Were the Clouds prints your first experimentations with oil and oil stain on digital medium?
No part of my work is digital - I have never actually made a digital print. I use a 35mm point and shoot Yashica T4 and make colour prints in a darkroom. I started experimenting with photography combined with other mediums when I was in art school in the mid-90s. At times it is obvious what has been added, and other times quite subtle, but almost always I touch the photos.
Was there a particular moment where you realized the potential for color manipulation using this sort of technique?
I initially used paint and other mediums as a sort of physical photoshop, painting things out, painting things in, looking to create an altered yet believable super-reality. At some point I let go of the idea of the paint and the photo coming together as one hybrid medium. More recently I have wanted the paint to be its own thing. Both dense and vaporous, the painted forms act as ephemeral bodies within the photographs as well as opaque objects on top, oscillating between the mundane and the metaphysical, real and unreal, familiar and unknown. Within this back and forth, this continual shifting, there is a balance point that I am looking for.
What is the process for the oil on C-print works? Are there multiple layers involved?
I photograph landscapes. I take snapshots of trees, garbage, snow piles etc. Often I don’t look through the viewfinder, mostly just pointing the camera at the thing I am looking at. I get the film processed and 4x6 prints made and from these small photos I decide which ones to make bigger. In the darkroom, I aim for the print to be colour balanced (except for the black and white negatives I print on colour paper) but I don’t labor over making perfect prints, taking this step as another opportunity for something unplanned, unpredictable to happen. In the more recent works, I have been collaging the prints together to make giant, odd shaped images- night, day, winter, summer, right side up, upside down. I work on my studio floor and pour thinned out oil paint onto the photo collages, moving the paint over the surface by lifting the paper rather then using brushes. It can be quite a long process finding the shape, finding the colour. There are many layers of paint. Often I pull the collaged pieces apart, changing the photos, and then go back in with paint until the image makes sense. At the end of all of this, there is a real physical quality to the work; the paint, the seams, the repaired rips, and the inevitable dents and dings to the photo paper.
Can you tell us about Dusk? What is the setting for this piece? It looks galactic and urban at the same time.
The photos in Dusk I took around my neighborhood in Brooklyn- a garbage mound on the bottom half, and on top collaged upside down is a mostly painted over dirty snow pile at the edge of a sidewalk. Over the whole thing floats a giant grey-black blob cloud shape.
And what about Snow?
In Snow there is summer and winter colliding into each other, green leaves on trees upside down and a winter snow pile on the bottom.
Tell us about your new series - Floating.
The new pieces are large and dominant- standing in front of the work is a physical experience. I want the images to break apart, expand, and feel less like a single environment and more like a culmination of experiences, barely held together by a giant, blob-like form.
How did the Pickering nuclear generating station installation come about?
I made the work after I graduated from art school. I had moved back home and was living with my parents in the country outside of Pickering, Ontario. A friend of the family was part of an arts organization that was trying to get local artists into all kinds of alternative spaces and one of them was the Pickering nuclear plant’s visitor center. When I was approached, I initially declined, not wanting to be involved with a nuclear plant, but after a long conversation with my brother about audience and communication, my perspective shifted. I ended up showing a series of large photo-painting landscapes in the visitor center, and then over the next year, with a generous grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, I produced a body of work specifically for installation inside the plant. The photos were all from the area, taken within a close proximity to the plant. The installation was on view for 8 months.
What was the response to the work displayed?
It went over well. The head of public affairs at the time was incredible and the whole thing happened because he was willing to take a risk.
What artists are you inspired by and looking at these days, from antiquity to contemporary?
I really like Vincent Fecteau, Mark Schubert, Mary Schwab’s cast and painted sculptures, Yunmee Kyong’s collaged print work. I am continually inspired by my father Edward Falkenberg. He is my biggest influence and greatest supporter.