Floating Around
Globe and Mail , Page R4
Saturday, April 24, 2004
By Gary Michael Dault

Andrew Wright | Skies | April 1 - May 1, 2004 

Andrew Wright and John Heward at Peak Gallery

Like the work of Robert Fones, these new photographs by Andrew Wright (Skies) are more fun if you know what's going on. While these big pearlescent, panoramic, black and white photos of bright skies and silken clouds are undeniably lovely, they become a whole lot lovelier still once you realize (or are told) that they are the product of Wright's investigations into the possibilities of the Camera Obscura.
Anyone who has seen the recent film of Tracy Chevalier's novel about Vermeer (The Girl with the Pearl Earring) will remember the artist's explanation of the helpful wonders of the Camera Obscura, a black box into which light is admitted through a tiny hole in one side and which light rays then come to organize themselves on the box's far surface into a jewel-like, inverted image of whatever the box's hole was pointed at. In Wright's case, the Camera Obscura is his entire studio, the necessary light-admitting hole being a shuttered opening in the roof, fitted with "a single lens element (borrowed from a pair of eyeglasses)". Wright unrolls sheets of photographic paper on a four-by-eight-foot platform on the studio floor, exposes the paper for a few seconds, and develops his resulting print: another passage of light and cloud. Nice. Would these spacious photos be quite so absorbing if they were just taken with a conventional camera? Not at all. Except that Wright makes a good case for them when he points out that his images are "counterphotographic", their subject being "emptiness, water vapour, and light itself", that they are without orientation (that is, there is no up nor down to them), and that they omit anything approaching the virtuoso "decisive moment" of meaningful exposure. These photos just are. As such, they are more meditative than informative.

The eight etchings (Four Directions) making up this new exhibition by Montreal-based painter, sculptor and musician John Heward, are so deftly contrived, so elegantly wrought, so formally inadvertent (or so it would seem), they are so much a process of finding out direction by means of a studied indirection, that it might be best to talk of them scarcely at all. It might be best, if they just continue to hang there on the gallery wall, breathing deeply, forming tiny theatres of quiet, centrifugal excursions into mark-making, resonating, as Montreal critic James D. Campbell puts it in a note accompanying the exhibition, between "Reason and Emptiness, what is seen and what is sensed." 

The Wright photographs are $2,400 each. The Heward etchings are $250-$800. Until May 1, 23 Morrow Ave., Toronto; 416-537-8108.