“Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams; we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.”
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
What first began as a project of coincidence and uncanny similarities, a shared attraction to interior styling, the way a subject was positioned, the empty sadness in the photographs of Olga Chagaoutdinova, Miruna Dragan, Orest Semchishen and George Webber, has ended in a collection of still and moving images that are at core political in their definition of home.
To consolidate an idea of home is an impossible task. Words like property, landscape, and space, could all easily be used to describe the same thing. The difference in these terms is understandable, but how to account for all the emotion and memory infused into rooms and fields? What is the best word to describe both an internal and external sense of home – can you seamlessly join together how something feels with how it looks? Because words fall short of being able to accurately describe all of this, the camera becomes the perfect device to capture these varied and profound stories.
This exhibition spans the years 1976 to 2013 – geographically moving from Northern Alberta, spreading down toward the south of the province and into Saskatchewan, then reaching outward towards the United States, Mexico, Cuba, and then Russia. Each work is connected by a tangible, yet uncanny sense of continuity that breaks down differences in age, gender, and nationality of each of these four Alberta-based artists.
To offer a way through this rich and extremely dense landscape, I have borrowed Gaston Bachelard’s notion of creating a “store of dreams” as a way to consider these images of home. These include: The Domestic Dream, The Internal Dream, The Utopic Dream, and The Haunted Dream. A fifth reading is offered in the compendium publication. Resisting any introductions or other didactic material, we opted instead to intuitively mix time, place, culture, language, artist, and image – a true store of dreams – isolated and splendid
George Webber has been photographing the people and landscape of the Canadian west for over thirty years. Inducted into The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1999, Webber received the Alberta Centennial Medal “in recognition of outstanding service to the people and province of Alberta” in 2005, and was the recipient of the National Magazine Gold Award for Photojournalism in 2010. Several books of his work have been produced, including Requiem, A World Within, People of The Blood, Last Call, In This Place and Prairie Gothic. Webber’s work can be found in museums and archives in Canada, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Australia.
Orest Semchishen was born in Mundare, Alberta in 1932, and currently lives in Edmonton. A radiologist by profession, Semchishen took up photography initially as a hobby. In the early 1970s, after taking University of Alberta extension classes, he turned to documentary photography, his most important influence being the American photographer Walker Evans. His work has been collected by several public institutions in Canada including, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Edmonton Art Gallery, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Glenbow Museum, The Banff Centre Permanent Collection, Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon. A significant number of his photographs and original negatives are now housed in the National Archives of Canada.
Born and raised in Russia, Olga Chagaoutdinova now lives and works in Canada. Her photo and video-based work examines domesticity, globalization and, most recently, suffering in contemporary society. She received a Masters in Russian Language and World Literature from the Pedagogical University of Khabarovsk, Russia in 1992; a BFA in Photography from Emily Carr University in 2005; and an MFA from Concordia University in 2008. Her work has been exhibited extensively in Canada and internationally, and has been collected by several significant institutions including, the Museum of Fine Art, Quebec, the Far East Museum of Fine Art, Khabarovsk, Hydro Québec, and the Royal Bank of Canada. Chagaoutdinova was the recipient of the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward International Competition and the Foundation de Sève Award in 2005, the Power Corporation of Canada Graduate Fellowship and the Roloff Benny Fellowship in Photography in 2006, and the French Opline Prize in 2010. In 2008 Chagaoutdinova was selected by Canadian Art Magazine as one of the ten best graduate students in Canada.
Miruna Dragan was born in Bucharest and grew up in New York and Los Angeles. She has also lived in Amsterdam, Beirut, and the island of Paros in Greece among other places, and is currently based in Calgary. Naturally, her work reflects themes of dispersion and transcendence through site-responsive acts. Working within and between the realms of intervention, video, fresco, drawing, and photography, Dragan’s projects have been exhibited locally and internationally at Museo de la Ciudad in Queretaro, Mexico (2009 & 2012), Khyber ICA in Halifax (2011), 98 Weeks Research Project at the Thessaloniki Biennale (2011), Truck Contemporary Art in Calgary (2010), the Calgary Biennial (2012), and the Alberta Biennial (2013). She has also made art for situations outside of the art-world, attended numerous residencies worldwide, holds an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and teaches at the Alberta College of Art + Design.