Ross Muirhead wants you to rethink the definition of art.
His Photo-Video series showing at the Penticton Art gallery until Sept. 9 integrates photographic print, video and text into 17 pieces of wall-mounted art work. The content of Muirhead’s pieces is focused on regional issues such as impacts on the landscape, the replacement of the environment with urban sprawl, issues facing the forestry industry as well as local responses to global issues.
“There is an overriding theme of the impact of the landscape from different industrial developments, pressures of society to extract resources,” said Muirhead. “It’s like a layered meaning. It is there for the viewer to get into their own ideas of what each piece is about. I am always thinking in terms of what we have lost and what we have gained.”
Muirhead combines an interest in the effects of modernism on the human condition with environmental activism and this informs his practice in photography and video. The results is a quasi-documentary approach to picture-making.
The framed prints exist on the same picture plane as the monitors providing a seamless reading. Video footage is looped with introductory scrolling text and audio components. The text ranges from storytelling to documentary and acts to ground the images to a context. These two different types of narratives could be seen as contradictory and it is the challenge to find a balance that the viewer is required to navigate.
“With the use of the video, it engages the viewer more to spend time with each piece. With the moving image, it is quite engaging. Moving images is how we consume a lot through film and TV so people are accustomed to receiving visual information that way. It is so prevalent now and I wanted to introduce that to visual art with photography and video mediums,” said Muirhead.
In one piece titled The Shores, he attempts to talk about the different histories on the North Shore landscape.
“It builds on the idea of the big footprint we are creating right now in 2012 and the global resources to support this new larger lifestyle coming into play,” said Muirhead.
Foremost, this series attempts to provide the viewer with an experience of a place depicted from multiple viewpoints through the use of different media.
“There is no right or wrong meaning or particular agenda. I start out maybe going for a walk and experiencing a sight that might trigger my interest and the meaning will start to come together. The text has a poetic element to it I hope,” said Muirhead.
Muirhead has exhibited across Canada and was selected to participate in the Un-Natural Traces exhibit held at the Barbican Art Gallery in London, UK. The show was the largest exhibit of Canadian contemporary art in the UK with a focus on the changing Canadian landscape and was held in conjunction with a Group of Seven exhibit.
The Photo-Video series at the Penticton Art Gallery opens on Friday at 7 p.m. and an exhibition talk with Muirhead takes place on Saturday at 2 p.m.