OPENING EVENT: Saturday 21 January from 3 pm to 5:30 pm
Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain is pleased to present a selection of works from Adad Hannah's recent series "Saskatoon Guernica" (2022) and "Studio Portraits" (2021) as well as works from earlier series.
The photographs and video works in "Studio Portraits" bring together staging techniques of early portrait photography and the use of mirroring to explore complex relationships between viewer and subject.
19th century portrait photographers who staged the studio for their sitters used mirrors to present multiple angles of their subject within a single exposure. This technique was later employed everywhere from medical photography to mug shots - where the accused could be presented both head-on and in profile by strategically placing a halfmoon-shaped mirror on his or her shoulder. Mirrors made possible the earliest self-portraits, and have been employed in painting for centuries to extend pictorial space and interrogate the viewing process in various ways. Hannah's "Studio Portraits" play on these techniques, while also using mirrors as a tool to disrupt and disorient spatial compositions, resisting a straightforward narrative. Mounted atop armatures resembling camera rods, lighting rigs or selfie sticks, the mirrors in Studio Portraits were designed by Hannah to be quickly maneuverable while shooting, allowing for spontaneity during each portrait session. As Hannah notes, "the resulting photographs and videos read like collages or paintings, as the reflected fragments of objects outside of the camera's frame assert themselves within the image."
For over 15 years, Hannah has been exploring the use of mirrors and mirroring in his practice as a tool to expose a world beyond the sharp edges of the picture frame. In 2003, two of Hannah's projects - "Make-Up" and "Mascara Removal" - relied upon mirrors to show his subjects examining themselves. In "The Prado Project" (2008), Hannah explored the reception of art by embedding mirrors in museums. And in other projects such as "Internal Logic: Camping", commissioned by the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2006, Hannah created tableaux vivants which spoke about mirrors and mirroring without the use of actual mirrors.
The objects and staging in Studio Portraits reference August Sander's comprehensive portrait project titled "People of the Twentieth Century", for which the artist spent decades creating portraits of German society in an effort to present, as he described, "a physiognomic image of an age". Sander often photographed his subjects with particular objects or clothing which signified elements of their character or skill. As with many of his projects, Hannah prefers to work with nonprofessional models who wear their own clothes and explore their own movements, encouraging the viewer to consider their own bodies in relation to the work.
FROM THE REMAI MODERN’S EXHIBITION "GUERNICA REMASTERED" CURATED BY DR. ALMA MIKULINSKY WITH SUPPORT FROM SANDRA FRASER
"In a new piece, commissioned specifically for this exhibition ["Guernica Remastered"], Adad Hannah returns to Picasso’s "Guernica", making a nearly life-sized recreation of the work in the gallery space. While Picasso’s painting shows the fractured aftermath of a vicious bombing, Hannah’s version incorporates the ubiquitous materials of everyday life, allowing viewers to clearly see how the work was put together. Working with local collaborators, Hannah also recalls Picasso’s collaborative process on the mural, in which artist Dora Maar and poet Paul Eluard co-developed and discussed ideas while Picasso painted.
Hannah’s project demonstrates the great power of "Guernica". Even when recreated using brooms, ladders, fabric and other materials, the mural is still an iconic, recognizable image. Hannah documented the production process as it unfolded, which will be used in a future video work that extends the frame, removing the boundary between finished product and the process used to create it."
- Dr. Alma Mikulinsky
Pablo Picasso painted "Guernica" over 80 years ago as a reaction to the ongoing civil war in Spain, his home country. He was horrified by the destruction of the Basque city of Gernika by German and Italian armies. He channelled this emotion into a large mural that was the central piece at the Spanish Pavilion during the 1937 International Exhibition in Paris.
Since then, "Guernica" has exceeded its status as a work of art. It quickly became a popular icon and a cultural emblem, reaching an almost mythical status. Beyond its powerful imagery, complex composition, and the historical conditions of its making, the work remains an enduring symbol of antiwar sentiment and political action.
The exhibition "Guernica Remastered" positions Picasso’s art as an inspiration for contemporary artists, much like Picasso himself looked to previous generations. By using "Guernica" as a starting point, the artists in the exhibition have produced works that emulate the painting’s composition while speaking to a variety of present-day concerns. These recreations provide a powerful example of Picasso’s lingering impact on contemporary art, and "Guernica’s" enduring power as a model for activist, political art.
In our image-saturated world, artists allude to "Guernica" not as a singular masterpiece but as an evolving, oft-reproduced, and powerful political symbol. The work and those it inspires represent that which often cannot be sufficiently expressed: the cruelty of war and unjust human suffering.
Commissioned by the Spanish government for their pavilion at the 1937 International Exhibition, "Guernica" went on to travel across Europe and the United States, with the intention of raising funds to support the left-wing republicans fighting in the Spanish Civil War. When the fascists won in 1939, Picasso declared that "Guernica" would not return to Spain as long as General Franco was in power and until democracy was restored. As a pro-democracy symbol during a period of numerous major international conflicts, its global reputation grew. "Guernica" was on extended loan to the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1940 until 1981. It then was finally returned to Spain where it is displayed at the Reina Sofia in Madrid. The painting was also reproduced extensively, transforming it into an icon, an image of protest and resistance to fascism. Since then it has come to symbolize anti-war sentiments, reaching beyond its historical context.
- Dr. Alma Mikulinsky
The artist would like to acknowledge the assistance of Sandra Fraser and Nicole Hayashi, and the following students from the University of Saskatchewan: Louisa Furguson, Jesse Fulcher Gagnon, Gabby DaSilva, Emily Conlon, Atrayee Basu.
PFOAC proposes also to the visitors of the exhibition to rediscover in the gallery space works from "Backyard Guernica" (2017) and "After Mubridge" (2016).