Palimpsest, Laura Barron's new photographs at INDEXG. Featured exhibition of Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival 2012

OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday, April 28, 2012 - 3-6 pm

This spring INDEXG presents Palimpsest, the latest work by Mexican-Canadian artist Laura Barrón. This is Barrón’s first solo exhibition with INDEXG since 2006, when we presented both the Periphery series and the book launch for Cathedral, the sublime and poetic image/text collaboration between Barrón and writer José Teodoro, (copies of which are still available for purchase in our gift shop). We are excited and proud to provide a home for the debut of this haunting and exquisite new work, which also has the distinction of being a feature exhibition in the 2012 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.

The dominant motif of Barrón’s fifteen-year career as a photo and video-based artist is unmistakably that of the vast, unpopulated landscape, the horizon line that seems to extend beyond the confines of the printed image into infinity. Barrón’s body of work represents an ongoing investigation of pathways that wind through spaces glimpsed in passing, spaces often only partly or subliminally seen, spaces, that in their final forms, don’t exist outside of memory or dream. (Or, of course, art.) The act of seeing place is in these photos inherently, richly subjective. Barrón’s is a very personal kind of work that nonetheless touches on universal experiences, and this dichotomy has never been more potent than in this new, simultaneously harrowing and consoling series.

Barrón moved from Mexico to Canada in 2003. The alternately arduous and exhilarating process of adapting to a new culture and contending with the culture left behind quickly manifested itself in her work, most obviously in the images of landscapes projected onto other landscapes in her 2009 Nostalgia series. Palimpsest was prompted by the deeper ache that comes from prolonged distance from one’s homeland and loved ones and the critical events that are inevitably missed. In April of 2011 Barrón’s father died suddenly and unexpectedly at his home in Veracruz, Mexico. Barrón rushed to attend the funeral and to be with her mother and sisters; a few short weeks later she was back on a plane to return to her life in Canada. “My father’s death marked a fundamental, irreversible, difficult-to-comprehend change, a point of no return,” says Barrón. “Yet here, in Canada, my life essentially remained the same, continuing as before. He never visited me in Toronto and I have no traces of his physical presence in my daily life here. It seems to me that because of this the process of mourning appears has been stalled, waiting for the time I can incorporate something of his traces into my current life.”

With these thoughts in mind, Barrón gradually began to create a series of photographs that explore the process of mourning and its effects on her life and work. Taking inspiration from fellow artist David Miller’s ongoing Night series, starkly beautiful photograms which use only photographic paper and either soil or ashes to memorialize someone who has died, Barrón has developed pieces which likewise bring some material form to a deeply felt absence. She’s used her father’s ashes to construct a series of landscapes. She’s revisited some of her earlier work, repurposing those familiar images to function as background surfaces upon which she imposes new images with the ashes. The combination of the earlier work with this new material creates a palimpsest; one layer depicts a photographed landscape while another depicts something new, sculpted from Barrón’s father’s remains. “With this work,” explains Barrón, “I want to propose an alternate place where, as in our memories and dreams, the past and the present converge and create something new. In a sense, I want to create a place for the dead to exist, and perhaps through this work I will create a portrait of myself as I am now.”

While the raw material of Barrón’s new work is loaded with psychic gravity, Palimpsest is anything but heavy-handed or sentimental. It glows with Barrón’s singularly spare yet lyrical beauty, her fluid lateral movement and bold use of colour, while using the tactility of the ash mounds to craft a new sense of shadow and depth. This work emerged from loss yet has resulted in images of transformation, of places where all we’ve lost remains with us in some form that waits to be discovered.

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