Jag asked me to guest write on his blog about these five canvases since I was involved in the process and since they are at and about my cottage. Photographic images on canvas
— like art in a gallery.
I remember a few years ago watching The Thomas Crowne Affair with Pierce Brosnan and Renne Rousseau with all the elaborate distractions to pull off a major art theft from a gallery. I couldn’t help thinking at the time as I watched that movie (a time when digital cameras were just taking over) that the ultimate art heist wouldn’t require any distractions at all or the pesky business of actually having to remove any art from the building. You could simply break into a gallery with a tripod, a super high resolution digital camera (when they became a reality) and some lighting equipment.Then you could carefully photograph your favourite work and escape with nothing more than a memory card. No one would be the wiser. Then if you could find a a way to print on canvas you could have your very own Jackson Polloch, Picasso, or Rembrandt.
I asked Jag one day if it was possible to print on canvas and he said; “Ya man, we do it all the time.” Now I don’t want to encourage theft of intellectual property or a gallery B & E but I have to admit I’d love to have an almost perfect copy of a Morriseau hanging on the wall. I did have a vision for my cottage, and with the help of Jag, it has became a reality.
I had a tiny coloured photograph printed from a long lost 35 mm slide taken in the early days of the cottage. It was about 2” x 3” framed with a huge matt around it. I think it dates from 1960 or 1961 and except for the development of the vegetation it represents the cottage as it was when I began my marathon building programme which has been ongoing since 1975.
So I wanted to have this image repeated in a horizontal line on a wall in different colours in the style of Andy Wharhol. Jag simply photographed the little print in its frame hand holding the Nikon while I held the frame at the right angle. I couldn’t believe that would work, macro lens or not, but it did. Once he had the image in a workable format we quickly agreed on a number of things:that yes, there should be five canvases; that the colours should be red, blue, green, yellow and black; that the black canvas should be positioned in the centre; and that the canvases should be square. Many months passed before much more happened as Jag got caught up in a lot of work.
But the time interval was important I think. Ideas had time to percolate. When we finally picked it up again the first great influence Jag brought to the project — and I think the most important — was to change my idea of a mono chromatic print to a smaller image in a single coloured field. He seemed hesitant to bring up the idea…..”You know Billy, the image doesn’t have to be full frame. in fact, 8” x 8” is pretty big when you think about it.” He was hesitant because he didn’t want to step on my idea. But I grabbed on to the concept right away. I could see that it was so much better because it intensified the experience of focusing on the image and the way the whole canvas would be experienced was so much better. From straight on the image would appear to be surrounded by a large coloured matt and viewed from the side the wrap around would read like a frame.
More time passed and finally one night it all came together and the concept as finalized, but not the work just yet.
You know my dad used to belong to the Toronto Camera Club way back in the 1930’s and 40’s. It was a way to gain access to a cool darkroom and when I was a little kid he built me a darkroom under the cellar stairs. And even though I would never consider myself to be anything other than an amateur photographer (these days reduced to using the camera in my iphone) I was building a pretty serious darkroom in the basement at my cottage. However one of the cruelest jokes on me is that it has taken me so long to finish building the cottage that the darkroom was never finished before it became obsolete.
Watching Jag morph from the man behind the lens to the alchemist of photoshop was a treat. When you know how to use the new digital medium (first the camera and then the software afterwards) the possibilities seem endless. Still, once the technique was perfected to wash the colour out of our image and produce the monochromatic canvases we debated about the gradation of colour. From start to finish the experience was a bit of a back and forth affair and I think the final product benefitted from that and from the long gestation period. And I didn’t have to break into a gallery to get it.
Written By: Bill Thompson
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