After moving to a new location and undergoing major renovations, the all new Glendon Gallery, facing the rose garden in Glendon Hall, celebrated its official inauguration on September 27th. And what better way to show its ‘savoir faire’ and support of contemporary art than with its new exhibition under the fascinating title “Eye Candy 3”.
Left to right: Glendon Gallery curator Marc Audette; coordinator of Artistic and Cultural Affairs Martine Rheault; the artist, Colwyn Griffith; and gallery assistant Cristina Raimondo in front of "Tom Thomson's Cabin".
“Eye Candy 3” is a collection of 13 large, glossy photographs of familiar Canadian landscapes, easily recognized by citizens and tourists alike. The pictures depict Niagara Falls, Peggy’s Cove, the Banff Springs Hotel, Lake Louise, PercÚ Rock, and Tom Thomson’s shack, among others. But just a minute, these are not photographs of the actual places: they are pictures of models created and photographed in lurid colours – and wait for it - the models were made of commonly used processed foods, such as pretzel sticks, Tic-tacs, wafer cookies, processed meat, Cheez-Whiz, fruit rollups and candy floss!
The creator of these pieces is thirty-something Canadian photographer/sculptor Colwyn Griffith, whose c.v. lists an impressive number of previous projects shown in Canadian, Japanese and American exhibitions, including Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Halifax, Tokyo and New York. Griffith trained in the 1990s as a commercial photographer at Montreal’s Dawson College, where he learned much about food photography for magazines and books. During this process, which included using special lenses, filters and lighting, he came up with a new idea: that of using different materials for his subject matter, foods like jello and processed cheese. Using these eliminated the need for all those lenses and filters, because the materials themselves were glossy and brightly coloured and some of them were particularly pliable and user-friendly. They were also readily available and financially accessible to a starting new artist.
Left to right: Hopewell Rocks, Northern Lights and Niagara Falls
But beyond these practical considerations, Griffith became increasingly fascinated by our society’s removal from real experiences, whether these relate to the foods we eat or the tourism in which we participate. His photos represent several levels of abstraction from reality. First of all, he chose not to visit the locations he wanted to portray, but rather request pamphlets from provincial tourist offices. In this way, his first contact with these spots mirrored the first experience of tourists at large: through a photograph in a promotional brochure. He used these photos as the basis for building models of each location: models composed of processed foods which are also removed from nature by their consistency and ingredients. “I was amazed to find”, says Griffith, “that when I left these models for a week or two and then returned to them, they did not spoil or decompose. After two weeks in my basement, the processed meat maintained its ‘freshness’. A frightening thought: what is this stuff really made of? Why are we eating such products and what do they do to our bodies?”
Once he made a complete model of a location, Griffith took the final step of photographing it and producing large, brightly coloured pictures of it. “It was fun to work with these materials. I have favourites: I like working with fruit rollups because they are flexible and easy to mould. I made the Northern Lights out of these and felt particularly satisfied with the results. Cotton candy is another easy material to work with, great for clouds and misty effects. Pretzel sticks were ideal for Tom Thomson’s shack, and then there was the processed meat for Hopewell Rocks: you could carve it any way you wanted.”
Griffith has included other learning experiences in his choice of materials and technique. He spent two years in Japan teaching English and, during this time, learned a great deal from Japanese gardens about miniaturization and materials such as pebbles and sand. Currently, he lives in Harlem, New York City and works from a corner of his home which serves as a studio. “Eye Candy 3” is not his most recent project; he has moved on from junk food to new topics in his exhibitions called “Empire”, “Reclamation” and “Dollar Store”. Why go back to a body of work which was first shown in 2003? “This is my first opportunity to display the entire collection in one show”, says Griffith. “I hope that it will be noticed, because Toronto is an important place for showing art.”
And no doubt it will be noticed, as it displays much more than Griffith’s photographic and sculpting ability. “Eye Candy 3”, along with his more recent collections, reveals the artist’s playfulness, imagination and wit. But beyond that, his work reveals his intellectual depth, his concern with serious issues of our society, such as our alienation from nature and our consumerism.
Opening night at the Glendon Gallery welcomed this promising young artist and his work with Glendon panache: great food, some lovely wine, lots of delightful jazz by pianist Paulo Bittencourt (Glendon 06) and a huge attendance by community members and others interested in contemporary art.
“Eye Candy 3” continues at the Glendon Gallery until October 27th. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.; Saturday, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. You can drop in for a guided tour led by the curator each Tuesday, noon to 1 p.m.
This article was submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny