Focus on Festivals

7 Must-See Shows at CONTACT 2015

May 1-31, 2015 in Toronto, Canada

Mark Ruwedel, Chocolate Mountains: A Ceremonial Trail. The Ice Age, 2001 / courtesy of the artist, Gallery Luisotti and Art 45

Among the eclectic collection of international and Canadian shows, this year’s edition of the festival includes several documentary works that reconsider historical art photographs in contemporary contexts and address issues of global urbanization, transportation and landscape.

Mark Ruwedel is the winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Photography Award, presented annually to honour an established Canadian artist working with photography. He is one of the most respected Canadian landscape photographers in the country, and this show is a survey of his career. Working in black and white, Ruwedel documents cultural traces and physical imprints of human activity on the land. At the Ryerson Image Centre.

Scott Conarroe, Fog, Port Aux Basques NL, 2009 / courtesy of the artist and the Stephen Bulger Gallery

Canadian photographer Scott Conarroe’s elegiac landscapes from two series of works, Canada By Rail and By Sea, is a luscious, affecting view of the never-ending landscape. His large-scale photographs depict rail paths, ports and coastlines, drawing on the traditions of documentary photography and epic landscape painting. At the Ryerson Image Centre.

Frank (Franz) Johnston, Untitled (Sunlit Clouds and Tree Tops), date unknown / Private Collection

An unexpected show is The Photographs of Frank (Franz) Johnston, at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. A member of the original Group of Seven, he left the group to pursue his own career solo. He was an avid amateur photographer, and the show explores the influence that photography had on his landscape painting, which over time became less impressionistic and more realistic.

Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan, Episode of the Sea, 2014. / Film still, courtesy of the artists

Episode of the Sea, by Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan, being screened at Gallery TPW, is a documentary film that explores the fishing culture of a small community of the former island of Urk, in the Netherlands. The inland sea around the island was drained to create arable land, but the fishing community never adopted agriculture as the government had envisioned, and instead maintained its maritime way of life by finding new fishing grounds further out in the North Sea.

Jihyun Jung, Demolition Site 14 Outside, 2013 / Courtesy of the artist

In Demolition Site, South Korean artist Jihyun Jung treats us to an arresting series of bold colour images of demolition of urban dwellings, as cities are continually transformed by new buildings at a dizzying rate. That’s something that we can certainly relate to in Toronto, and appropriately enough, an image from one of his destroyed buildings will be installed on the side of a building in the courtyard of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, which is destined for demolition later this year to make way for a new condominium.

Alejandro Cartagena, Carpoolers, 2011-2012 / courtesy of the artist and Circuit Gallery

Using bridges over highways as his vantage point, Mexican artist Alejandro Cartagena’s Carpoolers documents the backs of passing pickup trucks as construction and landscape workers huddle together, half asleep, on their way to the wealthy suburban communities surrounding Monterrey, Mexico. His work has been paired with Julia Krolik and Owen Fernley’s Intersection, a series of map-like aerial views of suburban landscapes that blend into one ominously undiscernable swath of suburbia. Together they provoke reflection on how transportation and urban planning affect our reality.

Zile Liepins, Untitled, from the series No One Says Anything, Everyone Remembers Everything, 2013

For her new solo exhibition, Zile Liepins, the young Canadian artist of Latvian descent, travelled back and forth to the birthplace of her parents. The results are an original body of work that focuses on how the overflow of contradictions and bitter memories of the Cold War have evolved into a permanent state of tensions as the country attempts to redefine its identity and find its footing in the West. Through evocative photographs of coded visual language and cultural symbols, No One Says Anything, Everyone Remembers Everything expresses the way individuals in small Latvian communities silently and publicly face each other after privately reconciling trauma.

For detailed analysis of three additional CONTACT shows, read Pietropaolo’s History, Memory and Archives.

Vincenzo Pietropaolo is a Toronto-based photographer, writer and curator who has published and edited a dozen books on social justice issues such as immigration, disabilities and working-class culture. He is currently working on a book about Toronto. His latest book, Ritual, was nominated for a 2017 Toronto Heritage Award.

View all articles by Vincenzo Pietropaolo »