Emphasizing practices that press, graze, and caress, The Shape of the Middle explores the gestures of touch that are essential to both printmaking and photography. The exhibition takes its inspiration from the 1843 book Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions by Anna Atkins, the groundbreaking botanist and first person to publish a book illustrated with photographs. Studying their myriad shapes, Atkins contact-printed dried seaweed directly on cyanotype paper, producing images that register empirical form while generating something intimate and ghostly in turn.
The artists in The Shape of the Middle employ techniques that resonate alongside Atkins’ cyanotype work. Through her collaborative BUSH Gallery project, Tania Willard’s Sovereign Sunshine series situates photogram printing within Indigenous frameworks, creating deeply rooted records of gathering on land. Jenine Marsh’s intricate relief sculpture features clay pressings of flowers entwined across the gallery floor; the malleable middle-space between object and surface becoming an amorphous second skin. Shannon Garden-Smith works with swaths of polyester blanket to reveal delicate patterns, mark-making through touch that faces the danger of being wiped away completely. The exhibition also features a newly commissioned text by poet Fan Wu, exploring the strange sensualities that can emerge when an object grazes a surface.