When artists give free rein to experimentation, photography often helps expanding boundaries. Ever since the 1980s we have seen a rising tide of photo-based art, when artists started using photography as a medium.
Two exhibitions by B.C. artists showing the noticeable influence of photography on other forms of art – particularly some genres of painting – recently caught my attention: “My Mother’s house” by Clare Thomas and “The Vegas Project” by Mary Babineau.
“My Mother’s House”
Houses and identities are often intertwined. A house is refuge from the world while it reflects the soundness of our self. But what if the house is in disarray and nothing makes sense anymore? In response to her mothers’ memory loss, British contemporary artist Clare Thomas uses figurative drawings and paintings to create the imaginary house that holds her mother’s memories. A house in which, in the apparent disarray and confusion, new connections and stories are made.
“My Mother’s House” is the title of Clare Thomas’ exhibition, “because my Mother has Alzheimer’s.”
The intensely autobiographical work tells the story of imperfectly remembered events: memories “stored” in family photographs yet still subject to disorganisation and even disintegration, explains Clare Thomas who lives and works in Victoria, B.C. She was inspired to begin this series when, shortly after her Mother’s diagnosis, she found a box of old family photographs.
“These photos held memories in them exactly as my mother was losing hers”, Clare says. Using photocopied family photographs as her source, all the drawings and paintings contain figures from the original photographs. “I basically started turning them into new memories”.
In therapy or analysis a house represents our psyche. “I wanted to create a house for my mother’s psyche and fill it with memories. All these images represent memories that I transformed from the original photographs.”
“Normally, when you make a piece of art, you spend a lot of time on your own”, said Clare Thomas at her opening night, “but the work is not really finished until other people see it. So by coming out tonight you finished my work.”
For those who missed the show, you may finish Clare’s work by watching her video about “My Mother’s house”.
“The Vegas Project”
Mary Babineau‘s “The Vegas Project” draws from personal photographs and sense memory in these oil paintings about visceral response and the flux between pleasure and dystopia in the public spaces of Las Vegas. Glitzy kitsch, monumental architecture, and dazzling interiors contrast with the glare of economic disparity and desperation in this major tourist destination, a large American city in the desert.
“I work from sense memory and personal photos to explore experience of urban environments in drawing and painting”, says the B.C. artist. The gestural re-imaginings of public spaces create landscapes of uncertainty through which Babineau reflects her experience of place and space.