Gallery exhibit features New Generation Photography Award winners

Séamus Gallagher, Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes and Clara Lacasse hail from different parts of Canada and use different techniques, but they face similar challenges.

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Photo award of the new generation

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Until December 19th

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National Gallery of Canada

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A new exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada features three up-and-coming artists experimenting with their craft to stand out from the web’s plethora of images.

Séamus Gallagher, Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes and Clara Lacasse are this year’s winners of the Scotiabank-supported New Generation Photography Award. They come from different parts of Canada and use different techniques in their work, but they all face similar challenges.

“One of the things I find really interesting about this particular group is that they’re all very aware of how image-saturated we are right now, which makes it a challenge for them to get noticed, but at the same time they’re us.” are cautious about contributing and overpowering things,” said Andrea Kunard, the gallery’s senior photography curator and one of the judges of the fifth annual award for artists under 35 working in lens-based art.

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“They are critical of this culture and at the same time trying to find their way in it.”

The works in the exhibition range from Gallagher’s extravagant, large-scale self-portraits to Holmes’ tiny, textured collages.

Here is more about each artist and their practice.

Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes is a 30-year-old Vancouver resident.
Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes is a 30-year-old Vancouver resident. Photo by ERROL MCGIHON /mail media

Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes

Informed by her experience making band posters, the 30-year-old Vancouver resident creates images that are sometimes barely recognizable as photographs, often combining digital photography with graphics or printed material, then scanning them for an authentic look into achieve low resolution.

“People look at so many images all the time that we want to see something that looks desaturated and less contrasty and less digital,” she says. “Our eyes need a break.”

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Holmes’ most recent work began with photographs of objects modeled on the casual shots people take when trying to sell something online. “It’s like this half-hearted attempt to look like an ad,” she said.

She found some colored perfume bottles to photograph and then overlaid them with images of seating plans from halls and auditoriums in Hong Kong, where she was born, to create pieces that evoke a sense of nostalgia but also hint at the socio-political climate in the city.

“I obviously combine things, but that’s what I like about collages,” she says.

Seamus Gallagher is a 27-year-old from Halifax.
Seamus Gallagher is a 27-year-old from Halifax. Photo by ERROL MCGIHON /mail media

Seamus Gallagher

The work of Gallagher, a 27-year-old Halifax-based artist/drag queen who uses the pronouns “they/they,” illustrates the dramatic impact of the pandemic on her gendered practice.

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A large, colorful example of a pre-pandemic self-portrait hangs on one wall, while another features close-ups that draw you in with their quiet intimacy. One reason for the postponement is the lack of studio space, Gallagher said.

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Before the pandemic, Gallagher loved creating images that appear to reflect a parallel world, beginning with a program that converts 3D designs into paper templates. By printing them out and gluing them together, they created drag-inspired headgear for Gallagher to wear on elaborately constructed studio sets. The effect in A Slippery Place, for example, has a digital character in a surreal world, but if you look closely you can see the paper edges, bright splashes, and the occasional strip of tape.

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“I found that I really liked bringing that video game aesthetic into a queer drag context,” says Gallagher. “It’s a very digital aesthetic in the realm of analogue photography.”

During the pandemic, Gallagher lost access to the studio and began creating intimate self-portraits that also reflect gender exploration. “I think during the pandemic and with Zoom, a lot of people have had to confront what they look like more than ever, and that’s led to a lot of self-reflection. People have had time to reconsider their self-image.”

Clara Lacasse is a 29-year-old from Montreal.
Clara Lacasse is a 29-year-old from Montreal. Photo by ERROL MCGIHON /mail media

Clara Lacasse

Lacasse has been visiting Montreal’s Biodome since she was a child and regularly walks through the four ecosystems recreated in the immersive museum.

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“It’s a place that I’ve basically known all my life,” says the 29-year-old visual artist. “I go there every year like any good Montrealer would.”

When the facility closed for renovations, she was even more excited to visit, curious to see what would happen to the ecosystems housed within. She was able to gain entry and brought a medium format camera that captured images of the construction site that spoke of humanity’s impact on the planet.

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“My first intention was to address this transformation to evoke our changing relationship with the natural world,” she said. “The human-nature dynamic is ongoing and ever-changing when we think about climate change and how we are affecting the world we live in.

“I saw this museum as a miniature world full of gardens that could represent the future of the planet and how we build what we want to preserve and how that relationship puts people at the center. It can also be a metaphor for how to deal with the problems we are having right now.”

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