A photograph is a photograph is a… sculpture? Experience photography in new ways at The Reach Gallery Museum’s latest exhibition, image/object: new approaches to three-dimensional photography, opening in Abbotsford on Friday, January 27th.
Through the work of three contemporary Canadian artists – Karin Bubaš, Natalie Hunter, and Karen Zalamea – image/object explores the potential for photographic images to be spatial, experiential and material. Each artist, however, approaches photography uniquely.
For over two decades, Bubaš has been photographing carefully styled solitary female figures in idyllic landscapes, always looking away from the camera. In her recent work, she cuts up her photographs, glues the pieces onto foamcore, and meticulously assembles them to create scenes that are layered and textured.
Hunter – who is based in Hamilton, Ontario – is known for using photographs on transparent film to create sculptural installations, which are hung, draped, folded, and curled over wood, metal or plexiglas structures. The works change over time as light shifts throughout each day.
Zalamea will have both new work and work from her archive on view, including her project Sunken Garden (Family Album) – an installation of family photographs, scanned, enlarged and printed on canvas, then cut into strips and woven into fifty-foot ‘photo ropes’.
Exhibition curator Adrienne Fast explains the inspiration behind image/object: “The inspiration for this exhibition, and for bringing these three artists together, was to make a point about how art really needs to be experienced in person, ‘in the flesh’, so to speak…[O]ne of my favourite things is coming face to face with an artwork I’ve seen previously only in images and being surprised by it! Sometimes it’s bigger than I thought, or the colour is different, or whatever. But the material, physical qualities of an artwork carry so much meaning, that really only comes through when you are occupying the same space with it. People kind of understand that concept when you’re talking about something like sculpture – that the physical object is more than just what you see in photos. But I think when we’re talking about photos themselves as works of art, it gets more confusing, and that’s what I wanted to explore.”
The importance of seeing and experiencing art in person also plays a part in how Fast came to selecting these three artists for the exhibition: “I think people often assume that the ‘meaning’ of a photograph is just tied up with the subject matter – that is, what it represents. But there is so much that can change about the meaning of a photo depending on its material qualities. For example, how big is it – do I hold it in my hand or does it tower over me? Do I walk around it, does it wrap around me? Is the surface glossy and smooth or rough and uneven? Does it feel old and archival, or ultra modern? I chose Karin Bubaš, Karen Zalamea, and Natalie Hunter for this exhibition because all of their work reminds me that the physical, material encounter with art is always going to be valuable and important, and un-replaceable. I am all for virtual museums and seeing art from a distance, I just don’t want us to fool ourselves that we’re getting the ‘complete picture,’ so to speak!”
Make a day of your visit to The Reach by exploring Abbotsford’s good eats and drink, nature walks and thrift stores. Here are a handful of suggestions to inspire your field trip, including a couple of Adrienne’s favourites: get caffeinated at Good Kid Coffee along with a breakfast sandwich on their house made bagel, or swing by The Polly Fox, known for their gluten-free baking and breads. It’s never too cold for ice cream from Banter Ice Cream. Follow up your sugar fix with time spent thrifting around town (Fast recommends MCC on Gladys Ave). Refuel at Oldhand Coffee, plus hit their bottle shop for a great selection of natural wines. Of course, it’s not a trip to Abby without a stop at Field House Brewing – a favourite for craft beer, solid and seasonal pizzas, and “good vibes”. For a dose of fresh air before hitting the road home, head over to Mill Lake Park or Fishtrap Creek Park for a stroll.
The opening reception for image/object takes place at The Reach on Friday, January 27th from 6:30-8:30pm, and is free and open to all. The exhibition will continue to be on view until May 6th, 2023, as part of the 2023 Capture Photography Festival Selected Exhibition Program. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday from 10am-5pm, Saturday from 12-5pm. Entry is by donation.