Much of Fiona Annis’s artistic practice is centred around the principle of experimentation. The act of viewing these works, or visiting an exhibit for that matter, is something of an experiment in and of itself. You may have expectations, big or small; you may be an expert on the subject or wander in by chance. Either way, you are hoping to gain something – entertainment, knowledge, fulfillment. When you take the leap to experience something new, you can encounter the unexpected.

Often when we visit art galleries and museums, we are surprised by the scale of objects. In a digital world where high-quality images are accessible at our fingertips and virtual reality experiences are becoming more common-place, there is still something to be said for the physical presence of an artwork. Our hope is that this exhibition can become a space for contemplation, a place to get lost in, where each corner is a moment waiting to be discovered. 

Exhibition view.

This practice of viewing is an act of curiosity. As this exhibition combines explorations from several of Annis’s series, pertinent connections can arise from seeing the artworks in conversation with one another. The two tiny works in the series require a close inspection to see the soft gradation in tone. Perched above the shelf with books waiting to be read, the pair invites a leisurely pace of looking. At a distance, the larger piece appears to be a field of white, set off against the deep blue wall. The subtleties of the texture are only visible at an intimate distance. By the time you are close enough to see, the image dominates your field of vision. A gently sloping line punctuates the right side of all three pieces, forming a rhythm within the grouping that could not be communicated by looking at digital images alone. The juxtaposition of the sizes of these works reinforces their shared forms and animates the space.

The notion that something so small can make a big impact lies at the heart of many scientific disciplines like chemistry and astronomy. Take, for example, the chemical reactions that occur on a molecular level when developing photos that result in a crisp image. The same light that is distilled by a camera lens and captured on film has travelled millions of kilometres (149.6 to be exact) from the sun to produce an image. As astronomer Carl Sagan explained, we are all made of “star stuff” – the tiny elemental particles that make up our bodies was created by stars billions of years ago, connecting us to the cosmos in a profound way.  

You may come away from this exhibit with more questions than answers- These infinite possibilities are what make astronomy and art so compelling.

Fiona Annis: a portion of that which was once everything is on at the CRAG until September 4th.