Images are an important part of my work, whether I’m capturing, animating, collecting, organizing, or broadcasting them.
I was invited by artist Sharon Louden to collaborate with her in her studio at the 2018 Open Studios Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program. We prepared this installation, titled Origins, for the event on April 27–29, 2018, and it includes a video (available for viewing on YouTube) and wall paintings, in addition to the raw aluminum sheets — which dominate the installation — and its colorful accents. A small set of photographs is available on my Flickrstream.
This is the text that was available to visitors of the installation:
The origin of art is rooted in relationships. The ancient Greek historian Pliny suggests art was born when a Corinthian maiden traced the outline of her lover’s shadow on a wall. Another story tells of a young man who could not paint the Buddha because of his enlightened glow, and so was forced to paint the holy man’s reflection (or projection) in a pool of water. Both tales emphasize the need to fix a memory from the start, but they also point to the desire to retain a connection to someone special. These, of course, are only a few of the many origin stories of art, but they both point to the urge to remember, even if the result is a rough facsimile.
The journey of art meanders through the accumulation and excavation of experience, and in this installation Louden and Vartanian reflect on their five-year professional and personal relationship as a starting point for a larger investigation into the notion of origins, whether through the lens of family, childhood, ideology, communication systems, or material culture.
My best work combines both images and text, but I have a deep appreciation and knowledge of the history of photography, particularly regarding its role in power structures and how it can be used as a tool for liberation struggles.
Reading Susan Sontag’s On Photography was what made me want to study art. I found a copy on a bench outside the Boy Scout of Canada’s headquarters on Toronto’s Bloor Street. It was after hours and no one else was around so I took it.
I read that silver-covered paperback in the next few days and it felt like a truck just hit me. My dad was a photographer in Aleppo before be immigrated with all of us to Toronto, I took classes as soon as I could, and I’ve been making images ever since.
I created an art review in GIF format. I like to think of my GIFs as sparklers or butterflies, fluttering across your screen: