One role of visual art is to facilitate an awareness of the world around us. Whether focusing on the mundane, the magnificent, the tragic or the triumphant, many artists seek to present ‘the world’ – and their personal reflections regarding it – to the viewer.
Until the mid 1800s this role was primarily the domain of drawing and painting. The advent of photography introduced a new and and challenging player to this field. While photography tested painting it also questioned itself and a philosophical debate concerning its use quickly developed amongst its practitioners. Many photographers believed that photography should aspire to the artistic and alleged that if their work was to be taken seriously, photography had to compete with painting and adopt its methodologies.
Two painterly techniques which influenced the art of photography are those of chiaroscuro and tenebrism. Developed in the seventeenth century chiaroscuro is a modelling device while tenebrism is a dark-light compositional technique. While chiaroscuro creates volume, tenebrism is used for purely dramatic effect, providing focus to a scene or object and emotionally elevating what is portrayed.
The exhibition Life Lit Up, featuring works from the collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, explores the influence of chiaroscuro and tenebrism on photographers from Alberta. Through their works these artists expose the wonder and beauty of the ordinary.
Curated by Shane Golby, Art Gallery of Alberta (TREX Region 2)
23 art works
2 text panels
75 running feet
Cover image credit: Jacques Rioux. North of Foremost, Alberta, (Western Badland Series), 1993. Silver gelatin print, selenium toned. Collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts