Appropriated Parallel

Represented by the David Scott Gallery in Toronto, Appropriated Parallel is a group exhibition to display the work of Moira McElhinney, Robin Styba and Harold Toiviainen.

To purchase the photography of These photographers, please contact:
Mia Nielsen, Curator
David Scott Gallery
11 Strickland Avenue (Queen & Dufferin)
Toronto, Ontario M6K 3E6
Telephone: 416-504-0575
E-mail: Gallery Hours:
Weekends October 2 - November 1, 1998, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Weekdays by appointment only.

Appropriated Parallel

The idea of the voyeur is not new to contemporary photography. In fact one could say that voyeurism is inherent to photography. We observe events with the camera poised, waiting for the right moment.

Appropriated Parallel charts the experience of three Toronto photographers and their watchful gaze into the public and private art forms they document. Harold Toiviainen takes a street-level look at the transient graffiti of his downtown neighborhood. Moira McElhinney once ran away with the circus, entering into the private world of this public microcosm. And Robin Styba stages her own drama through a series of enigmatic self-portraits.

All three artists approach their subject in a manner that is influenced by documentary photography. Toiviainen has been documenting the changing walls around the world for almost twenty years. He involves himself not only with the product of graffiti but with the process as well, talking to the artists, becoming familiar with their tags and charting their development. McElhinney also became personally involved with her subject by traveling with the circus. Her intimate knowledge of this milieu is apparent in her revealing photographs. Styba dissolves the relationship between artist and subject entirely for she documents her own performance: her own characters in her own narrative. The images of Appropriated Parallel are not documentary photography in the traditional sense. Various tools and techniques are used to manipulate the pictures, creating surreal photographs that are intensely personal, and mix the recognizable with the mysterious. Through interpreting these images the viewer experiences an aspect of the represented performances which would not be perceived without the mediation of the camera.

Unlike Impressionist paintings where the gaze was often established by the characters depicted, in Appropriated Parallel the gaze is determined by the photographers and where the camera is pointed. These artists not only direct but reveal. These are not art forms that were visible with the naked eye, they required the intervention of the photographer. McElhinney presents a circus performance the audience did not see and the performers did not intend, by printing these images in negative she defies natural vision, widening the gap between the viewer and the circus performers. But it is the intimate nature of the artist's relationship with those photographed that make the work even more complex. Because through these images we are not part of the audience, we are brought closer, into the footlights and backstage where the subjects are no longer performers but family.

Circus,  Moira McElhinney

Walking through dawn-lit alleys, Toiviainen brings the viewer closer to his subject. Documented are splashes of paint on a window. He brings the lens very close to the glass and the images are presented in such a large scale that the audience is confronted physically, dwarfed by his images. Through these photographs the artist canonizes graffiti, making them look like the next logical step after Abstract Expressionist paintings.

Graffiti  Harold Toivainen

Styba's photographs act as the mediator between her performance and the audience. The characters, stories and guises were created for the camera alone. Since the camera is stationary and the images unclear the viewer looks to the light quality for guidance. The streaks of light in Styba's photographs take on a new personality leading the eye across the photograph and through the story.

Self-portrait,  Robin Styba

Art within art is what brings the work of these three photographers together. Each one not only appropriates an art form but absorbs it, incorporating that material into their own vision and making something that is truly their own.

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