Alchemy of Nature features recent works by artists Diana Bloomfield, Bob Carnie and Christine Fitzgerald created using 19th century photographic processes to explore the natural environment. Photography is now largely a dematerialized pursuit using digital devices such as smartphones to take and distribute images. These three artists value the historical continuity of photography by reviving and adapting antiquated methods to create unique hand-printed physical objects. By bringing back to life techniques from photographyʼs past and exploiting modern technology, these artists push the boundaries of their medium to address environmental precarity through the lens of human experience.
Melissa Rombout, Exhibition Curator
ARTISTS IN EXHIBITION:
North Carolina-based artist and instructor DIANA BLOOMFIELD has exhibited widely in North America and internationally. In 2021, she was honoured with the prestigious Rofofolio Denis Roussel Award.
Diana began this series of photographs in 2020 just as the deadly COVID global pandemic physically isolated us from each other. These glimpses of secluded but familiar spaces of the artist’s native Southern landscape evoke an ethereal wistful quality and are accomplished through the soft tonal saturation of tricolour gum bichromate over cyanotype prints.
As images of sanctuary from imminent virulent danger afforded by uninhabited places, works from this series produce a lenticular “double vision”: a nostalgic yearning for less precarious times, and more disturbingly, a foreshadowing of a post-human future where natural vegetation thrives unhindered.
"Magnolia" Tricolour Bichromate. Image © Diana Bloomfield
Alongside his own photographic practice, Toronto-based artist and printer BOB CARNIE has earned an international reputation for printing traditional and digital fine art. Next year, in 2023, he will mark fifty years contributing to the art and science of Canadian and international photography.
This intensely personal series of photographs was taken during Bob’s visits to his family’s former retreat in the Muskokas over a two-year period. Each frame suggests an acutely felt experience of place, past and present, a melancholic recognition of familiar terrain in each tree and shoreline. These images form an archive imprinted with the feel of a long-ago family album. The muted tones of gum bichromate and palladium historical processes intensify the pervading sense of a paradise both found and lost.
Image © Bob Carnie
Ottawa-based artist CHRISTINE FITZGERALD entwines the exploration of revived photographic methods with modern digital technologies to invite reflection on themes of time, precarity, and loss. Christine’s work has been recognized through numerous awards including being selected as the Fine Art Photographer of the Year by the International Photography Awards in New York City in 2016. She was recently featured among the top wet plate collodion photographers in the world to watch by Analog Forever Magazine.
These works from the series Last Light depict vulnerable coastal places and species along the majestic Saint Lawrence River from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. Many of Christine’s images are cloaked in deep blue, referencing the diminishing capacity for completely dark night sky in the face of human industry and climate change.
[The artist acknowledges support for this work from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.]
"Morus Bassanus No. 1, 2021" Image © Christine Fitzgerald