Gage Gallery Arts Collective presents
Driven to Distraction (Further Musings on the Modern Landscape)
Photographs by Francis Sullivan
April 12-April 30, Opening Reception April 15, 7-9pm
2031 Oak Bay Avenue.
In 2012, Sullivan took a course in Piezography from renowned printmaker Jon Cone. This black and white printing process uses seven shades of black ink. The selenium toning Sullivan favours ranges from red-brown to purple-brown and gives a subdued, subtle effect. At the workshop, he met Cathy Cone and was impressed by her portfolio. She introduced Sullivan to Diana plastic lens photography. This technique uses a plastic lens to soften and distort the image, allowing painterly and expressive qualities to emerge. “It allows me to focus on shapes, forms and composition,” Sullivan says.
Below: All images by Francis Sullivan are pigment ink prints on 100% cotton rag paper.
During a phone interview, Cathy Cone praises Sullivan’s technical abilities to realize the subtleties within his printed images. “Francis is dedicated to his artistic process,” says Cone “and always challenging himself to learn and grow.” At the workshop, recalls Cone, he took time to help others. Being a sensitive and compassionate person, these qualities come through in his choice of images and social commentary. Cathy Cone comments on the saturated tones and streaks of light in Flower Impressions. The effects echo the nostalgia of vintage colour photography. Amid the foggy light the flowers appear to be dancing in a dreamlike state. Cone appreciates the magical quality created by a plastic lens: “This secret garden is alive with a constellation of animated beings."
Sullivan admires the ability of painters to tell stories through visual engagement and emotional impact. To go beyond the image into a new idea. Sullivan tells his stories or modern musings using snap-shots of unlikely scenes and scenarios. “My photos are taken quickly,” he says, “usually I’m on the road when something catches my eye.” For example, Vanished was taken while strolling along the boardwalk in Ganges. The abandoned flip flops and collection of whimsical Fairy doors demanded his attention. The photo queries: Where is the owner of the flip-flops? Vanished perhaps through a magical portal?
“I find these odd juxtapositions, signs and situations a striking commentary on modern life and culture in North America.” Sullivan says. In Love His Not, (top of page) a handwritten sign on a bright red fence announces the true meaning of love. Low to the ground, mis-spelled, and easily missed, the photographer elevates this passionate plea for kindness into a sign of the times.
In Midnight Oasis, the odd light effects, uneven horizon and dark foggy background create a ghostly scene. An abandoned Winnebago in the middle of a field? Most people would motor by this scene. Here the artist uses visual poetry to focus our senses, suggesting a psychological mystery and unanswered riddle.
Sullivan’s visual poetics caught the curatorial eye of photographer Susan Burnstine. She chose Coming Home 1, for the 2015 “Alternative Cameras: Pinholes to Plastic” exhibition at Photo Place Gallery in Vermont. “I’m thrilled to be chosen from so many submissions," he says. The image of the back of the ferry with its rusted gate and plastic barrier is an unusual focus. This is not a perfect landscape but a glimpse of reality, given a timeless, suspended beauty by careful composition and subtle tonality.
In her jurors statement Burnstine praises the patience and perseverance of alternate photographers, noting they work with imperfect and home-made equipment. “But there are some who have tamed these unpredictable beasts,” she says, “by letting go of technical control and connecting with their inner photographic child.”
Sullivan’s inner photographic child is thriving. “I am endlessly amazed by the things in this world,” he says. In On The Way To The Funeral We Stopped For Lunch, the artist explores his environment while others munch their sandwiches. Fascinated by a church isolated in the middle of an arid landscape, his photo includes the realism of hydro wires and railway tracks. Awkward and angled, the abandoned church sits on a skewed horizon line, becoming an aberration in the soft sculptural landscape.
April 15, 2016. Opening night of Driven to Distraction was a lively event!
Several guests at Gage Gallery, 2031 Oak Bay, share their comments with photos below.