Category Archives: Research and Reflection

Adad Hannah: Case Studies

Adad Hannah is a Vancouver based artist who has exhibited widely across Canada as well as internationally in the United States, Korea, Prague, Chile, Shanghai, Bucharest and Birmingham. His work is cinematic and focuses on performance and movement. Jeff Wall,  Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol are some of the influences he draws inspiration from.

When I first read the gallery handout and saw that Hannah used digital video to create his images I was rather puzzled as to the process. I then checked his website and found that he actually builds a mise-en-scene, poses his subjects as if it were for a still photograph and then videos the still scene for about 4 – 10 minutes. When viewing the video, only slight movements are noticed: little things like the blink of someone’s eye, a slight readjustment of an arm stretched out and so on. This must be extremely difficult for the subjects to hold these poses for such a lengthy period. Like Jeff Wall, he builds elaborate sets as can be seen in his documentation of Blackwater Orphelia.

Hannah’s Case Studies project mimics Muybridge’s work in a similar fashion. Where Muybridge’s work is all in sepia tone, Hannah uses rich colours. He also uses a grid as a background, but in his case the grid is black, where as Muybridge used white in order to reflect as much light into the lens as possible. Another difference is that Hannah has some black-clad helpers that help lift and support the subjects in their various poses and this creates a slightly sinister feel to the photos. It’s as if there are ninjas lurking in the background wanting to do evil to the subjects who are in the light. The ninjas are less noticeable on the actual print than on the photograph as the saturation is more dense. Whether Hannah videotaped these images as staged images as he has done with his other work, or photographed these motion images in a similar fashion to Muybridge, I cannot say. But either way the motion is very carefully captured. There is less of a forensic/scientific feel to Hannah’s work which is probably due to the use of colour and the background ninjas.

Adad Hannah: After Muybridge: Wrestlers 2
Adad Hannah: After Muybridge: Wrestlers 2


Another series Hannah had on display was his Polka Dot Case Study. In these images he uses a polka dot background, all the props bar the bowls are covered in the polka dots. The subject is also clad in an all-in-one jumpsuit that matches the background. Various yoga or gymnastic poses are struck with the subject balancing contrasting coloured bowls on various parts of her anatomy. The images form an optical illusion and from afar one is not really aware of the subject in the photos, just the background and the bowls. It is only when the viewer draws closer that the misaligned polka dots of the subject and cube she is seated on truly stands out from the background. I found this to be a really creative series of images.

An Arrangement (Polka Dot Case Study) 1
Adad Hannah: An Arrangement (Polka Dot Case Study) 1
Reference List

Adad Hannah [online] Available from: [Accessed 20 March, 2016]


Eadweard Muybridge – Building an Atlas

The gallery handout introduces this exhibition with a quote from Charlotte Cotton’s latest book, Photography is Magic:

Photography is a form of magic – or to put it another way, the photographic provides cerebral experiences for the viewer that are equivalent to magic.

And for the viewers of these photographs in the 1870’s it must have been a truly magical experience. Forty-five of Muybridge’s collotypes were on display for this exhibit. All the prints were made in the late 1880’s. What a feast! Muybridge was born in 1830 and is best know for his motion studies, which began in 1870 when he was asked by Leland and Jane Stanford to help demonstrate that at a certain point in time, all four legs of a galloping horse were off the ground. Muybridge did this by using a bank of view cameras to record the galloping horse’s movements. Each camera’s shutter was triggered using a thread as the horse passed. I find this process utterly fascinating knowing how long view cameras took to process an image back in the 1870’s. Admittedly, Muybridge had the help of  Leland Stanford’s crew of engineers and technicians from the Central Pacific Railroad to help him develop new high-speed mechanical camera shutters for his view cameras. Cameras did not have shutters at that time. After the galloping horse study, Muybridge expanded his project to study motion of other animals and people involved in various activities. His legacy of these studies has been passed on to the cinematographers.

