Group Exhibition New Generation Photography Award

Arsenal Contemporary ⁠ accessible_forward
45 Ernest Ave
Apr 29–May 28
    Clara Lacasse, Estuary, 2020. © Clara Lacasse. Courtesy of the artist

The New Generation Photography Award recognizes outstanding photographic imagery by three emerging Canadian lens-based artists, age 35 and under. This year’s winners are Séamus Gallagher (Halifax), Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes (Vancouver), and Clara Lacasse (Montreal), whose work explores the many challenges in contemporary representations of identity, culture, and the environment.

Séamus Gallagher fabricates and layers multiple realities in photographic explorations of queer, non-binary identities and environments. Adopting a range of digital and physical collage techniques to present complex constructions of selves, their images emphasize elements of exposure, disjunction, and tenuous connection. Gallagher often turns to drag as a method of presenting multiplicity to the camera, as revealed in the libidinal antics of their avatars. Through a plethora of wildly coloured, hot glued photographs, and surreal digital dance clubs populated by frolicking cyborg bodies, Gallagher proposes that normativity is the most brittle of constructions. Working against historical uses of the photographic session that seek to transcribe identity as composed and “stilled,” their work attests to the camera’s ability to create evolving performances of selves.

Sensitive to our contemporary image-saturated realities, the work of Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes reflects on how images are created and shared on the internet. Hoping to reveal the visual languages familiar to today’s mass image consumers, Holmes re-presents photographs culled from online sources such as eBay and Craigslist, as well as her own personal archive. Certain works are layered through a process involving multiple applications of paint and stickers, not unlike a physical version of Photoshop. These hybrid images reintroduce materiality and a sense of spontaneity to the original sources. While their previous functions as advertisements or personal keepsakes remain evident, Holmes’s interventions embed references to art history and various formal considerations. Recent works consist of objects photographed in the style of second-hand selling/shopping businesses, overlaid with altered seating plans of concert halls and auditoriums in Hong Kong. Acknowledging the influences of marketing aesthetics on vernacular imagery, especially on social media, Holmes plays on these realities while questioning the impact of the volume and speed of image production on society.

In her recent photographs, Clara Lacasse explores the Montreal Biodome renovations, and the building’s ecological, ethical, historical, and social implications. Her carefully composed images emphasize the formal qualities of picture making, while holding in tension the many conflicting ideas the Biodome represents, as nature and culture sit in ambiguous relation. She focuses on the artificial methods used to manufacture this Edenic environment—cement, metal rods, and fibreglass; as well as the fragility of the flora and fauna, which had to be either relocated or closely monitored during the renovations. At its best, the Biodome is a reminder of the human desire to appreciate, care for, and understand the natural world. Lacasse’s images raise uncomfortable questions about how this structure relates to current environmental realities. She notes that, “As our planet faces a mass extinction for which we humans are responsible, it also becomes clear that we are the only ones capable of keeping the memory of what is being lost.”

These three artists share a preoccupation with the protean nature of the photographic image—its capacity to reveal and conceal and find disparate, sometimes contradictory, applications. Works tease at the boundaries of authenticity and artifice, desire and actuality, the natural and constructed. From their distinct perspectives, these artists celebrate visual excess with an eye to questioning what such abundance communicates. With great visual sophistication, thoughtfulness and curiosity, they probe shared concerns and anxieties, always mindful of their own role in supplementing an already visually saturated culture.

The New Generation Photography Award was founded by the National Gallery of Canada in partnership with Scotiabank. The award was created to support the careers of young talented artists, who each receive a $10,000 prize. In addition to their exhibition in Toronto as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, a selection of the artists’ work will subsequently be shown at the National Gallery of Canada.

Curated by Andrea Kunard

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada in partnership with Scotiabank and CONTACT

Clara Lacasse s’inspire de la construction des récits liés à l’histoire, à la nature, aux sciences et à l’imaginaire collectif. Par un travail axé sur l’image photographique, elle soutient une réflexion critique sur les représentations engendrées par la culture visuelle et sur l’image comme instrument de connaissance et de pouvoir. Elle est titulaire d’un baccalauréat en beaux-arts avec une majeure en photographie de l’Université Concordia. En 2019, elle a participé à une résidence de recherche-création à Fermont dans le cadre de la programmation du centre d’artistes autogéré PANACHE art actuel (Sept-Îles) et fut récipiendaire d’une bourse de soutien au développement octroyée par VU, centre de diffusion et de production de la photographie (Québec).

Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes is a lens-based artist living in so-called “Vancouver.” She studied photography at Emily Carr University but often works fondly with sculpture and music. Winner of the 2017 Philip B. Lind Emerging Artist Prize, Holmes has a solid exhibition record, which includes solo, public and group exhibitions. Her practice is the product of looking closely at, and being attentive to, the ways in which people create and share digital images. Her most recent works are photographs she has taken of objects in the style of second-hand selling/shopping overlaid with altered seating plans of concert halls and auditoriums in Hong Kong.

Séamus Gallagher is a non-binary photo and new media artist currently based in Kjipuktuk (Halifax, Nova Scotia). They graduated from NSCAD University with a double major in Photography and Expanded Media (BFA 2019). Their work has shown in festivals/exhibitions across Canada, as well as in Germany, England, Switzerland and Los Angeles. They are the recipient of the 2017 AGO | AIMIA Photography Scholarship, the 2018 NSCAD Student Awards, and the 2019 BMO 1st Art! Awards. They were also recently longlisted for the 2019 and 2021 Scotiabank New Generation Photography Awards. Since 2019, Gallagher has worked in partnership with IOTA Institute.