2011: Figure + Ground

Focusing on our relationship to the environment, CONTACT 2011: Figure & Ground looks at how photographic images alter perception, inform knowledge, and uncover meaning. From classical portraits of the figure in the landscape to critical views of a ground transformed by human intervention, the works in this year’s festival explore the shifting tensions between humanity and nature.

The concept of figure and ground was first articulated in Gestalt psychology, which investigated perception and visual organization. This school of thought— centred on how our senses apprehend form as a whole—has an ongoing relevance to present-day discourse and art practice. While visual experience is shaped by a confluence of psychological and physical forces, we aspire to view the world as a totality, to establish order from chaos.

Marshall McLuhan, the renowned Canadian media theorist, developed his concept of figure/ground, borrowed from the Gestalt approach, to examine the influences that permeate and change social structures. He looked beyond what we immediately perceive—the figure—towards what typically goes unnoticed—the ground. McLuhan used the analogy of the car as the figure, and described the ground as the environment incidental to its existence, such as roads, highways, and the auto and oil industries.

Positioning the photographic image as a construction of figure and ground, this framework provided a starting point for the festival theme, which is further examined throughout the primary and featured exhibitions, public installations as well as a number of open exhibitions. One of the highlights is Edward Burtynsky: Oil, an exhibition with particular relevance to McLuhan’s analogy. Whereas Burtynsky’s photographs expose a landscape altered by humanity, Suzy Lake’s exhibition Political Poetics is a nuanced investigation of embodiment. These two Canadian artists were central to the development of the theme, from very different perspectives; both of them challenge the conventions of beauty. Other primary exhibitions, which total six this year, include highly evocative visual narratives by artists from around the globe. Their focus on the figure is revealed through representations of a constantly changing environment and the visual traces of humankind.

Our public installation program expands again this year, positioning photography within the city and—for the first time—across the country. Site-specific projects, produced by CONTACT in partnership with major cultural, commercial, and government organizations are presented at 14 selected venues. Showcasing artists from Canada and abroad, the interplay between the image and its surrounding environment draws attention to how photography effects changes in perception.

Reflecting a wide range of approaches—documentary to abstraction—the 37 featured exhibitions at diverse venues throughout Toronto evolved through a public call for proposals and by means of collaboration within the community. Artists from around the world expand the concept of the theme as a metaphor, allegory, theoretical platform, and compositional device.

The breadth of exhibitions in CONTACT this year reinforce the importance of art and significance of artists as communicators within society. In its simplest form, the theme Figure and Ground asks: What is our relationship to the environment? Looking at the photographs presented throughout the festival, we find many complex answers.

Bonnie Rubenstein
Artistic Director

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2011 Public Installation
2011 Public Installation
2011 Open Exhibition
Simon Rojas, Scott McIntyre, Steve Carty, Che Kothari and 4 more Jalani Morgan, Javier Lovera, Cory Vanderploeg, Shingo Shimizu Hermann & Audrey 99 Sudbury
2011 Open Exhibition
2011 Open Exhibition
Salina Kassam, Ozant Kamaci, Atossa Nami, Kimia Rahgozar and 6 more Dave Todon, Marilyn Lightstone, Mehraban Mehrabani, Sue Russell, Misha Masek, Reza Ta The Idea of Nature Arta Gallery in the Historical Distillery District
2011 Open Exhibition
Waldemar Marszalek, Ed Gajdel, Kacper Kowalski, Rafal Burza and 8 more Hanna Haska, Maya Foltyn, Adam Lodzinski, Les Szurkowski, Zbigniew Latala, Krzysztof Tumanowicz, Kamila Kaminska, Nick Kozak Photographic Imprints Art Square Gallery
2011 Open Exhibition
Janos Gardonyi, Vicki West, Janice Hardacre, Graeme Coxxon and 6 more Quincy McColgan, Sandra Scarpelli, Peter Vietgen, Allan Parke, Mariana May, Susan Lappin   Ben Navaee Gallery
2011 Open Exhibition
Alex, Bee, Crystal, Grahm and 7 more Jasmine, Lady Purfection, Merry Mag, Mouse, Rizzo, Rogue, Sarah Visions & Voices Brayham Contemporary Art
2011 Open Exhibition
Ulysses Castellanos, Steve Apostolopoulos, Katerina Chronopoulos, Christos Damianos and 10 more Christos Dikiakos, Tony Koukos, Kyriakos + Kolette, Spiro George Mandylor, VoulaVous, Krist Pappas, Christos Pantieras, Christine Roditis, James Roditis, Ilias Toliadis Greek Foto Week Toronto Burroughes Building
2011 Open Exhibition
Nicolette Potter, Richard Marazzi, Paul Labonté, Justin Kingsley and 5 more Alex Filotti, Shawna Eberle, Jean-François Bouchard, Fabrice Strippoli, Mark Hesselink   Contrast Canadian Photographic Works (CCPW)
2011 Open Exhibition
Robyn York, Laura Horne, Tim Neesam, Paul Osadchuk and 11 more Wendy Jones, Anuta Skrypnychenko, Chris Blanchenot, Roz Tepper, Dennis Duncan, Showwei Chu, Robert Teteruck, Robert Caspary, Jack Martin, Keith Davidson, Thomas Hlavacek Raw Memory Gallery 1313
2011 Open Exhibition
Adam Johnston, Annette Seip, Catia da Silva, Anuta Skrypnychenko and 33 more Arnold Koroshegyi, Ben Ng, Dave Lawson, Dawn Harmer, Derek Flack, George Hardy, Giovanni Senisi, Glen Jones, Helen Posno, Jane Watson, Jesse Jackson, Katherine Childs, Laurent Lévesque, Liam Philley, Lucy Camputaro, Mafalda Silva, Mark Belvedere, Melanie Gordon, Melissa Bender, Michael Krauss, Mike Holland, Nicole Winters, Ozant Kamaci, Peter Mulcair, Peter Young, Philip LePage, Ralph Kolewe, Shelley Wildeman, Sheryl Dudley, Sophie Hogan, Susan Spagnuolo, Tom Ridout, William Sabado Exposed 2011: Figure and Ground Gladstone Hotel — 2nd Floor
2011 Open Exhibition
2011 Open Exhibition
Jesse Chun, Leanne Eisen, James Dawson, Robin Styba and 3 more Eric Wainwright, Peter Hill, Richard Pope McLuhan's Shadow IX Gallery
2011 Open Exhibition
Karen Asher, Susan Malmstrom & Elizabeth Kenneday, Arturo Herrera, Wendy Jones and 8 more Ben Clarkson, Christine Lucy Latimer, Adrian R. Perdomo, Tom Ridout, Dawn Roe, Karli Strohschein, Jen Williams, Abraham Wornovitzky Transplanted Launch Projects Gallery
2011 Open Exhibition
2011 Open Exhibition
2011 Open Exhibition
2011 Open Exhibition
2011 Open Exhibition
Vincent Luk, Hitoshi Murakami, Stephen Caissie, Jen Chow and 7 more Sabrina Lau, Sarah Prior, Rachel Wine, Mavis Yeh, Julianna Yeung, Jing Wang, Zeekid Leung From The Ground Up Sleeping Giant Gallery
2011 Open Exhibition
Fraser McCallum, Lindsay Voegelin, Erika Neilly, Gemma Warren and 6 more Elena Malkova, christopher jacques lacroix, Elisa Julia Gilmour, Sam Cotter, Kyle Brohman, Nicole Kim In Broad Terms Steam Whistle Brewing
2011 Artist Talk
2011 Artist Talk
2011 Artist Talk
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