Eadweard Muybridge - dogs playing
Eadweard Muybridge – dogs playing

The beauty in these old photographs lies in their technicality, the split second precision of an action captured. Could we do it better today? Most definitely – the technology has changed dramatically since 1870, and today we have Joe McNally with his impressive banks of flashes. Even so the quality of the Muybridge prints and the resolution is quite crisp and the subject matter fascinating. Muybridge has applied a very scientific or forensic approach to his photographs and I liked the way that he used different angles for a lot of his series photographs: side on views, frontal and rear views. The individual frames are quite small and the viewer is really drawn in to study the stop-motion flow closely.

Eadweard Muybridge - woman playing tennis
Eadweard Muybridge – woman playing tennis

Eadweard Muybridge [online] Wikipedia. Available from: [Accessed 20 March, 2016]

Equinox Gallery (2016). Eadweard Muybridge: Building an Atlas. Vancouver: Equinox Gallery

Solnit, Rebecca (2010) Eadweard Muybridge: Feet off the ground [online]. The Guardian. Available from: [Accessed 20 March, 2016]

Ogema: I am Woman

I was quite taken aback by this exhibition. It is an exhibition by a group of indigenous female artists from the First Nations in North America. I had not planned to go to this exhibition initially as I had expected it to have the usual First Nations traditional artwork on display, but because it was literally a stone’s throw away from my targeted viewing I decided to drop in afterwards and was very pleasantly surprised.

The exhibition pays homage to the indigenous women, through all their trials and tribulations of colonial rule. It challenges the viewer to view the First Nations women in a different light by regarding the matriarchal roles in diverse representations. This exhibition is both art and political in nature and deals with the First Nations right to reclaim their rightful position in society.

Participating artists were Maria Hupfield, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Wendy Red Star, Tsēma Tamara Skubovius, Janice Toulouse and Olivia Whetung.

One of the most interesting pieces was a display by Wendy Red Star, a Crow Indian from Montana. Displayed across the width of the gallery wall was a series of posters above a shelf of displayed books. The books were a series written by E. J. Hunter in the 1980’s. There are 24 books in total. Wendy Red Star has created a montage of the original cover and inserted a self-portrait instead of the original “squaw” for each book. The sub-titles on the book come across rather risque or non politically correct in today’s environment and Red Star has played upon the nuances of the sub-text to create her portrait.

Below is the original cover of book # 11. The sub-text reads “She sees what’s coming and blows her way out of trouble!” The sub-title at the bottom of the book reads “Hot-handed Heathen”.

White Squaw 11 - Original cover
White Squaw 11 – Original cover

And this is Red Star’s play on this cover:

White Squaw 11 by Wendy Red Star
White Squaw 11 by Wendy Red Star

By using modern day gestures, often seen on selfies, she is contemporising the literature and drawing attention to the fact that First Nations women are really just like the rest of us.

Possibly the most thought provoking image of the exhibition was a huge life size photograph by Tsēma Tamara Skubovius of a girl sitting naked, hunched over on a rocky beach among washed up discarded, rusty iron rods and bricks.

Re (Naturalize) by Tsēma Tamara Skubovius
Re (Naturalize) by Tsēma Tamara Skubovius

The foetal position of the girl on the beach is symbolic of the much awaited reclamation and return to society by the First Nations people. A symbol of rebirth. The iron rods are representative of the society’s current restrictions and obstacles that stand in the way of this happening. For me the rocks on the beach are indicative of the difficulties that lie ahead in effecting this change.

Lea Toulouse, curator of this exhibition, explains:

I am fed up with the oppression, racism, and victimization of my people and believe it is time to reclaim our position on this land, to celebrate our culture, and to govern our lives.

Reference List

Hunter, E.J. (1986). Hot-handed Heathen (White Squaw) [online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 March, 2016]

Red Star, Wendy. White Squaw. [online]. Wendy Red Star. Available from: [Accessed 19 March, 2016]

Toulouse, Lea (2016). Ogema: I am Woman [online]. Like Vancouver. Available from: [Accessed 19 March, 2016]


Winsor Gallery [online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 March, 2016]

Liz Magor at Catriona Jeffries

This has to be one of the strangest exhibitions I’ve seen in a long time. These sculptures by Liz Magor, a Canadian born, Vancouver-based artist were quite confusing to say the least.

