Andrew Wright's artistic practice is at the intersection of traditional and conceptual forms of art-making. Wright's use of photography is decidedly non-conventional as it challenges lyricism and traditional pictorial aims and favours an exploratory, evocative approach that brings about a consciousness of how processes, photographic technology and presentation are used to shape the way we perceive.
Wright has exhibited both nationally and internationally. In 2013, his mid-career survey entitled Penumbra was a primary exhibition at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto. He has also exhibited at such venues as Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver; the University of California, Berkeley; Oakville Galleries; Photo Miami; Roam Contemporary, New York; ARCO '05, Madrid; and the Art Gallery of Calgary. As an artist-in-residence, he has worked at the Banff Centre and Braziers International Artists Workshop (UK), and as a 'war artist' with the Canadian Forces Artists
Program aboard the frigate HMCS Toronto. He is the founding Artistic Director for Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area (CAFKA).
Wright is the recipient of numerous awards. In 2010 he was awarded a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation for high resolution digital capture. He was the winner of the Ernst & Young Great Canadian Printmaking Competition (2001) and the recipient of grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Ottawa, and the Waterloo Regional Arts Fund. He has received critical acclaim for his work in publications such as Canadian Art, Border Crossings, The Globe & Mail, and Maclean's Magazine.
Wright has been nominated six times for the Sobey Art Award and was named a semi-finalist in 2007. He was also nominated for the prestigious Karsh Award in Photography in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In 2011, he won the inaugural BMW Exhibition Award at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto.
Andrew Wright is represented by Patrick Mikhail Gallery in Ottawa. He is an Associate Professor of Visual Art and Chair of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa.
After Kurelek, Andrew Wright, diptych, chromogenic print, (overall 150 x 400cm), 2013
Andrew Wright Artist Statement
My creative artistic practice is both broad and profound. I involve myself in a number of inquiries that are often materially distinct, yet are related and intertwined philosophically, ideologically, and conceptually. I have made works in various media including photography, film, video, installation, printmaking, drawing, performance, ephemera, and conceptual propositions.
Central to my inquiries are lens-based technologies and techniques, which I employ in exploratory and experimental ways. With an interest in the ways in which we perceive and relate to an essentially mediated and primarily visual world, I employ simple phenomena to reinterpret, reinvestigate and represent using photographic structures and technologies. In many projects, my objective has been to probe the nature of ‘the photographic’ using both contemporary and historical technologies. With a view to expressly problematize both known and unexamined uses of photographic apparatuses and photo-creation tools, I have combined low and high-tech equipment and image-making capacities to create works whose very subject is their inherent nature.
Other works further deconstruct alternate systems such as language, cinema, and traditional tropes such as landscape, portraiture, and the natural world. The difficulty that we face in terms of understanding the world around us has less to do with the complexity and fullness of the world itself and more to do with the human and ultimately fallible methods by which we seek to understand it. At times, my work seeks to reveal the fallibility of newer photographic technologies and argues for viable alternatives that do not seek to impose a singular vision and allow for an expanded definition of the very nature of the photographic itself. My interest is in creating artistic works that take up and challenge conventional understandings and uses of photographic materials and procedures.
Falling Water was conceived and designed specifically for the 6-page layout of Prefix Photo Magazine, Issue 18. The physical condition of the magazine format itself played an integral role in determining the subject. One has to re-orient the magazine in order to identify what the subject is, and even then it is confusing. When one is looking at an optical illusion where two separate images exist, once the initial understanding gives way to another image, it is usually very difficult to perceptually “go back.” However, with Falling Water, as it appears in Prefix, it is possible to do just that: to see the images as two (or more) things at once, to see them as both pattern and recognizable representation.
Other works of mine have challenged conventional understandings of photographic practices and representation. The ongoing series of large-scale numbered cloud images dating from 2003 and onwards are created using room-sized Camera Obscurae and are decidedly 'counter-photographic': the subject is emptiness, water vapour, and light itself; the procedure is simple and does not rely on current (or even recent) technology; tonally the image is reversed; orientation ceases to matter. Likewise, the decisive moment of picture-taking, the traditional purview of the photographer / artist, becomes arbitrary.
What becomes evidenced is the procedure itself, the photo-ideological apparatus, our capacity to aestheticize the world around us, and our dubious desire to see all things photographic as an expression of an ill-defined ‘reality’.
Still Water and Nox Borealis posit an experience of the photographic that sits mid-way between picture plane and object in the round. The photographs are simultaneously recognizable representations that make use of perspectival space and two-dimensional images of pattern and hue that occupy the real space of the viewer. They become forms of the here and now while referring to an uncertain elsewhere.
After Kurelek takes as its starting point the paintings of Canadian painter William Kurelek (1927-1977). Kurelek is known for detailed genre scenes of quotidian life often set against the backdrop of an expansive Canadian prairie landscape. Snow drifts and banks figure prominently as more than mere landscape foil and become quiet protagonists and sites of people’s intercession with a temporary landscape that disappears each spring.
This work was shot on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. The image is doubled and reconstructed as a kind of panorama, which attests to the impossibility of perceiving the land in all its fullness and apparent emptiness. This doubling is also a gesture that calls into question photography’s fidelity to truthful or accurate representation. It presents a view that harkens both day and night; a condition that is difficult to ascertain at the best of times while in the Arctic. Orientation is further confused and the image remains upside-down, as though straight from the camera, raw and ‘uncorrected.’
Prairie Skies XV, gelatin silver print, (40.64 x 40.64 cm), 2004