Marlene Creates: selected works from 30 years, 1982-2012
May 3 - June 1, 2013
Paul Petro Contemporary Art is pleased to present Marlene Creates: selected works from 30 years, 1982–2012, the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition will feature work from each decade of the Newfoundland-based artist’s production. Over the course of her career, Creates has been concerned with the relationship between people and the land, often photographing traces of human presence in rugged, natural environments. Focusing primarily on Newfoundland and Labrador, her work explores how individuals and communities relate to history through a land steeped in strong cultural and political contexts.
Through Creates’ lens, geographies marked by human intervention expose multiple legacies of interaction with place, and document the artist’s own movement through the natural world she inhabits. Questioning the assumption that the “natural” is unmediated, the work depicts the ways in which language, signification, and individual memory construct our perceptions of the land and contest local and national heritage.
Creates has shown widely in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe. Her work can be found in public collections throughout Canada, including the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography and the National Gallery of Canada.
"It has been a pleasure and an honour to work with Marlene on this exhibition. From my first visit last summer to her home in the boreal forest in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, to the realization of this concise survey exhibition, it has been a tremendously inspiring curatorial journey. We have included works that mark each decade of her practice to date in an effort to provide a strong introduction to her work and the range of her concerns. The subtle threads of her social and cultural activism are pitch perfect to today's environmental concerns and our relationship in Canada to the land and the histories it keeps."
- - Paul Petro, Director, PPCA
"Almost ten years ago I wrote that my work was about "places and paths: absence and presence, leaving and arriving, identification and dislocation." These ideas still preoccupy me and I would now add: memory and language - layers of language and narrative hovering over and infused in the land. I am fascinated by the different layers of history - 'natural' and human - that occur in the same place. When I think about them, they often seem wonderfully incongruous, or even absurd."
-- Marlene Creates, 1994
"For over thirty years, Marlene Creates has maintained a cohesive vision in her photographic art. Investigating the notion of "place", her work explores the imposition of cultural markers and language on the landscape. Creates uncovers the meaning that is layered onto location through intersecting personal memories and collective histories. In looking back over her career, it is impressive that Creates has continued to push her craft, exploring and expanding her engagement with image and language, constantly forging new conceptual strategies in her photo-based practice.
"Marlene Creates is making important work that is uniquely Canadian. Creates has travelled widely from St. John's to Victoria, taking photographs of the cities and landscapes between. As a visitor to new locations, Creates delves into the identity of places, bringing forth narratives that define them. Canada has been settled by travellers, immigrants from around the globe. Creates' conceptual framing of our country is in keeping with the universal impulse every Canadian feels: to search for a deeper connection and meaning in the landscape, a heightened communion with the place that we have chosen to live. In challenging times, as our connection with the natural world becomes more tenuous, this work has the power to resonate with all Canadians.
"Throughout her career, Creates has found creative ways to integrate text into her photographs. In several series, she has juxtaposed images and texts in installations that act like documentaries; the written word being essential to a reading of the image and vice versa. In other works, she has photographed signs that are encountered on landscapes both rural and urban. As her adroit use of language in a visual format has developed, she has discovered poetry as a means of defining a moment, much as a photograph does.
"Creates' longtime connection with Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly her home in Portugal Cove, has been an important focus. The artist has probed her personal relationship with this beautiful place. Her contemplation of the boreal forest and rushing Blast Hole Pond River that crosses her property leads her to confront the impermanence of human presence. Her Boreal Poetry Garden photographs depict the ephemeral, the text of haiku poems written on tiny white cards delicately placed in the forest that inspired them. She has written: "For me, the location of the words in the specific spot to which they refer is fundamental to the radiating energy of their meaning and, of course, their beauty. The place I inhabit is both wondrous and constantly changing, which, I know, entails loss." Creates' series of photos of her own image, taken with an underwater camera held in the rushing stream, is a poignant observation of the temporary nature of our imprint on the land. Creates shows the camera to be an effective tool in capturing a fleeting glimpse of time, and one's life, passing."
-- Stuart Reid, Director, Rodman Hall Art Centre, St Catherine's, ON (February, 2013)
"For the past three decades, the work of Newfoundland artist Marlene Creates has dealt with the relationship between marking and landscape. While remaining focused on human interaction with the land, Creates' photo-based work has shifted, over that time, from performative intervention (of which the photograph survives as residue and document) into a more strictly analytical and documentary mode.
"In a continuous series of works dealing with marked landscapes, Creates has moved from recording the artist's mark on the land towards documenting the ways in which she finds landscapes already inscribed by social and political signifiers. In both cases, she poses critical questions about how our perception of the land is constructed through language."
-- Robin Metcalfe, Marlene Creates: Signs of Our Time (touring exhibition and catalogue, Saint Mary's University Art Gallery, Halifax, et al, 2006).
"Marlene Creates works at the vortex of the civic and the aesthetic, interrogating the way land is used and seen. Her images of signs in place call our attention to the attention-callers, which often seem to operate at cross-purposes with the surrounding landscape, which is left undescribed except by inference. At first glance, her photographs seem to be impersonal documents, with meaning quite literally distanced. But the underlying subtext is personal, especially in the Newfoundland works. This is, after all, where the artist lives, and for someone as concerned with the local as Creates, who moved in 1985 from Ottawa to St. John's, near the home of her ancestors, location is decidedly significant."
-- Lucy Lippard, Marlene Creates: Signs of Our Time (touring exhibition and catalogue, Saint Mary's University Art Gallery, Halifax, et al, 2006).
"For over thirty years, Newfoundland based artist Marlene Creates has used photography to explore various factors that constitute a sense of place for individuals and communities. Her inquiries are fundamentally ontological; she wishes to understand how our very sense of being is linked to and finds expression through our wider context, be it a specific geographical place or the larger environment of nature and the land."
-- Andrea Kunard, Associate Curator, Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography|National Gallery of Canada (BlackFlash, Winter 2011)
"Working with the specifics of locale in order to discern and expose broad patterns of habitation, Canadian artist Marlene Creates deploys a series of artistic strategies to represent our relationship with the land. By photographing selective traces of her movement through the landscape, she records the multiple and contingent histories of place that we build and continually reconstitute. She uses formal, analytical presentation formats to amplify the emblematic potency of her vernacular subjects. The movement implicit in her images, and driven home by their titles, has interrogative force; it is intended to pose questions, to pry open the underlying logic of each location."
-- Jan Allen, Acting Director/Chief Curator, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, ON (Prefix #19, May 2009)
Marlene Creates: selected works from 30 years, 1982-2012 is a featured exhibition of this year's Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival:
Presented with the support of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.