Upon entering the gallery, we (my son and I) encountered a room full of what appeared to be boxes of varying shapes and sizes, looking as if they had been randomly placed on the floor or propped up against the wall. The first sculpture was of a pink dog sitting atop a cardboard box which was mounted on the wall.

Liz Magor - Pink Pet, 2016 | Polymerized gypsum
Liz Magor – Pink Pet, 2016 | Polymerized gypsum

On reading the gallery handout, it seems that Magor takes disused and old, found objects and repurposes them into sculptures. This pink dog above was probably once a gorgeous fluffy toy, possibly  discarded and found in a skip, which has now been transformed with another type of coating/exterior, one that appears to be decay resistant. Strangely though, the dog faces the wall and does not reveal itself to the viewer. Ashamed of its new form? Or ashamed of the road it has travelled to reach its current situation, which seems to be forever posed upon a dirty discarded box, instead of being lovingly cared for by a young child?

It seems that Liz Magor raided the local Salvation Army thrift store and the skips in the back alleys to find some of her ready-mades. Clothing that dates back to the 1950’s or 1960’s were draped or folded and displayed on cardboard boxes.

Liz Magor - New Society, 2016 | Polymerized gypsum, plastic bag, nylon stockings
Liz Magor – New Society, 2016 | Polymerized gypsum, plastic bag, nylon stockings

The boxes have been given a new lease on life. A coat of paint and their purpose (or is it fate) has gone from being destined for the compactor to a life of display in an art gallery.

Out of date and worn garments move away from their exhausted status and are reminded of their commitment to the body. In all the works dismissible things forge relationships with disposable things as they are reacquainted with their origin in manufacturing and packaging.

Catriona Jeffries Gallery (2016)

This exhibition has me back to the age-old question again. Is this really art?

Reference List

Catriona Jeffres Gallery (2016) Liz Magor. Vancouver. Catriona Jeffries Gallery.

Brad Howe & Jonathan Forrest – Gallery Jones

I happened to pop into the Gallery Jones today, not knowing what was on exhibition. It just happened to be situated close to another gallery that I had planned on visiting. On exhibition were sculptures by Brad Howe,

Brad Howe is from California and his sculptures are extremely colourful and playful. There was one that caught my attention. It looked like a toy house with a gigantic cactus leaf growing out of its roof, but the title was “Age of Radiation”. Quite the depressing title for something so lively.

The age of radiation by Brad HoweThe colours are so saturated and vibrant and the piece is quite playful in my mind. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of the soft rounded cactus leaf shapes contrasting with the sharp triangular shape of the house’s roof. I can’t pretend to understand modern sculptures like these, but on a grey day entering a gallery where such vibrant colours about around every corner is very heartening to the soul.

Also exhibiting in the same gallery was Jonathan Forrest who is a Canadian abstract painter. Like Brad Howe, Forrest’s work is also bright and colourful and the two artists complement each other well in the gallery space. Forrest’s work deals with an exploration into the physical substance of paint and ready made objects. Forrest states in his artist’s statement that:

“the subject matter of the works in this exhibition varies widely but falls under the umbrella of “things I notice in my everyday life … the paintings contain some essence of the dialogue between the ready-made found source image and the transformative painting process that results in the finished artwork”.

Sculpture by Brad Howe, paintings by Jonathan Forrest
Sculpture by Brad Howe, paintings by Jonathan Forrest

Tucked away in a corner were two photographs by Danny Singer which were really a bonus find. Singer is a Canadian photographer who photographs small town Canada. Many of his photos feature beautiful big skies with lots of cloud movement.

Danny Singer | MacNutt
Danny Singer | MacNutt

Singer’s work reminds me so much of Ed Ruscha’s Sunset Boulevard. Both prints are panoramas. The upper print measured 23 ” x 101″ and the detail in the photo was quite captivating. Looking at work like this makes me want to get out of the city and go explore these little one-man band towns that are dotted all over the country. It’s definitely something that is on my to-do list. The MacNutt photo has beautiful tones, orange buildings complement the blue sky at regular intervals and the street is book-ended by green shrubbery while long shadows stretch across the street to touch the buildings opposite. Its only when one’s eye takes in the shadows that one realises there is an opposite side to the street – so remote is the narrative.

