The Pleasures of Indeterminacy
Borderviews, Border Crossings, Issue 119
September 2011
By Robert Enright

 Ottawa-based photographer, Andrew Wright, has adopted an aesthetic strategy of putting things in play to see what happens. His latest engagement with this art of unpredictability is a series called “Coronae,” consisting of 60 x 60 inch C-Prints mounted on Dibond. Using a jeweller’s drill and boring a hole all the way through a colour film canister and into the successive layers of film, Wright initiates the process. Then he leaves the canister in the sun for an hour. When the film is developed, the holes have become the image. “With the ones nearest the surface you get an explosive pattern; the ones closer to the spool are more subtle.” The series aptly takes its name from astronomy because the look of the photographs is decidedly celestial. Corona 2 has what looks like a meteor trail stuttering across its surface; the radiant white centre in Corona 1 is nudged by an intense red satellite.

There’s a pleasing optical confusion: in Corona 4 you can’t tell whether the image is evidence of an implosion or an explosion. Actually, you can’t say anything with certainty about the picture; there is no reference point, no measurable sense of scale, and no way of knowing where you are as a viewer in relation to what you’re looking at. It is an uncertainty that Wright welcomes. “I really like the push/pull between the microscopic and the macroscopic, that the image could be stellar or the forms could be cellular.”

Wright’s palette comes from the kind of film he uses: Kodak gives him patterns that are almost exclusively yellow and red, while Fuji film, with its blues and greens, provides a broader colour spectrum. But very little of the final look of the final image can be orchestrated. “The colour is just about the way the light shifts and bends and reacts with the emulsion. I have no control,” Wright happily admits. “It is completely arbitrary.”

What the artist can control is the scale. The relationship between coloured image and black ground is an important one where Wright again relies on a sense of perceptual drift. “I like the sense that you could be looking at either space or surface. The black photographic paper is an object that is seductive in its own way, but it allows you to fall into it and perceive what is an indeterminate space. You don’t know what you’re looking at.”

Wright is essentially involved in a process of meta-photography, in which his subject is actually photography itself. His “hole art” collapses the two components of the medium. “I love the idea that this work is actually a flattening as well as a perceptual collapsing of photographic conventions.” He has coined a term for his play inside the frame of traditional and digital photography. He calls it “tradigital.” T-shirts are available.

Above images: (Left) Andrew Wright, Corona 1 (detail), 2011, digital C-print mounted on Dibond, 60 x 60". All images courtesy Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa. (Centre) Coronae 4 (detail), 2011, digital C-print mounted on Dibond, 60 x 60". (Right) "Coronae" installation view, 2011, Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa.

"Coronae" was on exhibition at both Peak Gallery and the Patrick Mikhail Gallery earlier this year and also won the inaugural BMW Exhibition Prize at Contact 2011 in Toronto.