Art in Review: Artists Statements at Modern Fuel

Modern Fuel

Teilhard Frost and Hullabaloo. Photography by Chris Miner

This week a new exhibition opened at Modern Fuel, one of Kingston’s finest contemporary art galleries. Chris Miner’s Artists Statements is a striking photographic installation that captures portraits of local artists alongside a representation of their work in sculpture, music, painting, and literature. His images offer a compelling, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the character quirks of the artist as both creator and subject.

“What’s interesting about these pieces is the way they give us a look into the psychic state of each individual artist,” says Kevin Rodgers, the new artistic director of Modern Fuel. “These photographs strive to explore the interactions between distinctive personalities and creative proclivity.” Five works comprise Artists Statements right now, but Rodgers thinks that Chris Miner’s project will likely be an on-going one with the potential to become a collective series.

What first stood out to me about Artists Statements was the way in which its curation heightened the experience of the show. Miner’s photography is displayed on crisp, linen white walls with polished concrete floors below and impossibly high industrial loft ceilings looming above. There’s a black ottoman bench in the middle of the room to perch on and ruminate, without interruption, as you see fit. And the large (six foot by three foot), warm black and white photographs can’t help but command your attention in such a small but powerful space. This quiet, thoughtful setup is successful because of the way in which it allows the co-existing sharpness and malleability of his work to develop a dialogue between the viewer and the viewed.

I see the main strength of Artists Statements as Miner’s ability to use imagination – his and our own – as a point of departure that is propelled by the intricacy of detail, whether poignant and innocuous: a curious expression, a tentatively touched bowler hat, or the movement of shadows and light against variations in texture, angle, and form. I enjoyed Miner’s take on the concept of a framed narrative by photographing others’ art, as well as the nuanced result of those deliberate echoes between artistic mediums and the accompanying portraits. Miner’s selection of echoes hint at possible inspiration and obsession, like the knotted branches surrounding Su Sheedy and encroaching quality of her flitting, curled brushstrokes; the mysterious macro nooks and crannies of “Runes” and an enigmatic Jane Derby; or the juxtaposition of performative body language between Teilhard Frostas himself and in costume as a strange mythological drummer.

Artists Statements feels like a moment of well-composed private lives unexpectedly revealed. Miner manages to balance the intimacy of this impression with a refreshing and unusual kind of grace. It’s worth noting that our gaze as viewers is consensual; in some cases, returned. His portraits of individual artists and their work take a bold look at the artist and artistic production in a state of flux. The results are confident, strange, and magnetic.

Chris Miner is an accomplished local art documentary photographer and portraitist whose work has appeared in art galleries, archives, publications, and private collections across Canada and internationally. All photographs in Artists Statements were shot with an 8”x10” view camera using nineteenth century methods of portraiture, complete with iconic dark cloth. “Teilhard Frost and Hullabaloo” (above) was recently awarded a distinguished prize by the Kingston Arts Council Juried Art Salon.

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