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Driven by Experimentation: The Important of Chance as a Tool of Making

Artist Blog by Lesia Maruschak

Working from group photographs, I intuitively selected the children who became the centrepiece of Poems of Our Children. First, I cropped their faces, about the size of a small coin, from group photographs. I then edited and printed the images as black and white digital pigment prints at the scale of an 8x10 portrait. Work then moved to an analogue studio, where the digital prints were rephotographed with a medium format camera, and 4x5 negatives were developed. With this work complete, I was off to the darkroom.

The creation of the photo paintings was a performative act. During the silver gelatin printmaking process, the chemicals were treated as if they were oil or acrylic paints. My hand and breath served as the brush, with the Soviet Ukrainian expired photographic paper as the canvas. Each step introduced a level of uncertainty to the process and resulted in irregularities in the final portraits, including degradations in colour, image quality, form, etc.

The final works - rendered in a pictorial style, neither painting nor photograph - further my investigations into the history of photography and my interest in the materiality of the work itself, what it reveals about the fragile, often fragmented, and unstable nature of memory, and the role of chance in making.

The next step of the process saw the transformation of the portraits into larger-than-life representations and installations on the Canadian prairies.