Surface Tension is an exhibition of recent photographic works by Canadian emerging artists Ryan Van Der Hout and Jessica Thalmann. The exhibition joins two bodies of work from photobased artists both attempting to unravel conventional understandings of photographic images and its material implications. Both artists use archival documents to rethink the meaning of identity, history, memory, and loss while both disregarding and exalting the irreverence of filmic and photographic objects. While Van Der Hout’s painterly treatments activate the surface in very different ways than Thalmann’s sculptural morphologies, the history of Toronto is still a thematic underpinning that remains constant between both bodies of work.
Thalmann’s series “Utopos” attempts to understand the relationship between Brutalist architecture (with its predominance in post-secondary educational institutions in Canada and especially Toronto) and traumatic histories involving protest, shootings and violence. The project is surprisingly personal in nature, and began by focusing on a shooting that occurred in 1992 at Concordia University where her uncle, Phoivos Ziogas, was a professor killed during the massacre. To work through the emotional implications of his death and its reverberations throughout the family, the
images of cold monolithic Brutalist buildings became distorted, organic and malleable. Photographs are folded in a triangle tessellation pattern creating sculptural reliefs and organic forms that protrude off the wall and go beyond the flat surface of a traditional photograph.
Van Der Hout’s recent body of work entitled "Creative Destruction" explores ideas of modernization, progress, and loss by etching into the surface of photographs from the Toronto archives. Working with images from 1890-1916, a period of Torontonian history undergoing rapid modernization, a proliferation of public works and building projects, including some of Toronto's iconic Victorian buildings. Van Der Hout physically strip away portions of the chemical emulsion to create marks that veil, alter, or erase the past. Both artists mine Toronto’s archive and architectural landscape to understand the transformations of a city over a hundred years. For both artists, photographs function much like a time machine, fixing the light from a long passed distant moment with chemicals and paper. Here the tricky relationship between memory and the archive becomes prevalent as documents are transformed into monuments.