To be left / by one's side (#4) by Andrew Testa. Photopolymer gravure chine collé and emboss, 2015/16.
February 22nd, 2019 to March 29th, 2019
Opening: February 22nd, 5-8pm
Artist talk:* Saturday February 23rd, 3pm
These events are free and open to the public.
Read Mandy Malazdrewich's written response below.
*If you are interested in attending the artist talk on February 23rd and require ASL interpretation, please reach us at email@example.com or 204 779-6253 by 5pm on Wednesday February 20th.
A Constellation of Sorts is an assemblage of found and family photographs within Testa's personal collection, to be shared and hidden, discontinuous yet whole. He is both artist and archivist in his explorations, collecting these now-muted objects where he does not attempt to bring clarity and sharpness to the photographs he encounters, but rather embraces the softening the image may have experienced due to the heaviness of elapsed time. He revisits an image over and over, again and again: scanned, cropped, printed, cut, moved, folded, unfolded—a process that distances his printed image from the connecting photograph.
Peering into the collections of his gridded and orderly displays, a slow unfolding begins to emerge. From afar, the entirety of the artworks—a constellation of sorts—are assumed to be completed and straightforwardly simplistic in their initial encounter. When one pauses and allows their eyes to wander, moments of inconsistencies arise. Gaps and voids begin surfacing…slowly: a blank image is noticed, a void in a grid, a fold, a line. The systems, initially assumed to be complete, become interrupted and begin to drift into fragility.
Andrew Testa is an artist, collector, writer and educator whose practice is a question of translation and an attempt to understand the slippages within such acts and gestures of transformation—an inquiry into the spaces between object (whether thing, space, place), perception, word, image, and the experiences these meetings entail. Testa is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in printmaking at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and has additionally taught at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, and Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie. He achieved his MFA from York University in Toronto and is the recipient of a SSHRC scholarship and the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant.
Martha Street Studio gratefully acknowledges the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council for their dedicated support of our professional programming.
My art practice is an exploration of slowness. It is concerned with the experiences of one’s perception of an outside world. It is an entangled and embodied knowing—an attempted awareness of the space between where an outside (what one can see, hear, touch, smell, taste) meets one’s inside (how one sees, hears, touches, smells, tastes). My practice is a question of translation and an attempt to understand the slippages within such acts and gestures of transformation—an inquiry into the spaces between object (whether thing, space, place), perception, word, image, and the experiences these meetings entail.
In my practice, my prints, drawings, books, words, and sounds are an attempt at familiarity, or my recognized inherent unfamiliarity, of the spaces and places my body is temporarily invited to be upon. Through gestures of slowness I hope to become acquainted and courteous with my surroundings. I begin my works by translating my encounters, attempting to create two-way conversations with the non-human things I experience in my daily rituals of walking, pausing, looking, and listening. I think of my practice as a study with things opposed to a study of things: a collaboration between the non-human and myself that is interested in not only the individuality of something but its ecology—how that something can speak, exist, and influence the community of things it is a part of.
Through walking, collecting, storytelling, documenting, folding and arranging, my images reframe and represent fragments of objects into assembled entities, evoking narratives of an object’s past and its collector’s present. Through a negotiation between arbitrary and systematic gestures, I investigate both subjective and objective observations rooted in the slippery connection between knowledge, word, and image, while searching stories and memories existing within the gridded assemblages I make.
A Constellation of Sorts: A response to the work of Andrew Testa
by Mandy Malazdrewich
“Photography is privileged within modern culture because, unlike other systems of representation, the camera does more than just see the world; it is also touched by it. Photographs are designated as indexical signs, images produced as a consequence of being directly affected by the objects to which they refer. It is as if those objects have reached out and impressed themselves on the surface of the photograph, leaving their own visual imprint, as faithful to the contour of the original object as a death mask is to the newly departed.”
—Geoffrey Batchen, “Vernacular photographies”
At the heart of Andrew Testa’s A Constellation of Sorts, the solitary “An Uncanny Self-Portrait (state 2)” directs us in how to view the rest of the pieces in the show. The portrait combines physical characteristics of the maker with facial features taken from photographs of those he holds dear. It has the look of a well-worn document but it is entirely constructed and reworked, a collection of parts, brought together to form a whole. A new whole, neither real nor entirely imagined, taken from multiple mechanical images, but held together by the manipulation of the hand. It is not impressed by nature, it is constructed.
None of the images in this exhibition are photographs. At first glance one might think these are found fragments of photographic prints, but upon closer inspection we see that they are in fact treasured, delicate sculptures. They are carefully manipulated prints, placed thoughtfully in relation to one another, not touching, inviting the viewer to draw lines, create connections, make stories. Testa uses mezzotint, photopolymer gravure, screen printing, and chine-collé techniques to transform family photographs and found images. With these slow, intentional processes he selects, edits, and manipulates the images into new forms that isolate specific gestures, and create relationships between one another. Together they speak of the ubiquity of vernacular photographs, and yet here they are treated individually, touched, worked, considered, placed carefully in relation to one another. Here they transcend their fragile materiality and reveal personal histories.
At a distance “Remainders/Reminders” resembles a map — sections of land, individual entities with borders separating them. But step closer and see the bodies of land are in fact fragmented images — details of clothing, facial expressions, captured gestures — held very specifically in relation to one another. Lean in even closer and the hand of the maker is revealed, the intentional folding of the images, the gentle wrinkle-like creases in the paper, drawing attention to the subtle details in the fragmented images. Focus on just one of the many image-objects and you are drawn into that world, confronted by the sharpness of the details, expression, texture, quality of light. Now step away again and the individual forms begin to speak to one another, new shapes and connections emerge.
In “To be left/ By one’s side,” a series of ten diptych prints focusingon the subtle gestures of multiple hands, Testa draws attention to both their particularities and similarities. Resting gently, awkwardly strewn across the body, tightly gripping, partially hidden—the work of these hands feels familiar and yet also entirely individual. These fragmented forms leave space for the viewer to imagine a time, a place, particular circumstances, stepping out of the body, once again, to draw connections to these works.
Through his careful work of printing, folding, assembling and arranging these personal and found photographs, Testa invites the viewer to join him in the exercise of drawing the lines, connecting the dots between these fractured pieces of history, personal and imagined, found and treasured, as he creates an intricate self-portrait.
Mandy Malazdrewich is an artist, a maker, an archivist, a mother and a partner. She is a settler living on and engaging with the original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.