Digging it: Katherine Knight turns her lens on a swimming pool


Above: Pool, 2003, digital print on vinyl – part of the Dig/Dug Part II exhibition (See full work, bottom right) 

How often is it that a community centre inspires a strong emotional response in an artist so intense that she contributes to an art exhibition about the place?

York Faculty of Fine Arts visual arts Professor Katherine Knight (below), nationally recognized for her distinctive landscape-based photographic works, eyed the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre (BJCC) as an art concept. Then she dug in on a particular aspect – the swimming pool – as a kind of universal signifier of the pleasures that such sites can offer.

Her work was part of a larger exhibition, Dig/Dug Part II, with artists Isaac Applebaum, Adrian Fish and Arthur Renwick, at the BJCC’s Koffler Centre of the Arts gallery, 4588 Bathurst Street, Toronto. The exhibition opened July 24 and runs to Sept. 26.

“When I was invited to respond to the BJCC site, I reflected on emotional potency that community centres hold for their users,” explained Knight of her latest work. “I remembered my own childhood summer spent exploring and lounging poolside at the Civil Servants Recreation Association [RA] in Ottawa. The RA represented my first solo experience arms’ length yet sanctioned by family.

“I decided to work with pools, water and the acts of filling and pouring, while also asking my niece Alannah Bowes to help. This work juxtaposes large-scale colour photographs documenting the annual filling of the swimming pool with an image of a girl drinking a glass of water.”

Dig/Dug Part I and II was conceived as a two-part exhibition that invited seven lens-based artists to consider the dynamic complexity of the BJCC site. Artists who had demonstrated in their past work a strong ability to engage a notion of place, not artworks, were selected in the curatorial process.

A diversity of cultural backgrounds, generational perspectives and working methods are brought to bear on the site by the artists whose works were chosen.

A news release from BJCC explained that archaeology was the operative metaphor artists were asked to consider in developing their exhibition.

Left: An earlier example of Knight’s work, Bubble, 2000, silver gelatin photograph

“A central question was whether a functioning building and its grounds could be the subject of a figurative dig, an activity that we usually associate with the romanticized unearthing of a ruin,” said the news release.

“This metaphor was suggested by the fragmentary nature of the BJCC as a built form and landscape that have evolved and been altered over the years in response to the changing needs of a community of users.

“Inspired by her memories of other community centres that were formative in her own childhood,” continued the news release, “Knight creates a productive tension between the fountain-like images of the yearly ritual of the filling of the BJCC pool, a place of collective experience with its own documented history of programs and activities, and the curiously iconic image of a young girl simply enjoying a drink of water.

 “In her poetic way, Knight subtly allows us to consider a primary distinction between sites that accumulate a history through documentation and those in which memory resides. Although the distinctions may overlap it has been pointed out that memory tends to reside in the body while history attaches itself to place.”

Exhibition and reception

Dig/Dug Part II runs until Friday, Sept. 26, with a reception on Sunday, Sept. 14 from 1 to 4pm at the Koffler Gallery. Admission is free. On Sunday, Sept. 14, there will be a free bus tour to the Art Gallery of York University and the Koffler Gallery, departing at 1pm from the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD main entrance), 100 McCaul Street, and returning to OCAD at approximately 4pm. To reserve a seat, call 416-636-1880, ext. 270.

Learn more about Katherine Knight

Katherine Knight, an Ottawa-born artist received the Duke and Duchess of York Prize from the Canada Council in 2000.

Right: Pool…Pour, 2003. This work juxtaposes photographs documenting the annual filling of the swimming pool with an image of a girl drinking a glass of water.

Parallel to her art practice Knight has worked as an arts administrator and teacher; she is currently professor in the Department of Visual Arts at York, where she teaches photography and conducts research. From 1996 to 2000, she served as dean of the Faculty of Art at the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto. She has also taught at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in  Halifax, and at Georgian College in Barrie.

To view more of her art, visit her Web site at http://www.kmknight.com For more information on the BJCC, visit http://www.bjcc.ca.