Internationally renowned Montreal artist Donigan Cumming has made it his life’s work as an artist to explore aspects of human interaction – to explore and document what is visible as much as unseen; to consider what lies beyond the boundaries of an image or the known circumstances of a person’s life. The stories that emerge come as much from the imagination and soul as they do from the heart and body. Clearly this is not an easy task for the artist or the community of people that he has collaborated so closely with for so long. Donigan Cumming is a storyteller and his work is as much about life as it is about art.
When Cumming turned [from photography] to video in 1995, he retained his actors/models just as he maintained his fascination with what they evoked. Cumming seeks to know about death and the inroads of age and illness, drink and drugs; he studies unwitting delusion and the circumstances of self-destruction. Yet his subjects are survivors, real people living their lives despite their potential for squalor. We may feel guilty watching here, a little unclean at the contact, virtual though it may be. At the same time we are fascinated to know more, to see more thoroughly, and our curiosity can offend no one: these images already exist. This is the abject: mean, despicable, disheartening, from the Latin abjectus, thrown away. Society’s refuse is laid before us here, a proliferation of unseemly bodies and crowded, debris-filled living quarters, far distant from an approved vision of youth, elegance, self-contained propriety and good taste.
Peggy Gale (excerpt from Lying Quiet, published by MOCCA in conjunction with the exhibition, Moving Pictures)