a single still image, Jabbaz challenges the way we look at everyday urban spaces. His ongoing series Moments is reminiscent of David Hockney while being firmly rooted in the twenty-first century. Hockney believed that when we look at something, we don’t just look at it in one moment, but we pull from all the different images we have of that object or person saved in our memories. By stretching one final still image over the course of a day, Jabbaz finds his own unique way of pulling all of those images together and allowing the viewer to experience all of those moments simultaneously.

Gustavo Jabbaz, La Playa, 2022, Archival Inkjet Print, 16″ x 95″

The momentum created by these images reflects the energy of living in a city. Both Jabbaz and Oepkes have a similar affinity for urban spaces—for being part of something that moves around and through you and will continue to move long after you’ve left.

Gustavo Jabbaz, Subway Stop, 2021, Archival Inkjet Print, 16″ x 95″

Where Jabbaz focuses on spaces themselves, allowing for the little details of time and momentum to reveal themselves, Oepkes provides a striking contrast by zooming right in on the details. Oepkes’ images simultaneously highlight and obscure—using lighting and angles to distort key elements of his subjects. The resulting sense of both intimacy and discomfort plays with our sense of intrigue and empathy as viewers. As Oepkes describes his work as “narrative portraiture” the stories are central here, stories that are always present, though not always easily decipherable. The photographs themselves are constantly in motion presented on monitors that cycle through each image at short, staggered intervals. The series of images presented draws the viewer in while keeping us a little at a distance, like turning around to find someone standing a little too close to you. These images echo how our lives are tangled with the lives of people we know nothing about. Presenting clues, like secrets and, at the same time, reminding us that we will never know the whole story contained in these fleeting moments.

Joachim Oepkes, Hello Heads, 2019 (left) and About the City, 2018 (right), both Digital Display, Varying Sizes

Both artists understand their power as documenters, and storytellers; in doing so they comment on the stories we tell ourselves every day, even subconsciously, as we go about our city lives. Sightings gives us the forest and the trees in a distinctly urban setting—one artist who stretches a single point over a day allowing our sight to linger and see all the movement that contributes to a moment of stillness. And one artist who gives us continually moving, totally digitalized images that work together to build something so close it’s out of reach.

Installation view of Sightings

Lily Scriven

Images are courtesy of the artists

*Exhibition information: Sightings featuring the works of Gustavo Jabbaz and Joachim Oepkes; curated by Holly Chang, July 5 – 23, 2022, Vtape Gallery, 401 Richmond St W, Ste 452, Toronto. Gallery hours: Tue – Sat 11 am – 5 pm.

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