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Whitney Lewis-Smith

CURATOR'S NOTE

As a young artist, Whitney’s work has been acquired by prominent private and public collections in Canada and abroad, including that of the Canadian Prime Minister Honorable Justin Trudeau, as well as the Beaverbrook Art Gallery of New Brunswick and the Ottawa City’s Public Art collection. She has a growing reputation and one look at her technical and unparalleled photographs says it all. All of Whitney’s photographs depict whimsical, surreal, yet thought provoking scenes of nature that evoke a sense of awe and fascination with the natural world. Her large format photographs are complex and completely immersive – when viewing, you can always notice something different each time.

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Whitney Lewis-Smith (Montreal, Canada) is a Canadian photo-based artist who was inspired by a Dutch golden era painting of an ornate vase impossibly full of flowers and insects. Whitney became interested in how this work of art would have come about - a small painting of flowers, including various flora from different regions, seasons, and climate zones, long before the invention of the photograph, would have required months or years to finish. To see a painting like this would have been to gaze upon an impossible bouquet that could never have existed alive. Whitney was taken with the contrast between the reality of the painting and ours in the world today. “Now I can order almost anything, no matter the time of year or location, to my door without ever leaving my living room. That seventeenth century painting has lost its magic, symbolism, luxury, and it’s fascination.”

 

As opposed to creating scenes that are impossible, Whitney is using the photograph to display what can be amassed in the flesh, by internet purchase or otherwise, highlighting how globalization impacts the way we understand the world around us. By drawing on art history, she is asking the viewer to situate our current time as a passing moment and to highlight that the way we perceive things now is not necessarily the way they will be understood further down the line. Whitney says, “Considering humanity’s impact on the environment, I would guess that my images will one day hold scenes of living things that will once again be an impossibility due to extinction and other mainly man-made reasons.” By using antiquated darkroom techniques and reanimating dead specimens, Whitney hopes to create an underlying tension that prompts the viewer to question what it is they are looking at. Is it alive? is it real? Is it a drawing or a photograph? All of her images are created with a large format 8×10 view camera, similar to camera’s used in antiquity by Ansel Adams, Ottawa’s own Yousuf Karsh, and current contemporary heavyweights like Sally Mann and Ed Burtynsky. She hand coats 8x10 inch negatives on panes of glass in a complex and time consuming process. The plates are coated over a period of three days as each of two coats must dry before the next step can take place. The second coat is light sensitive and must be poured and dried in almost complete darkness. Once prepared, the negatives are carefully loaded into a holder and exposed one at a time. A darkroom must be built on set to develop each shot immediately after it is taken. Their sensitivity is extremely low (around ISO 1 or 2) meaning that the photographs are created over a long period, sometimes many minutes. Once exposed and developed the plates are contact printed in the darkroom. From here I take the historical process and melt it with a contemporary one. High resolution reflective scans are produced of the prints and the photographs are then lightly edited and printed on archival uncoated cotton rag paper with pigment inks.

 

EDUCATION

One month residency, Awarded by Arquetopia Foundation for The Arts, (Puebla, Mexico Campus), November 2014

The School of Photographic Arts, Ottawa (SPAO), 2011 Award of visual merit, SPAO graduate exhibition, 2011

The Mark Guertin Craftsmanship award, SPAO graduate show, 2011

  

MAJOR GROUP & SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2017 – TRANSFIX: Solo Exhibition, St. Laurent + Hill Gallery, Ottawa, Canada

2017 – This Is Us Now: Additions to the City of Ottawa Art Collection, Karsh-Masson Gallery at City Hall and Trinity Art Gallery, Ottawa, Canada

2016 – SUMMA CONTEMPORARY International Art Fair, Madrid, Spain

2016 – La Trampa Grafica Contemporanea QGSC Group Exhibition, Mexico City

CONTACT US

Whitney Lewis-Smith

CURATOR'S NOTE

As a young artist, Whitney’s work has been acquired by prominent private and public collections in Canada and abroad, including that of the Canadian Prime Minister Honorable Justin Trudeau, as well as the Beaverbrook Art Gallery of New Brunswick and the Ottawa City’s Public Art collection. She has a growing reputation and one look at her technical and unparalleled photographs says it all. All of Whitney’s photographs depict whimsical, surreal, yet thought provoking scenes of nature that evoke a sense of awe and fascination with the natural world. Her large format photographs are complex and completely immersive – when viewing, you can always notice something different each time.

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Whitney Lewis-Smith (Montreal, Canada) is a Canadian photo-based artist who was inspired by a Dutch golden era painting of an ornate vase impossibly full of flowers and insects. Whitney became interested in how this work of art would have come about - a small painting of flowers, including various flora from different regions, seasons, and climate zones, long before the invention of the photograph, would have required months or years to finish. To see a painting like this would have been to gaze upon an impossible bouquet that could never have existed alive. Whitney was taken with the contrast between the reality of the painting and ours in the world today. “Now I can order almost anything, no matter the time of year or location, to my door without ever leaving my living room. That seventeenth century painting has lost its magic, symbolism, luxury, and it’s fascination.”

 

As opposed to creating scenes that are impossible, Whitney is using the photograph to display what can be amassed in the flesh, by internet purchase or otherwise, highlighting how globalization impacts the way we understand the world around us. By drawing on art history, she is asking the viewer to situate our current time as a passing moment and to highlight that the way we perceive things now is not necessarily the way they will be understood further down the line. Whitney says, “Considering humanity’s impact on the environment, I would guess that my images will one day hold scenes of living things that will once again be an impossibility due to extinction and other mainly man-made reasons.” By using antiquated darkroom techniques and reanimating dead specimens, Whitney hopes to create an underlying tension that prompts the viewer to question what it is they are looking at. Is it alive? is it real? Is it a drawing or a photograph? All of her images are created with a large format 8×10 view camera, similar to camera’s used in antiquity by Ansel Adams, Ottawa’s own Yousuf Karsh, and current contemporary heavyweights like Sally Mann and Ed Burtynsky. She hand coats 8x10 inch negatives on panes of glass in a complex and time consuming process. The plates are coated over a period of three days as each of two coats must dry before the next step can take place. The second coat is light sensitive and must be poured and dried in almost complete darkness. Once prepared, the negatives are carefully loaded into a holder and exposed one at a time. A darkroom must be built on set to develop each shot immediately after it is taken. Their sensitivity is extremely low (around ISO 1 or 2) meaning that the photographs are created over a long period, sometimes many minutes. Once exposed and developed the plates are contact printed in the darkroom. From here I take the historical process and melt it with a contemporary one. High resolution reflective scans are produced of the prints and the photographs are then lightly edited and printed on archival uncoated cotton rag paper with pigment inks.

 

EDUCATION

One month residency, Awarded by Arquetopia Foundation for The Arts, (Puebla, Mexico Campus), November 2014

The School of Photographic Arts, Ottawa (SPAO), 2011 Award of visual merit, SPAO graduate exhibition, 2011

The Mark Guertin Craftsmanship award, SPAO graduate show, 2011

  

MAJOR GROUP & SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2017 – TRANSFIX: Solo Exhibition, St. Laurent + Hill Gallery, Ottawa, Canada

2017 – This Is Us Now: Additions to the City of Ottawa Art Collection, Karsh-Masson Gallery at City Hall and Trinity Art Gallery, Ottawa, Canada

2016 – SUMMA CONTEMPORARY International Art Fair, Madrid, Spain

2016 – La Trampa Grafica Contemporanea QGSC Group Exhibition, Mexico City

CONTACT US

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