Becky Comber The Woods

Gladstone House ⁠ accessible_forward
1214 Queen St W
May 1–Aug 31,  2022

Becky Comber, based in Grey County, Ontario, explores and documents the wilderness in her work. Her multi-step process of making photographs and then meticulously cutting into them transforms her images into sculptural objects. This labour imparts a strong sense of the artist’s hand and amplifies the relationship between the artist and the natural world.

Here, Comber elaborates on her photographic process:

“Using large-scale prints as the raw material for experimentation, I explore the process of image-making and the tactile nature of printed documents in these photographic interventions. I have always been fascinated by the wilderness and the natural landscape, and I am driven to experiment with the physicality of printed materials as a means to observe and interpret my everyday encounters with these environments. The contour of forms and intricacy of hand-cut details reflect the interconnectedness of wild spaces, while the act of intervening into the physical prints investigates the line between documentation and fabrication.”

Comber doesn’t search out exceptional locations for her photographs—the trees are not the tallest, the foliage not the most varied, the vistas not the most spectacular—because her process is geared toward sharpening the viewer’s awareness of the elements of nature. By removing the space around a branch or leaf, or by removing the branch or leaf itself, Comber allows the viewer to deeply consider the varied forms that nature takes. In Banff Woods (2021), the dense foliage of subtle shades of green makes it difficult to visually separate shapes. Her meticulous cutting process emphasizes shapes and their individuality, and transforms the photograph into a lace-like object. Forest Orb (2017) highlights the negative space, creating the impression that energy or some kind of celestial body is radiating from the trees. Whether the circle is intended as just a pattern or meant to evoke an object, it focuses viewers’ eyes upon what they might otherwise miss.

Comber’s process requires a double physical engagement with the subject; first by selecting the scene and making the photograph, then by choosing what to carefully cut away. These meditative acts transform the medium from two to three dimensions, and urge the viewer to linger and consider these forms and their interconnectedness.

Curated by Lee Petrie