Reference List

Forrest, Jonathan (n.d.) Artist Statement [online] Gallery Jones. Available from: [Accessed 19 March, 2016]

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

On providing feedback on my assignment 5 images, fellow student Sarah-Jane field mentioned photographer Meatyard and his use of masks to me (thanks Sarah-Jane). I had not come across Meatyard before and as I was using a mask in my assignment, I thought it prudent to investigate further.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard was born in Illinois in 1925 and died of cancer at the age of 47 in Lexington, Kentucky. He was an optician by trade and regarded himself as an amateur photographer. One day he walked into a Woolworths store in Lexington and bought a set of latex masks. The Smithsonian Magazine describes the masks as “a marriage of Picasso and a jack-o’-lantern”. Looking at his photos, I personally find the masks rather creepy.

Over the subsequent years he posed family and friends wearing these masks in front of buildings. He even created a fictional narrative, complete with a physical album called The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater along with hand-scrawled captions accompanying the photos,  where all the people featured in the series wear masks. When asked why he used masks, Meatyard stated:

a mask “serves as non-personalizing a person.”

Smithsonian Magazine

© Ralph Eugene Meatyard
© Ralph Eugene Meatyard

The masks serve to create a sense of ambiguity. The viewer is drawn into the rather innocent, yet grotesque scene with puzzlement. In some of his images, the poses are childlike and familial, allowing the viewer to remember his or her own childhood, but the juxtaposition of the gargoyle-like mask upon a seemingly innocent body throws this perception totally off kilter and leaves us wondering who these people are and what their real story is. More tellingly, could they be us? Because we are unable to make a connection to their faces, we go off hunting the backgrounds for more clues. Meatyard has transferred the authorship of the images totally to the viewer.

… the modern scriptor is born simultaneously
with the text, is in no way equipped with a being
preceding or exceeding the writing, is not the subject with
the book as predicate; there is no other time than that of the
enunciation and every text is eternally written here and now.

Roland Barthes, Death of the Author (p. 145)

Yet looking at Meatyard’s images, a certain familiarity resonates with me. It is just as Barthes states in his essay, Death of the Author. We each bring to a reading of an image our own perceptions, culture and value systems. The image above reminds me of scenes I have seen before, namely those of African masks (see below) and more recently in my life, my exposure to First Nations masks as well. Those masks too serve a purpose and hide an identity.

African Masks - Seattle Art Museum
African Masks – Seattle Art Museum
Reference List

Barthes, Roland (1977).  Image, Music, Text. London: Fontana Press

McDermott, Theodore (2011) The Family Albums of Ralph Eugene Meatyard (2006) [online]. American Suburbx. Available from: [Accessed 18 March, 2016]

Zax, David (2011) Ralph Eugene Meatyard: The Man Behind the Masks [online] Smithsonian Magazine. Available from: [Accessed 18 March, 2016]

Seeing Through Photographs

Seeing Through Photographs is a free MOOC presented by the Museum of Modern Art, available on Coursera. One has the choice to pay a fee and get a certificate upon completion or one can do the course for free and not receive the certificate. I opted for the latter route.

The course was quite handy and very informative. It covers a lot of the material that is dealt with in the Context & Narrative module, i.e. One Subject, Many Perspectives; Documentary Photography; Pictures of People; Constructing Narratives and Challenging Histories and finally Ocean of Images: Photography and Contemporary Culture.

There were many video clips with interviews with various artists about their work and each section had a resource list. MOMA supplied extracts from the gallery catalogues, links to various videos and other reading material and links to the actual artists featured in each section.

Interview with David Horvitz
Interview with David Horvitz

I would have enjoyed this course more if I had come across it at the beginning of Context & Narrative, I think, as I would have been able to use a lot of the information that was provided. Nevertheless, I’m glad I completed the course – each section only took up about an hour of my time, not too onerous at all. I particularly liked the fact that I was introduced to new artists and writings.

Reference List

Meister, Sarah (2016) Seeing Through Photographs [online] Museum of Modern Art, New York. Available at: [Accessed 12 March, 2016]