REVIEW: Andrew Wright’s ‘Coronae’ – Winner of CONTACT’s BMW Exhibition Prize

June 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Andrew Wright’s Coronae exhibit is no slap in the face.  The new series of work at Peak Gallery, winner of CONTACT’s BMW Exhibition Prize, does not flatten the viewer with colour and movement, or a plethora of cultural references.  Instead, Coronae slowly sucks you into its visual vortex, gently persuading of a truth that transcends all the chatter.  The more one experiences these works (in person, as is absolutely essential), the more one absorbs them like a towel soaks up wine. They are truly innovative, complex and beautiful works – a fitting winner for this year’s CONTACT prize.

The six 60” x 60” digital chromogenic prints were crafted by boring holes, using an electric drill, into slide film canisters with spools of 35mm film wound within them.  You know, the little cylinders of film we used to buy for our 90s cameras?  With only a small hole drilled through all the layers of film, they were left to sit and collect whatever light that trickled through the opening.  Once the film was developed, Wright re-photographed the chromogenic prints into digital format, resulting in the final work displayed at Peak Gallery.

Large swathes of inky blackness envelop the central image – the ‘corona’ – so that, one is unsure as to whether one is pushed away from a hard, black, table-top surface, or falling into the plush depths of an untouched universe.  This becomes a central theme in Andrew Wright’s new work.  “I’m particularly interested in the idea that black can be both surface and space, so that as surface, you relate to it as a body, not just a set of eyes,” stated Wright in an interview with ArtSync.  “The body relates to the world that you’re in.”  He then commented on photography’s tendency to portray other spaces, and how he hopes this series of new work will successfully fall between the physical “here” and fictive “there”.  Indeed, Coronae explores photography’s inherent voyeurism by complicating the traditional gaze:  one is not sure if the photograph, as a physical object, is imposing on the viewer’s space, or the viewer is imposing on the photograph by entering its visual wormhole.  This ambiguity gives Coronae the heavy presence of an object whilst retaining photography’s ability to serve as a private window into a different landscape.

The close visual similarities between a mere pin-prick of light through a film canister, and photographs of the larger cosmos, is remarkable.  Appropriately, “corona” is defined as a circle of halo around a luminous body, such as the sun or moon during an eclipse, but can be applied to anything crown-like (corona being latin for crown).  The macroscopic and microscopic, so interchangeable in such a body of work, seems to link the whole spectrum of life in-between – with an intensely spiritual effect.  One cannot help but be reminded, whether religious or no, of the biblical phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.  Very large to very small; beginnings to endings; birth to death: there is a familiarity between the outermost reaches of any one thing, which draws it all together like a neat package.  Andrew Wright’s work touches on these “deathbed” questions – questions which, although most certainly timeless, may seem on the heavy side for some viewers.  However, those who relish the visual arts for those kick-in-the-pants moments – aka art that really makes you think – will not be fazed.  Coronae will be an undeniable pleasure.

‘Coronae’ is exhibiting in Toronto at Peak Gallery until June 11th. 

Review by Donia Almassi

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