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Lenscraft: Jessica Eaton asks us to think about how we see

Moser, Gabrielle (2013) Lenscraft: Jessica Eaton asks us to think about how we see. Canadian Art, 29 (4). p. 94. ISSN 0825-3854


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Official URL: http://canadianart.ca/features/jessica-eaton/


If Jessica Eaton has some trepidation about her success, it is with good reason. Studio time has been at a premium over the past two years, a period that has signalled a watershed moment in the 35-year-old photographer's career. Since graduating with a BFA from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 2006, the Regina-born artist has gone on to show her work in exhibitions across North America, including the Québec Triennial 2011, Toronto's CONTACT Photography Festival and a solo show at New York's Higher Pictures gallery. But, in the last year, the demand for her photographs and her time has increased dramatically. This spring, for instance, Eaton was in France for the 27th International Festival of Fashion \& Photography in Hyères, where she took home the prestigious Photography Jury Grand Prize for her Cubes for Albers and Lewitt series (2010- ongoing). The summer saw her fly to Vancouver to install her work in Presentation House Gallery's critically acclaimed survey of Canadian photographers, "Phantasmagoria," then head to Toronto to participate in the "New Meditations" exhibition at Daniel Faria Gallery, and finally go on to LA to visit M+B, her newest dealer and the venue for one of her upcoming solo shows. In September, Eaton opened another solo show at Toronto's Clint Roenisch gallery before taking part in the main exhibition of Korea's Daegu Photo Biennale, curated by photo historian Charlotte Cotton and aptly titled "Photography is Magic!" As a way to try to get a handle on the elusive qualities of her photographs, most writing about Eaton's work inevitably turns to an explanation of her process. While the effects she achieves at first seem the product of Photoshop, they are in fact created within the mechanism of the camera, using large-format, four-by-five- or eight-by-ten-inch analogue film. The cfaal series is the result of several basic manipulations of the photographic process, such as multiple exposures and the use of lens filters. To achieve the nested cubes, for instance, Eaton uses one negative to photograph several cubes in succession. Some are painted a dark black, which reflects the least amount of light and therefore leaves space on the negative, while others are painted in shades of grey or even in a bright white, reflecting the greatest amount of light and maxing out the negative's ability to register images. By carefully tracking her exposures, Eaton builds up her compositions, testing the film's potential to hold information (in this case, light). She calls it a "strategy game" of trying to keep track of how previous exposures will be affected (or obliterated) by a future one. The premise is simple, but it yields a remarkable range of results. Eaton need only to invert a cube between exposures to shift the entire spatial arrangement, turning the familiar squares into overlapping diamonds, trapezoids and parallelograms. Eaton's finished objects seem restrained, even cool, in their careful execution, but in her studio, explaining her working methods and walking me through her discoveries, the artist is warm and talkative, handing me polarized lenses and 3-D glasses, plastic prisms and custom-made steel plates: the simple materials of her practice, with which she seems to work magic. She often sketches her ideas using computer software, then tests her experiments in-camera. The result entails dozens of "failed" images for every successful photograph that ends up printed and hanging on a gallery wall. Though Eaton is a self-described perfectionist, she is most excited by her accidental discoveries: the experiments that "go wrong," but in the process reveal something new about photography, light and vision that she could not have otherwise seen. She describes these images as "photographs I wasn't able to see before they existed."

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Personal profiles, Photography, Video art, Visual artists
Divisions: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2016 20:46
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 16:33
URI: https://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/929

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