PATRICK MIKHAIL GALLERY IN MONTREAL PRESENTS “ARBORETUM” AN EXHIBITION OF NEW WORKS BY TORONTO ARTIST SARA ANGELUCCI
NOVEMBER 18, 2017 TO JANUARY 6, 2018
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2017
2 P.M. TO 5 P.M.
Taking its cue from the pictorial tradition of nineteenth-century landscape painting, studio backdrops adopted an idealized vision of nature as a romantic setting for the figure, essentially taming the wilderness to provide an elegant pictorial frame – the picturesque. Embedded in this act of representation is the problematic notion that we are the main subject, and that nature is a mere decorative feature subservient to us. Indeed, the idea of landscape itself is a pictorial construct, as Simon Schama writes in Landscape and Memory: “The wilderness, after all, does not locate itself, does not name itself. . . . At the very least it seems right to acknowledge that it is our shaping perception that makes the difference between raw matter and landscape.”¹
Produced in photographic studios, cabinet cards were part of the commercial democratization of photography. They featured portraits with a singular sitter, with couples, or extended family groups. Typically measuring 4 ¼” x 6 ½”, they were larger than the cartes-de-visite, and tended to be displayed in photo albums or framed and presented in the home. In this larger form, the cabinet card was a popular way to have a family photograph taken for posterity, stylishly staged with everyone dressed in their best.
But family groupings are not the purview of humans. Recent scientific research is revealing that forests contain their own social and family networks. According to German forest ranger Peter Wohlleben, trees are social beings who “can nurse sick neighbours, warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals through a fungal network, and for unknown reasons keep the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots.”² Many scientists and foresters would assert that trees are complex sentient beings.
Arboretum gives visual presence to the notion of the sentient tree, extending the concept of the family album beyond the frame of photographic pictorial tradition. These pictures suggest a deeper consideration of not only the figure ground relationship in photography, but also our position in relationship to nature.
¹ Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), p. 11.
² Sally McGrane, “German Forest Ranger Finds That Trees Have Social Networks, Too,” The New York Times, January 29, 2016. See Peter Wohlleben’s book, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How they Communicate—Discoveries From a Secret World (Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2016).
SARA ANGELUCCI is a Toronto-based artist working in photography, video and audio. Her work explores vernacular photographs and films, analyzing the original context in which images are made. Drawing attention to conventions of image making, her work foregrounds the cultural role vernacular images play in framing particular stories, creating histories, and memorialization. Angelucci’s work has developed from an examination of the family archive and immigration, to a broader analysis and interpretation of anonymous/found photographs. In recent photography, video, and audio projects, Angelucci draws from the history of photography, as well as natural and social histories, transforming found images and repositioning them within the broader cultural context from which they emerge.
Angelucci completed her BA at the University of Guelph and her MFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She has exhibited her photography across Canada including exhibitions at the Art Gallery of York University, Le Mois de la Photo in Montreal, Vu in Quebec City, the Toronto Photographers Workshop, the MacLaren Art Centre, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Richmond Art Gallery, and the St. Mary’s University Art Gallery in Halifax. Her work has been included in group shows in the U.S., Europe (including the Centre culturel canadien in Paris, and Paris Photo), and at the Pingyao Biennale in China. Her videos have been screened across Canada and abroad, at festivals in Europe, China, Australia and the U.S. She has participated in artist residencies at the Art Gallery of Ontario, NSCAD (Halifax), the Banff Centre, and at Biz-Art in Shanghai.