OTTAWA ART GALLERY
by Sophie Lynch
Canadian Art Magazine, Summer 2015
Andrew Wright uses and transforms a range of lens-based and photographic technologies to dissolve eduring photographic assumptions. His exhibition "Pretty Lofty and Heavy All at Once" presented works that hover between the optical and the material, the visible and the imperceptible, and aim to elicit reconsideration of how we see and picture of the world around us.
The windswept solitary trees that the Group of Seven often foregrounded in their landscapes are rooted in the Canadian imagination. Wright's Tree Corrections (2013) is a series of photographs taken of the shores of Georgian Bay, arranged in a grid that brings into focus the distortions of our habits of seeing and conceiving of the landscape. Centred and depicted against skewed horizon lines, Wright's trees have been "straightened" vertically to create humorous interventions that evoke a slowness of perception, revealing the ambiguity of seeing.
In After Kurelek (2013), a photographic diptych presents the white slopes of a snowbank. They appear upside down, mimicking the inverted image created inside a camera obscura or large-format camera. Nearly mirror images of each other, we see the frozen mounds set starkly against what registers as an expense of pitch-black sky or an impenetrable dark shadow.
In this work, Wrights disorientations of scale and perspective seem to illuminate spaces where the camera's light does not reach, where we find the perceptual blind spots that constitute our vision of the natural world.
The tension between light and dark in Wright's work brings to mind the darkroom, the camera interior and the occlusions of light required to process light-sensitive materials. Viz. (2015) presents a series of undulating square surfaces coated with a thin layer of silver placed on the ground in a configuration that references minimalist artist Carl Andre's floor sculptures. They recall photographic plates, but instead of fixed images, the mirrored surfaces reflect fragmented and unstable surroundings – we can see ourselves seeing. Like watching the night sky reflected on the rippling surface of water, we have to look down to see what is up above.
In Disused Portrait Camera Considers Wedgwood Vase (2015), an antique vase and a Polaroid portrait camera are placed in dialogue with each other inside a mirrored box placed on a plinth. The vase, made by Wedgwood, speak to Thomas Wedgwood, of the British pottery family, who is best known for his late 18th-century effort to inscribe images with light in an early photographic process. Covered in silver, Wright's paired objects reflect each other and, in turn, are reflected in the mirrors. Repeating to infinity in diminished versions, the images are an ethereal reminder of the explosion of images engendered by the invention of photography – a future projected from the past. By challenging our habits of perception, the works in this exhibition produce tangible afterimages on our retinas and afterthoughts in our minds.