A First Look from Sara Knelman on RYE NEW GEN
Ryerson Artspace, September 27th – October 26th, 2019
Rye New Gen: Images for the Future, a piece written by Sara Knelman on the RYE NEW GEN exhibition that took place at the Ryerson Artspace.
The inaugural exhibition of the new Ryerson Artspace, now a part of the bustling creative hub of 401 Richmond, brings together work by the five Ryerson graduates who were long listed for and won the prestigious 2019 New Generation Photography Award: Sam Cotter, Ethan Murphy, Zinnia Naqvi, Wynne Neilly and Curtiss Randolph. Each present projects that convey the depth of their commitment to leading creative, considered lives, and to the expansive, unknowable significance of image-making in the twenty-first century.
If there are common themes to be found amidst these works, they are not always obvious, and may be felt rather than seen: the search for new modes of expressing identity, the strength of vision in diversity, and, perhaps most of all, the central gravity of history around which each project orbits.
Walter Benjamin wrote of the need to harness shards of the past in order to build the future, however blindly we may back into it, and it’s worth considering his analogy of ‘the angel of history’ in relation to these works:
This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
In our present, crucial, moment, each of these artists struggles with the past, with its fragments and emotional weight, its biases and omissions, to make sense of the present, and ultimately to shape, however tentatively, the future.
Zinnia Naqvi is a visual artist based in Tkaronto/Toronto and Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. Her work uses a combination of photography, video, writings, archival footage and installation. Naqvi’s practice questions the relationship between authenticity and narrative, while dealing with larger themes of post-colonialism, cultural translation, language, and gender. Her works often invite the viewer to question her process and working methods.Naqvi’s works have been shown across Canada and internationally. She received an honorable mention at the 2017 Karachi Biennale in Pakistan and was an Artist in Residence at the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of EMILIA-AMALIA Working Group. She is a recipient of the 2019 New Generation Award organized by the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada in partnership with Scotiabank. She has a BFA in Photography Studies from Ryerson University and is currently an MFA Candidate in Studio Arts at Concordia University.
Wynne Neilly is a Canadian , queer and trans identified, visual artist and award winning photographer who is currently working out of Toronto. Upon completion of his BFA in Image Arts at Ryerson University, Wynne has directed his focus on producing and showcasing work in gallery spaces internationally. It is important for him to continue sharing his experiences and images around the world through online mediums and physical installations. Wynne focuses on portraiture and editorial work, using its personal nature to reflect the development of identity and the complexities of human gender expression. His work seeks to normalize the queer and trans body.
Curtiss Randolph was born in Toronto in 1994. Curtiss constructs scenes as either tableau or staged documentary narratives and merges the plains of realism, surrealism, and gonzo journalism together. Having grown up in a theatre, the elements of stage production crept into his working process early on and helped set up a foundation for himself. Using the viewers preconceived notion of documentary style images to his advantage, Curtiss is able to question ideas of fact and fiction in the photographic medium. Semi-autobiographical storytelling has taken the lead role in Curtiss’ work.
Ethan Murphy is a photographer born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography Studies from Ryerson University. His work links identity and place by reflecting on the psychological impact of Newfoundland’s rural environment. Murphy’s work is concerned with a fluctuating perspective acquired from leaving and returning to the island that enables him to renegotiate his connection to its remote areas. He reconciles his relationship with identity and loss while examining the Newfoundland landscape post cod moratorium. His photographs function as personal documents that combine urban influence with a rural perspective. Murphy has exhibited internationally, was awarded the New Generation Photography award in 2019 and will be showing at the National Gallery of Canada this year.
Sam Cotter is a Toronto-based artist and writer whose practice exists at the intersection of research, text, and image. Cotter regularly employs photography, film, and installation to examine issues of visual representation and artifice, forging connections between the technologies that create and circulate images, and the ways in which images are used to frame the world around us. Central to the construction of all of his projects is an embedded documentary element mediated through a self- reflexive filter. Sam is represented by Zalucky Contemporary and his writing can be found in a number of Canadian and international publications, he currently teaches in the Photography Program at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, the Image Arts Program at Ryerson University, and the Department of Visual Studies in the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto.
About the New Generation Photography Award
The Scotiabank New Generation Award is in partnership with the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada. Celebrating three outstanding young Canadians working in lens-based art, the award is designed to support and elevate the careers of the artists. The winners are determined from a long-list that is initially created from an extensive selection process. The three winners receive an annual prize – the opportunity to be featured in two group exhibitions in Toronto and Ottawa. They also receive a cash prize of $10,000 to aid in achieving their full potential as a lens-based artist.